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Scientists Propose Collider That Could Turn Light Into Matter

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the give-me-my-holodeck dept.

Science 223

An anonymous reader writes "Imperial College London physicists have discovered how to create matter from light — a feat thought impossible when the idea was first theorized 80 years ago. From the article: 'A pair of researchers predicted a method for turning light into matter 80 years ago, and now a new team of scientists are proposing a technique that could make that method happen in the purest way yet. The proposed method involves colliding two photons — the massless particles of light — that have extremely high energies to transform them into two particles with mass, and researchers in the past have been able to prove that it works. But in replicating that old method, known as Breit–Wheeler pair production, they had to introduce particles that did have mass into the process. Imperial College London researchers, however, say that it's now possible to create a collider that only includes photons.'"

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how soon before (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036099)

we have an army of bald guys scrubbing plasma conduits on waste transfer barges?

Re:how soon before (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036143)

I fart at the speed of light, creating matter in my pants in great quantities. Science.

Re:how soon before (0, Offtopic)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47036499)

thats not farting, thats shitting

Re:how soon before (5, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | about 7 months ago | (#47036217)

I believe the summary is confusing concepts. A 'proposal' for how to do something, but not actually having implemented the proposal to see if it actually works IS NOT the same as 'discovering how to do something'.

There is a huge, fundamental gap between

I suggest we try doing X to accomplish Y
and
I did X and accomplished Y

Re:how soon before (0)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about 7 months ago | (#47036251)

This is simply the first step, and this is such a big deal that I'd like to remain hopeful.

Re:how soon before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036331)

There is a huge, fundamental gap between

I suggest we try doing X to accomplish Y
and
I did X and accomplished Y

Is it?
Do you think they can present any other data than "When we did X, Y was accomplished."
If the investment to do the experiment is done they pretty much have to skew the data to show that the experiment was successful.
Anything else sounds like a career-ender.

Re:how soon before (5, Informative)

fiziko (97143) | about 7 months ago | (#47037105)

Not at all. In science, there is just as much validity to "we did X but didn't get Y" as there is to "when we did X, Y was accomplished." In fact, Michelson and Morley are a prime example of "we did X but didn't get Y" in 1887, and they won the Nobel prize for it in 1907.

Re:how soon before (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037181)

That is how it is supposed to work. That was also more than a century ago.

Science these days is not free from politics.

Re:how soon before (4, Informative)

fiziko (97143) | about 7 months ago | (#47037407)

Not entirely devoid, no, but in my experience (as a former researcher; still have the CERN employee ID card) there is still some that is free of politics. The fact that results need to be reproducible to be accepted helps. The main concern is funding. As long as you can confidently tell your backers that there is money to be made either way, or find different backers with vested interests in different results, there is no pressure to fudge results. In fact, the project I worked on (ATLAS) had no outside input asking for bias in results that I could see in any way, shape or form. Of course, if that was the case universally nobody would question vaccines, but it still happens often, especially in fields like particle physics (which this article is talking about) in which application is so far down the road that most financial backers really are looking for the spinoff technology it takes to produce the result moreso than the result itself.

Re:how soon before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036601)

You aren't management material.

Re:how soon before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037065)

You're basically saying that math doesn't work. How eminently stupid of you.

You're doin' it wrong (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 months ago | (#47036101)

Dudes, you are solving the problem, in reverse: we want instant energy from dirt.

Re:You're doin' it wrong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036121)

When I fart at the speed of light, it creates matter in my underwear.... does this count as on topic?

its called coal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037301)

> we want instant energy from dirt.
dirt or rocks that burn are commonly referred to as "coal"

Do it, then report it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036107)

Wouldn't it be better to actually perform the experiment first? Theories are dime a dozen. I have thought about this myself many times but I wouldn't go straight to a publication and publish my conjecture as though it is some sort of fait accomplis. Sounds more like a funding-raising exercise than serious science.

Re:Do it, then report it. (-1, Flamebait)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 7 months ago | (#47036117)

no, sounds more like the pus that comes out when I squeeze my sick and diseased Samzen.

