Monday, May 15, 2006

Speedy Retrograde Light Beams? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Hat Tip: Centauri Dreams and Space Blog Alpha)

It seems that fact is definitely stranger than fantasy! While conducting an experiment, a professor at the University of Rochester was not only able to slow down the speed of light but apparently send it flying in the other direction.

(University of Rochestor) [Robert Boyd, the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester] recently showed how he can slow down a pulse of light to slower than an airplane, or speed it up faster than its breakneck pace, using exotic techniques and materials. But he's now taken what was once just a mathematical oddity-negative speed-and shown it working in the real world.

"It's weird stuff," says Boyd. "We sent a pulse through an optical fiber, and before its peak even entered the fiber, it was exiting the other end. Through experiments we were able to see that the pulse inside the fiber was actually moving backward, linking the input and output pulses."

Definitely weird stuff. Although this procedure was theorized by scientists, no one knew whether this could be performed within laboratory conditions. Although there may be no immediate benefits for humanity over this, its discovery may throw down one of many hurdles in creating a light saber.

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