Real Lightsaber: Scientists From MIT, Harvard Make Sci-fi Discovery

Monday, 30 Sep 2013 05:26 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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With stellar proof that being smart can be cool, Harvard and MIT scientists accidentally discovered technology that could make a real life lightsaber.

In a joint project called the Center for Ultracold Atoms, the scientists bound photons together to form molecules, the Harvard Gazette reported. Until now, the idea that could happen was just a theory because photons were considered particles without mass that don’t interact, Harvard physics professor Mikhail Lukin told the Gazette.

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Think the little red pin-point lasers that instructors use to point at things. Two of those would pass right through each other, Lukin said.

Lukin and MIT physics professor Vladan Vuletic led the group that managed this "Star Wars"-ish feat and published a paper in the Sept. 25 Nature journal.

Science Daily, calling the discovery a “never before seen matter,” said photonic molecules don’t fit the description that’s been attached to photons at all.

“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,” the science news source quoted Lukin as saying. “This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn't been observed. It's not an inapt analogy to compare this to light sabers. 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.”

This kind of discovery may do more to draw kids to science than just about anything in recent history. The Washington Post called Lukin and Vuletic “Jedi,” and it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Of course, it’s not just kids who are intrigued by the idea. Twitter lit up with comments about the infinite possibilities.

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Related stories:

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

'Star Wars' fans petition for Death Star, but White House Says No

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