Re:Do it, then report it. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#47036295)

"ok guys all we need is funding for this slab of gold!"

seriously.

Re:Do it, then report it. (5, Informative)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 7 months ago | (#47036861)

Saying that they're publishing in an attempt to secure funding is the least insightful comment you could possibly make, because that’s precisely how expensive “serious science” gets done: you put your theory up for peer review in a publication like Nature Photonics, and if it’s sound then you go into the contest for funding an experiment. Using your logic we should’ve built the Large Hadron Collider before the theoretical merit in building it was confirmed; if you can’t see why that's a phenomenally stupid way to allocate finite resources then sorry, but I have to doubt you're clever enough to prove a conjecture theoretically, let alone practically.

Re:Do it, then report it. (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 7 months ago | (#47037173)

Which experiment? I only see one experiment listed and " researchers in the past have been able to prove that it works". I thought it was common knowledge that we an already turn light into matter. It's a common issue with high power lasers for fusion research. Nothing worse than you laser output going down as you add more energy because you increase the chance of your photons turning into matter.

Now for the real trick (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036119)

Great. Now let them discover a way to experiment without using grants (money stolen via gov't monopoly on violence) and then we could really have something new and exciting there...

Energy-matter synthesis (0)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 months ago | (#47036129)

Here we come Star Trek!

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036153)

I often fart at the speed of light, creating solar systems of matter in my pants. This is just silly science. I've been doing this for years.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036165)

Recruit the porn stars now to record material for the holosuites!

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (4, Insightful)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | about 7 months ago | (#47036243)

My first thought was 3d printer. Imagine deposing one atom tick layers of any element in any shape. eg; The Star Trek synthesiser.

But that wont happen because they'll ban the thing over irrational fear before the technology reach the point it can print a cup of earl grey.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (5, Interesting)

stoploss (2842505) | about 7 months ago | (#47036365)

But that wont happen because they'll ban the thing over irrational fear before the technology reach the point it can print a cup of earl grey.

Okay, let's say you want to make a cup of earl grey tea from energy alone. For simplicity's sake, let's pretend you are providing the cup and the only thing you need to create is 250 mL (~8 fl oz for those of us in the benighted US) of pure water at 100 C. I chose 0.95835 g/cm3 as the density of H2O [wikipedia.org] @ 100 C.

Synthesizing that water from pure energy in a 100% efficient process that magically created only the appropriate molecules would require approximately 6,000 gigawatt-hours [google.com] of energy, aka 2.15E16 J (hooray for e=m*c^2 being on-topic for once in forever). FWIW, the absolute minimum amount of energy required is equivalent to over 5 megatons of TNT [unitconversion.org] .

For reference, the generating capacity of the entire United States is approximately 1,000 gigawatts [eia.gov] . So, uh, in some mythical 100% efficient conversion of electricity to matter it would require the entire generating capacity of the United States for over 6 hours (line losses, oh my!) to produce the water for one cup of earl grey. If you want to stay true to concept, let's say your tea needs to be ready in 5 seconds. Okay, that represents 4.3 petawatts [google.com] .

So, no, I doubt a ban will be what stands in the way of you getting your replicated earl grey.

Besides, anything that created that much power would be instantly weaponized.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (2)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036379)

If you assume we have a way to convert energy into matter with 100% efficiency, then it's not far fetched to assume we'd also have a way to convert matter into energy. So, you can save yourself all the calculations, and just grab 250 grams of waste products from the ship's waste disposal system, and turn them into a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (5, Insightful)

stoploss (2842505) | about 7 months ago | (#47036395)

If you assume we have a way to convert energy into matter with 100% efficiency, then it's not far fetched to assume we'd also have a way to convert matter into energy. So, you can save yourself all the calculations, and just grab 250 grams of waste products from the ship's waste disposal system, and turn them into a cup of Earl Grey tea.

