Harvard and MIT Bind Photons Like Light Sabers

Star Wars 1Researchers at MIT and Harvard say they have found a way to make photons bind together to form molecules – with the end result akin to a Star Wars’ light saber.

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers,” Harvard physics Prof. Mikhail Lukin said in a report. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

Lukin and his colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms described their work in the professional journal Nature. Until now, getting light to bind together like molecules has been theoretical, since photons have historically been considered “massless,” and so not able to interact with each other.

The wizards of Cambridge seem to have changed that.

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules,” Lukin said.

Before you get your Jedi on, however, the researchers see this “new matter” as a tool for something quantum computing – using light instead of electricity to move data – and possibly for creating complex three-dimensional structures from light.

“What it will be useful for we don’t know yet, but it’s a new state of matter, so we are hopeful that new applications may emerge as we continue to investigate these photonic molecules’ properties,” Lukin said.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is an associate editor and White House correspondent for Military.com. Bryant covers all corners of the military arena, is an expert on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" issues, religious proselytizing and other ongoing military policy issues. He has covered Air Force support missions during the Kosovo War and in 2006 the aero-medical evacuation mission out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.A journalist since 1979, Jordan also covered stories in Lebanon, Gaza and Morocco. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to 15th Admin. Co., 1st Cavalry Division, Bien Hoa Army Base. Before joining Military.com Jordan was a staff writer and deputy news editor for Military Timesnewspapers in Springfield, Va.

12 Comments on "Harvard and MIT Bind Photons Like Light Sabers"

  1. No I want a X Wing for a sixth generation fighter now.

  2. Lukin and Luke, couldn't be closer :)

  3. Interesting, but I don't see what it has to do with light sabers (and light sabers are silly anyway – even with 99.99% efficiency, it would melt in your hand in no time)

  4. One has to read the original text from phys.org before writing such rubbish. The effect was observable only when two photons exited scarcely populated cloud of atoms and by the cause of the effect was limited to such an super-hyper micronous extent. Nothing to do with military, but perhaps usable as a communication means. It's impossible to weaponize photons in pairs.

  5. Ah, Lonestar. I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.

  6. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. Did we redefine the word binding? I didn't get the memo.

  7. Harvard and MIT, not a good combination in tech – Harvard is full of BS'ers and imposters.

    Btw, US Patriot 3 has lost out to China's export version of its HQ-9 air-defense system in Turkey.

    The Chinese (export ver.) HQ-9 is allegedly the least sophisticated among 4 contenders, but it was the only one to hit all targets in tests. And it costs less than half of US Patriot 3.

  8. "…and possibly for creating complex three-dimensional structures from light…"


  9. How about a link to the actual paper?

  10. hard light. Construct bridges and structures from hard light particles.

  11. it will be another TV Dimention, a true 3 dimentions tV that the TC i.e. traffic control have been yearning for for so long; since the 1950s…! that what will happen; if proven it will be another damn commercial box like our current TVs are!

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