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Harvard and MIT Bind Photons Like Light Sabers

by Bryant Jordan on September 27, 2013

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.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance September 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

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


mac September 27, 2013 at 1:48 am

Lukin and Luke, couldn't be closer :)


Brangelina October 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

Luke + Anakin = Lukin


David September 27, 2013 at 5:17 am

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)


William September 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm
William September 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm
Brian September 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The midi-chloridians protected them back then. We just don't worship the right god.


Humma Kavula September 27, 2013 at 7:11 am

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.


Barnaby S Smithfield September 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

tell that to Captain Kirk and Scotty


Thomas L. Nielsen September 30, 2013 at 3:14 am

A little over a hundred years ago it was considered impossible to weaponize the heavier-than-air flying machine.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Humma Kavula September 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

Actually it wasn't. When Clement Àder approached military with the plans to build an aircraft, military got interested immediately: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cl%C3%A9ment_Ader

There were fiction stories about heavier than air aircrafts in military use long before Wright brothers (who actually weren't the first ones as well)


blight_ September 27, 2013 at 7:57 am
A. Nonymous September 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

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


hibeam September 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

“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.


Rest Pal September 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

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.


mareo2 September 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

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



Rufus Frazier September 28, 2013 at 2:47 am

How about a link to the actual paper?


sev September 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

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


kenny September 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm

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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