So, uh, at that point why are you even bothering with a matter/energy conversion? Just use the cleaned, recycled water directly. I already have a machine that can "3D print" a cup of 95 C water, and all it requires is a water reservoir and a 1300 W heating element. I have to bring my own cup, but that was already stipulated.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036441)

I don't need a computer. Can can just use this vial or ink, this feather and this roll of papyrus to write message and do calculation.

Converting waste matter into energy and then into usable matter is very convenient. You literally can convert shit into food without any risk of bacterial contamination. It also eliminate all waste. No food will ever go spoil. The right amount is made when needed.

You clearly lack perspective for not seeing this.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (4, Insightful)

stoploss (2842505) | about 7 months ago | (#47036529)

You have forgotten that no process will be perfectly efficient unless someone invents some new thermodynamics. You are talking about "waste" of a few hundred grams of easily-recycled organic matter (or water) by channeling megatons worth of energy. What's a few percent of waste heat generated on a process that is pumping quadrillions of joules around? Entropy always gets its pound of flesh.

But hey! We *saved* some water we could have, you know, could have distilled into purity using today's technology by using an infinitesimal amount of that waste heat that would be inescapably generated by pumping around those megatons of energy for pointless matter/energy conversions!

...and I'm supposedly the one who lacks perspective. Priceless.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036839)

You have forgotten that no process will be perfectly efficient unless someone invents some new thermodynamics.

Current thermodynamics works fine enough for what is suggested. Thermodynamics allows for next to ideal conversion.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (3, Insightful)

stoploss (2842505) | about 7 months ago | (#47037155)

Current thermodynamics works fine enough for what is suggested. Thermodynamics allows for next to ideal conversion.

Gotcha. So, in order to avoid boiling some water to distill it to purity, you're going to be doing a matter/energy/matter conversion. In order to come out ahead of using a simple boiler, your ~9 petawatt (two conversions in the requisite time doubles the power) process is going to need to be 99.99999999% efficient or so.

Even a 99% efficient process would dump 90 terawatts of waste heat. The waste heat of your process would represent approximately 1/10 of the power of an average hurricane [noaa.gov] . Remember, you're claiming we would do this in order to "save energy" by not distilling a quarter liter of wastewater.

In summary: just because science develops a method that allows something to be done does not imply it will ever be the favored technology. We developed the means to create gold via atomic bombardment a long time ago, and that process will never supplant gold mining.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | about 7 months ago | (#47036693)

This is a good point. If we ever get to the point of being able to efficiently convert matter into energy with negligible loses, then science fiction becomes far more believable. The "scarcity" of resources equation hard wired into our biology would be irrelevant. The physics is simple, but the engineering is a real bugger.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037197)

I'm already ahead of you all. I just gave permission to dump any dense waste on my backyard. Mass will be in high demand once this becomes reality! If anyone has heavyweight bridges to sell I',m interested.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (5, Insightful)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 7 months ago | (#47037249)

I'm afraid that we've already got everything we need to make a much more comfortable society even with "just" the technology and resources we have now. That fact that we don't shows that something else is hard-wired into our biology: how to be complete and utter assholes.

I suspect even with completely free everything we'll still find ways to have taxes and rich and poor people.

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (2)

David Sanftenberg (3616601) | about 7 months ago | (#47036459)

I don't think human civilization would survive for long in a universe where a monkey could trigger instant mass energy conversion. I'm hopeful that whatever progenitor race created our universe would have had a little foresight in that regard.

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036819)

We are doomed. Dooooooomed.

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#47036863)

true but that same progenitor might also bind those same monkey on one planet so that they don't threaten every other planet with their ways.

Do you want to go to the stars? Or do you want to be stuck on earth were 50% of the population are morons?

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036915)

Or do you want to be stuck on earth where 50% of the population are morons?

Fixed that for you.

Regards,
The other 50%

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 7 months ago | (#47037465)

But you couldn't be bothered to capitalize Earth ...

Re: Energy-matter synthesis (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#47037035)

Or do you want to be stuck on earth were 50% of the population are morons?

Just curious - do you think that the 50% who are morons includes those who can't spell "where"?

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036645)

>Besides, anything that created that much power would be instantly weaponized.

