Scientists Used Pulses Within Hot Plasma to Surpass the Speed of Light

1 min read
Tunnel speed motion light trails

The speed of light, which has an upper limit of 300,000 km (186,000 mi) per second, is the fundamental law that governs how quickly information can move across empty space and is something that most of us learn about as children.

While photons by themselves are unlikely to ever exceed this speed limit, some aspects of light operate differently.

Although manipulating them won’t speed up our ability to reach the stars, they might pave the way for a whole new category of laser technology.

US physicists have demonstrated that photon wave packets can travel faster than light in specific circumstances.

For some time now, scientists have been playing fast and loose with the speed limit of light pulses, accelerating and even virtually stopping them using a variety of materials like cold atomic gases, refractive crystals, and optical fibers.

But impressively, researchers from the University of Rochester in New York and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California succeeded in doing it last year, fine-tuning the speed of light waves within plasma to range from about one-tenth of the usual vacuum speed of light to more than 30 percent faster.

This is more impressive—and less so—than it first appears to be.

Physical Review Letters published the results of this study.

Ali Esen

Istanbul University, Department of Mathematics. Interested in science and technology.

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