Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Light's Most Exotic Trick Yet: So Fast it Goes ... Backwards?

In the past few years, scientists have found ways to make light go both faster and slower than its usual speed limit, but now researchers at the University of Rochester have published a paper today in Science on how they've gone one step further: pushing light into reverse. As if to defy common sense, the backward-moving pulse of light travels faster than light. Confused? You're not alone.

"It's weird stuff," says Robert Boyd, the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester. "We sent a pulse through an optical fiber, and before its peak even entered the fiber, it was exiting the other end. Through experiments we were able to see that the pulse inside the fiber was actually moving backward, linking the input and output pulses."

"Backward light" animation


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