Exactly, that is the good thing.
It will become weaponized the instant they realize how glorious a weapon it is.
Oh, hey, those bad dudes are attacking us, lets just generate a fusion bomb on their tanks, that will teach them not to mess with us.

Then once humanity has wiped 1/3 of itself out after playing games, it will trickle down to Earth Defense.
Oh, hey, another asteroid, lame, blow it up. Kay, done.

But still, this sort of stuff will require stupidly efficient fusion reactors.
Or matterantimatter reactors, and I think we have generated ohhh several thousand atoms of antihydrogen. Yep.
Luckily we will be long gone before they play juggling matches with fusion bomb replicators.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (4, Informative)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#47037033)

Total energy output of the sun per second: 3.8×10^26 J (source: wikipedia)
This amounts to 4.22×10^9 grams per second,
or about 18 million cups of tea per second.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 7 months ago | (#47037133)

If you compare the energy output of a single power station today to the energy output of all the camp fires in one night of prehistoric human history, it probably seems like a massive difference.

We know that future technology will be orders of magnitude bigger / more powerful than current technology.

And it's cool to think that, maybe, when you have a warp core that powers a space ship going FTL with many millions of petawatts of energy, some star trek technology like replicators might come true :)

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (3, Informative)

stoploss (2842505) | about 7 months ago | (#47037203)

And it's cool to think that, maybe, when you have a warp core that powers a space ship going FTL with many millions of petawatts of energy, some star trek technology like replicators might come true :)

True, but somehow I doubt that anyone will ever be glib while wielding the power of the entire generating output of the Sun, for example (call that 100 billion petawatts). The power at that scale could destroy entire solar systems if a mishap or violent use were to occur.

If you weren't aware of the Kardishev scale [wikipedia.org] , you might find it intriguing to consider the implications of a Type II civilization wielding the power of the entire Sun or to think about what a Type III civilization could accomplish.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (1)

pablo_max (626328) | about 7 months ago | (#47037209)

I would think that atomic level manipulation of base materials would be far more efficient than simply trying to convert energy into the desired state of matter.

Re:Energy-matter synthesis (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 7 months ago | (#47037355)

Tea, Earl Gray, Hot

Backwards? (5, Funny)

meerling (1487879) | about 7 months ago | (#47036137)

Aren't you supposed to "make light of the matter", and not the other way around?

Re:Backwards? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036163)

Matter is created when one farts at the speed of light. The only way this is possible is light speed farts equaling matter filled pants, creating life and continuing the cycle of life.

Re:Backwards? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036659)

Oh, PurifyYourMind (776223) [slashdot.org] is back. What's wrong, shit your stupid little pants again fucktard? If so here is what you can do to solve your dilemma.

You can either
1
Go Find a Cliff or a bridge somewhere
Take your entire fucktarded family
Have all of them jump off to their deaths
Jump to your death

or

2
Find a razor
Run a hot bath
Slit your fucking wrists fucktard

Once you do either of those you won't be shitting your fucking pants again and we won't have to put up with stupid little fucktarded bitches like you again.

Re:Backwards? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037121)

Once you do either of those you won't be shitting your fucking pants again and we won't have to put up with stupid little fucktarded bitches like you again.

This is where you're wrong: he will shit his pants one last time as his muscles relax.

Re:Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036167)

You and your shining ideas...

Re: Backwards? (1)

Teranolist (3658793) | about 7 months ago | (#47036539)

Did you finally answer yourself so u can stop this retarded joke?

Re: Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036729)

HELP! This man is suffering from a very low sense of humour! He needs treatment RIGHT NOW, or else he'll remain a sourpuss for the rest of his life, causing misery to those around him!

What am I missing here? (4, Informative)

bscott (460706) | about 7 months ago | (#47036155)

I preface this with an admission that my serious physics studies were like 25 years ago now, but - photons are bosons, how can they "collide"?

Re:What am I missing here? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036179)

When the gas is released from the brown eye at the speed of light, matter is created in a pseudo solar system of planets upon a white canvas. Light speed farts have been around and have been know since 1347AD. This is old news. I can't believe you don't understand how the collision with the white canvas creates the matter. Light speed gas, slamming into the barrier, creates fecal matter, it's just common sense.

