Season's Greetings at the Speed of Light

Dec 23, 2004
Season's Greetings at the Speed of Light

MIT presents an ultrafast holiday offering

Most days, MIT chemist Keith Nelson and his team do cutting-edge research with femtosecond laser pulses—flashes of light that last about a thousandth-of-a-trillionth (10-15) of a second, or roughly the amount of time it takes a light beam to cross from one circuit feature to the next in a conventional computer chip.
And most days, the scientists are focused on the serious, long-term applications of their work, which include a variety of potential uses in fundamental science, as well as in communications and signal-processing technologies.

Image: Each image shows the "snapshot" of a highly structured, half-millimeter-wide laser pulse. The vertical axis is in arbitrary units; the horizonal axis is in picoseconds (10-12 seconds), which refers to the time when that part of the pulse arrived at the detector. Credit: Joshua C. Vaughan, T. Feurer and Keith A. Nelson, MIT

As 2004 draws to a close, however, Nelson and his coworkers have demonstrated their techniques for shaping and manipulating the femtosecond pulses with a seasonal offering. Each of the symbols shown here is actually a highly structured, half-millimeter-wide swarm of laser photons flying in formation from left to right at the speed of light. The images are produced by analyzing the photons in an ultrafast detection system, then plotting their vertical position and time of arrival.

Result: the world's fastest holiday greeting.

Source: MIT

Explore further: How the physics of champagne bubbles may help address the world's future energy needs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Witnessing the early growth of a giant

Aug 27, 2014

Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble ...

The powerful potential of microgrids for livable cities

Jul 08, 2014

A majority of the world's population now lives in cities, which consume 75 percent of the world's resources and emit most of its greenhouse gases. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, an additional ...

Recommended for you

Quantum physics just got less complicated

27 minutes ago

Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.