Thursday, January 5, 2012

Now you see it, now you... never saw it

As I put it to Friend of the Blog Chris, it's gratifying to see that science has finally caught up with our imaginations. The science experiment I'm about to describe is pretty mind-bending, and I admit I don't totally understand the science behind it. (Although, it should be noted, that's fair because Dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not a scientist.)

But wow, is this ever intriguing. I haven't read the original journal article, but based on what I have seen elsewhere, it works something like this: by slowing the speed of light from an event by passing it through a denser material but leaving the light from the event's surroundings unchanged, you can make it seem as though that event never happened.
The entire experiment occurred inside a fiber optics cable. Researchers passed a beam of green light down the cable, and had it move through a lens that split the light into two frequencies, one moving slowly and the other faster. As that was happening, they shot a red laser through the beams. Since the laser “shooting” occurred during a teeny, tiny time gap, it was imperceptible.
My questions--again, writer, not scientist--revolve around what happens to the light from the event itself. Yes, it is slowed down, but it is not eliminated. Doesn't it arrive at the viewer at some point? Does that create some kind of a weird double-image later in time?

In any event, the same article quoted above notes, using present technology it would take a device more than 18,000 miles long to mask an event lasting one second. But still. Think of how many one-second events have changed history: a gunshot, a kiss, a word. This wouldn't let you alter events, exactly, but it would obviously do a number on how they were perceived.

The imagination boggles. Which, I guess, is great if you're a writer... or, it seems, a scientist.

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