Re:What am I missing here? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036215)

Being bosons just means you can pack multiple quanta into the same state.

All particles interact (otherwise, how would we even know they "exist"?), and photons interact electromagnetically. That means that they can induce the vacuum to produce pairs of electrically charged particles: say, an electron and a positron. Usually, those particles are just quantum fluctuations or "virtual particles", living for a tiny fraction of a second due to Heisenberg uncertainty. However, if two photons have enough energy between them (at least equal to the mass-energy of the pair), they can give their energy to the electron and positron and turn them into real particles. That's what they want to do here: get two photons to give their energy to a virtual particle pair, making it real.

Re:What am I missing here? (3, Informative)

bscott (460706) | about 7 months ago | (#47036271)

Thanks for that, I knew they interact but I didn't think they could "collide" per se, and from your explanation maybe "collide" is just the wrong word to be using?

Re:What am I missing here? (4, Informative)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036297)

Collide is indeed a wrong word. Particle is a wrong word too. The problem is that there's no easy and correct way to explain what really happens.

Re:What am I missing here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037403)

It still is a collision as much as an interaction between electrons, and still behaving as much as particle as electrons. The only difference is the interaction involves a loop in the Feynman diagram, but otherwise is just a low cross-section (chance) collision.

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

MatthiasF (1853064) | about 7 months ago | (#47037507)

They are colliding, even photons can have density events like matter.

It's all about the speed at which the waveforms can react to the difference imposed on them. At lower energies, the photon waveform can react faster than the energy in the interaction (not a collision). But once you go beyond a certain point, the particle's waveform cannot react fast enough to the interaction and they two collide to cause differences in each particle.

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#47036435)

Apologies, I'm not a physicist but ... if you create electron and positron, wouldn't they annihilate each other immediately again? Or do you somehow find a way to separate them?

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036907)

Depends. At minimal energy, they will have little kinetic energy, and annihilate immediately.
Using more energetic photons may allow them to form positronium (still annihilates extremely fast), or separate completely.
In the latter case you can then use a strong electric field to separate the particles (until they hit the wall of the container and annihilate).

Re:What am I missing here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036221)

They are bosons, but that doesn't mean they can't interact.
The reason they don't seem to interact is because they don't have an electric (or other) charge.
So to first approximation (Maxwell's equations) photons indeed pass through each other without interaction, but when you take into account quantum electrodynamics you get photon-photon interactions at higher orders, much weaker than electron-electron interaction.

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

bscott (460706) | about 7 months ago | (#47036279)

That also helps, thanks.

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

ssam (2723487) | about 7 months ago | (#47036513)

photons can scatter from each other (its just that the cross sections are low)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:What am I missing here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036853)

For some background: Matter creation [wikipedia.org] , Two-photon physics [wikipedia.org]

Re:What am I missing here? (2)

Richard Kirk (535523) | about 7 months ago | (#47037043)

Empty space isn't that empty. You can get virtual pairs of electrons and positrons appearing and disappearing. They pop into existence because they can, even in empty space, but the have negative energy and a virtual wavelength, so they are almost bound to re-coalesce, and the energy of their recombination will exactly equal the energy of their creation, so they pay back all the energy they 'borrowed' and disappear without trace. However, if a photon turns up at this critical moment and pumps in the energy, then they can get permanently separated. Needless to say, this is pretty rare for single photons or we would not be able to see distant galaxies. We need monster photon energy densities, hence the hohlraum (I used to work on these ages ago).

You can also measure a tiny force between two plates in a vacuum due to these virtual particles. This is called the Casmir effect or the Casmir-Polder force. See... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org] for example. So they are real. Well, real-ish.

This is not the same as Compton scattering. That also makes electron-positron pairs from photons but it also requires some mass to be around. This is the dominant absorbtion mode above about 1.5 MeV. So, I can see how they might get a tiny bit of straight pair production in their hohlraum, but they will also have some high-Z gold plasma giving you lots of conventional Compton scattering, which will look pretty similar. I guess they have a plan for that.

