Physicists Have Made the Second-Ever Observation of Interacting Photons

Strange Photons

Those of us who grew up watching Luke and Leia on screen have probably wondered at one point or another why we don’t have lightsabers. The basic reason why is because the photons that make up light do not interact with one another. Yet according to a new study published in the journal Science, interacting photons can be created in the lab. Beyond sci-fi-inspired applications, this new development could also play a huge role in actualizing quantum computers.

Could quantum computers, or even lightsabers, work using entangled or interacting photons, like those observed in this recent study? Image Credit: GooKingSword / Pixabay
Could quantum computers, or even lightsabers, work using entangled photons? Image Credit: GooKingSword / Pixabay

Researchers observed groups of three photons not only interacting, but effectively combining to form a completely new type of photonic matter. This outcome essentially reveals a new form of light.

To make interacting photons, the team shone a weak laser through a cloud of cold rubidium atoms. Rather than emerging from this cloud separately, the photons within the laser merged bound in groups of three. This observation suggests a form of interaction and attraction — also known as entanglement — between photons.

Among the observations that the researchers made, they also noticed that the normally zero-mass photons had taken on a fraction of an electron’s mass when bound together. They were also traveling about 100,000 times slower than typical photons.

Next Stop: Quantum Computing

This work builds off the first-ever observation of interacting photons, which this team documented in 2013. According to MIT physics professor Vladan Vuletic in a press release: “The interaction of individual photons has been a very long dream for decades.” 

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The team believes that photon interactions could be manipulated in ways that make them an asset to quantum computing. Entangled photons could be used to distribute information in a quantum system. Quantum computing carries information using bits that represent both a binary 0 and 1 simultaneously, which may be facilitated by closely entangled photons.

“Photons can travel very fast over long distances, and people have been using light to transmit information, such as in optical fibers,” Vuletic said in the press release. “If photons can influence one another, then if you can entangle these photons, and we’ve done that, you can use them to distribute quantum information in an interesting and useful way.”

The post Physicists Have Made the Second-Ever Observation of Interacting Photons appeared first on Futurism.


Prototype satellite makes way for 4K ‘Earth observation’

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Scientists Just Made a First Ever Observation of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity



New Observations

Scientists have applied new analytical techniques to data gleaned from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Very Large Telescope (VLT) and other telescopes over the past twenty years. This new analysis of the stars orbiting the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way reveals movement that deviates from what classical physics would predict, supporting instead the subtle effects predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The closest supermassive black hole to Earth is the one that rests 26,000 light-years away at the center of the Milky Way, and is four million times more massive than the Sun. This giant is surrounded by a cluster of stars orbiting in the strong gravitational field of the black hole — the ideal proving ground for Einstein’s general theory of relativity and, more generally, gravitational physics. This is why a team of astronomers has recently applied a new technique to observational data of the stars, comparing the star orbits actually measured with those predicted by both classical Newtonian gravity and general relativity.

Image Credit: ESOImage Credit: ESO

The team uncovered hints towards a slight change in the motion of S2, one of the stars. The change is small, only about one-sixth of a degree in the orbit’s orientation, and a few percent in the orbit’s shape, but those changes are consistent with predicted relativistic effects. This marks the first time that the strength of the general relativistic effects has been measured for stars orbiting a supermassive black hole.


New Physics?

The VLT’s near-infrared adaptive optics instruments provided the highly accurate positional measurements that were vital for the study to succeed. The accuracy of these measurements was essential, especially during the period when S2 was further away from the black hole, because that data allowed the team to accurately determine the starting shape of the orbit and how it changed as relativity influenced it. This new work also provided more accurate measurements of the black hole’s distance from Earth and its mass.

This research heralds a thrilling time for astronomers around the world observing the Galactic Center. During 2018, the GRAVITY instrument, installed on the VLT Interferometer, will be ready to measure the orbit of S2 as it passes very close to the supermassive black hole. This should reveal not only relativistic effects with more clarity, but perhaps even new physics, as astronomers detect deviations from general relativity.

The post Scientists Just Made a First Ever Observation of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity appeared first on Futurism.


Observation: Sphero needs to make a smart hub

It’s time to take notice of Sphero. Amazon, Google, and Apple make arguably the best smart hubs on the market. Each offers functionality exceeding our wildest dreams even a decade ago. But in building this future we’ve somehow lost ourselves. We find convenience in the generic, but there’s still something unnerving about talking to a device that resembles a Renuzit air freshener. While Apple feeds Siri with more jokes and Amazon adds commands ad nauseam to a device we’re really just using to order more laundry detergent, Sphero is building something truly exceptional. Each iteration of smart hubs is a…

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