Physicists Manage To Slow the Speed of Light

Danish physicist Lene Vestergaard Hau (Harvard University) succeeded in slowing a beam of light to about 17 metres per second, and, in 2001, was able to momentarily stop a beam.


Physicists Manage To Slow the Speed of Light

About a decade ago, Hau started playing with BECs — for a physicist, that means shooting lasers at them. She found that lasers of the right wavelengths could tune the optical properties of a BEC, giving Hau an almost supernatural command over any other light shined into it.

Her first trick was slowing a pulse of light to a crawl — 15 mph as it traveled through the BEC. Since then, Hau has completely frozen a pulse and then released it. And recently she shot a pulse into one BEC and stopped it — turning the BEC into a hologram, a sort of matter version of the pulse. Then she transferred that matter waveform into an entirely different BEC nearby — which emitted the original light pulse. That’s just freaky. Hey, Einstein may have set that initial speed limit of light, but he only theorized about BECs. “It’s not breaking relativity,” Hau says. “But I’m sure he would have been rather surprised.”


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