Here's a fun site... http://profmattstrassler.com/a... [profmattstrassler.com]

Discover is the wrong word (4, Insightful)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036157)

These scientist haven't discovered how to create matter from light. That's already standard theory. What they have done is devised a clever experiment to test this.

Re:Discover is the wrong word (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036197)

I did this in my lab last year. Pushing as hard as I could, I managed to shoot a cloud of gas through my apparatus at the speed of light and was able to create matter on the white barrier I had up to shield the class. That day we learned that shooting gas at the speed of light will create fecal matter and extra energy. We are in the process of creating a machine that can harness this ass, gas, light speed to fecal matter power.

Re:Discover is the wrong word (1)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about 7 months ago | (#47036355)

I don't know, if they're the first to devise a working setup to achieve that, haven't they discovered how to do it?
It was already discovered that it should be possible, but they might be the first to actually describe a possible apparatus to do so, so i guess it's fair to say that they discovered how to do it?

Re:Discover is the wrong word (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036387)

The point is that you want the text to convey a meaning with the least amount of confusion and ambiguity. In this case 'discovered how to create matter from light' can be confusing, as it suggest that this theory is new. It also suggests the experiment has already been done.

Re:Discover is the wrong word (4, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 7 months ago | (#47036481)

I don't know, if they're the first to devise a working setup to achieve that, haven't they discovered how to do it?

According to http://www.gizmag.com/experime... [gizmag.com] the Breit-Wheeler theory hasn't actually been proven yet and remains a theory. The scientists in question believe they have found a way of proving the theory and doing it in a manner that requires only a fraction of the amount of energy than believed previously. Ie. they've set out to doing two things: proving a theory or disproving it, and trying out a new, more energy-efficient method of creating these Breit-Wheeler particles. I suggest just reading the article on Gizmag, it's short and kept easy-to-read.

Re:Discover is the wrong word (1, Informative)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47036591)

Not a theory yet, still a hypothesis

Re:Discover is the wrong word (4, Informative)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036897)

It is part of the theory of quantum electro dynamics, and even if it has been demonstrated in this form, the virtual possibility must already be accounted for in other quantum calculations that have been verified in experiments. Also, the reverse effects have been demonstrated before, and according to theory these effects are fully reversible. It would be a huge shock if a properly conducted experiment would fail to produce the expected results.

Re:Discover is the wrong word (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 7 months ago | (#47037143)

Well, to be honest, they've asked for funding to do the obvious experiment to test it. It's not particularly clever, only expensive. And, as has been pointed out repeatedly above, they haven't "discovered" this, it is part of the standard lexicon of QED and has been for maybe 60-70 years.

A clever way of testing it would be to use e.g. a free electron laser like the one we already have at Duke and shoot the laser beam into a "wiggler" -- a region of alternating crossed fields -- well downstream of the circulating ring. No need for two lasers, no need for massive new expense. In the frame of the photons, the region of alternating crossed EM fields looks like a photon heading the other way. You can make the wiggler field strength quite large and put a bending magnet just past it with detectors and look for positron-electron coincidences. This would actually have lots of advantages. Cheap. It uses existing hardware instead of building (much) new stuff. The pairs produced would not be in the rest frame of the lab (but in the "virtual" rest frame of the collision) and would only have to travel a short distance before encountering a field that could separate them before they annihilate. And when one was done, one could take the whole thing apart and go back to using the FEL for its many other purposes and say: Gee, guess quantum theory works after all and go about one's business. Unless of course, there are surprises, which seems to be to be class A unlikely but which is barely, barely possible and hence worth perhaps a MODEST expense to verify it.

rgb

Photoproduction (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036161)

This is a process that is already being studied. It's usually called "photon fusion" or "photoproduction". Using a laser as a source of photons instead of the usual bremsstrahlung + Coulomb field doesn't change any of the physics.

