Real-Life Lightsabers Being Created by Scientists at Harvard, MIT

Image: Real-Life Lightsabers Being Created by Scientists at Harvard, MIT

Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 07:26 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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The force is strong with scientists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the first steps have been taken to turn an iconic weapon of science fiction — the lightsaber — into something real.

Matter made of light existed only in science theory and in "Star Wars," as Darth Vader's and the Jedi knights' weapons of choice. But physicists Mikhail Lukin and Vladan Vuletic wrote in the science journal "Nature" that they successfully made light photons stick together for the first time.

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If researchers can create an environment that consistently makes subatomic particles remain together, they could create detectable mass made up of light. That's what the researchers at the Center for Ultracold Atoms are hoping. 

"The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies," Lukin said.

While binding light particles together is powerful science, it is not quite lightsaber-quality yet.

"Maybe a characteristic of a lightsaber is that you have these two light beams and they don’t go through each other as you might expect they just kind of bounce off each other," Vuletic told WBZ-TV. 

Vuletic said the advancement could be used for more than saving star systems from the Empire. Notably, the research could lead to quantum computing, computers that can run at light speed or 10,000 times faster than today's speed, at some point this century. 

The science behind the advancement is still pretty complicated. CNN reported that researchers first pumped atoms of the metal rubidium into a vacuum chamber. This created a metal cloud that they cooled down using lasers to about minus-450 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as absolute zero.

The scientists then blasted photons, elements of light, into the atom cloud. The photons bumped into the atoms like regular matter would, which has never occured before.

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Related stories:

New 'Star Wars' Film 'Episode VII' May Get December Release

'Star Wars' Spinoffs Confirmed by Disney CEO Bob Iger

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