Stop! In the Name of Science / by Louisa Ulrich-Verderber


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I am an avid fan of the podcast/radio show Radiolab. It is an amazing series in which the hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore and illuminate the depths of science, philosophy and the human experience. They have episodes on the anatomy of colors, miracle preforming automatons, the origin of numbers, synchronizing lightening bugs, and my favorite – speed.


The speed episode was really great because they talked about everything from the stock market, to nerve cells, to the speed of light. Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about today, light. Well more specifically how Harvard professor Lene Vestergaard Hau and her team have managed to slow down light! It’s mind bending! Give this a listen:

Now I don’t know about you, but I find this absolutely amazing, I mean she’s managed to stop light! And it seems that she’s still just as astonished as I am! Here’s a short interview with her about the project.

In 2007, Professor Hau expanded upon her '05 light-stopping breakthrough by transforming light into matter, and then back again.

As Hau mentioned in the video; the ability to turn light into matter and then back again, could revolutionize the way we transfer and store information for personal, industrial and the worldwide web. But as interesting as that may be, the Star Trek fan in me couldn’t help thinking of another possible – if impractical - application for this discovery, teleportation. I know that seems mad, but physicists have shown that its possible to teleport single atoms from one place to another, so why not a couple billion particles? And if it’s possible to turn light into matter then shouldn’t the reverse be possible? (Without incinerating the object in question, of course.)

Anyway, teleportation aside, these kinds of advances in technology and science really do fascinate me. I love learning knew things especially if the knowledge is new itself and I hope you learned something too.