This was already done back in 2001 (2, Informative)

drkim (1559875) | about 7 months ago | (#47036183)

Light was already turned into matter back in 2001 by Lene Hau at Harvard.
When the light pulse disappeared, the mass of the sodium increased.

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/ha... [harvard.edu]

Re:This was already done back in 2001 (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036187)

But that was not a Breit–Wheeler pair production.

Re:This was already done back in 2001 (1)

Splab (574204) | about 7 months ago | (#47036191)

You know how we know that you didn't even bother to read the excerpt?

Re:This was already done back in 2001 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036213)

Not only that but back in 1347AD they figured out that farting at the speed of light creates fecal matter out of thin air. There are farmers in the mountains of Spain who still use this knowledge to grow some of the worlds most nutritional foods.. It's unfortunate that science is so far behind. Glad science is finally catching up to ancient knowledge and common sense.

Re:This was already done back in 2001 (5, Informative)

Karma Bandit (1305259) | about 7 months ago | (#47036709)

What? How can you link a paper like that and completely not understand its contents? No, they did not create matter out of light. The important thing from that paper is that the light was frozen in place while it was traveling through the material. It's a nice experiment, but has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with photon-photon interactions and creating of particle-antiparticle pairs. The word "mass" doesn't even appear in the paper, for example. The photon energies are eV level in that paper, and photon-photon interactions require billions times more. Like, gamma rays, not visible light.

You might argue, pedantically, that while the light was trapped in the sodium in that paper, the kinetic energy of the sodium atoms increased. And due to relativity, increase the kinetic energy of something also increases its mass. Well, you would be right, and that happens every time the sun shines on something and warms it up. But when you talk about creating matter from photons, they mean making brand new particles-- that is, making even the *rest mass* portion of their energy out of the photons-- not just speeding up existing particles. And that just cannot be done with light near the visible spectrum.

Mod up! (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | about 7 months ago | (#47036891)

Please mod this up and GP down. +5 Ignorant.

actually "mass" is found twice in the paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037263)

> The word "mass" doesn't even appear in the paper,
Actually it does, but it is a rather odd type of mass..."Cambridge, Mass"

This was also done back in 1997. (4, Informative)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#47036983)

Back in 1997 at Stanford green laser light was smashed into gamma rays to produce matter. [bibliotecapleyades.net]

Scientists Use Light to Create Particles

Photons of light from the green laser were allowed to collide almost head-on with 47-billion-electronvolt electrons shot from the Stanford particle accelerator. These collisions transferred some of the electrons' energy to the photons they hit, boosting the photons from green visible light to gamma-ray photons, and forcing the freshly spawned gamma photons to recoil into the oncoming laser beam. The violent collisions that ensued between the gamma photons and the green laser photons created an enormous electromagnetic field.

This field, Melissinos said, "was so high that the vacuum within the experiment spontaneously broke down, creating real particles of matter and antimatter."

This breakdown of the vacuum by an ultrastrong electromagnetic field was hypothesized in 1950 by Dr. Julian S. Schwinger, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 1965.

Emphasis mine.

Thus, we do know that we can create matter by colliding photons already. The new experiment proposed could be useful because it does not require the electron-photon collision near the detector in order to produce the gamma photons and subsequent light on light reaction. They'll be firing gamma rays through a cylinder full of black body radiation. A gamma-gamma collision would be more interesting, IMO. The new gamma or black-body radiation collision experiment should be of even lower energy than the gamma and green laser collisions which produced matter in 1997.

Why even go for a lower energy apparatus than what has been demonstrated at all? Simple: To verify the minimal energy level required to make the vacuum puke.

What is the matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036211)

All these references to "matter", but what matter have scientists actually created from energy? An element? Which one?

The next question is... (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 7 months ago | (#47036321)

How often do this happen in the "real life" universe?

What is the threshold for creating matter from light? Can there be some factor not yet discovered where some matter is re-created from light in the universe today?

Re:The next question is... (2)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036337)

The threshold is energy. You need very energetic photons to create something like an electron/positron pair. Using E = mc^2 you can calculate exactly how much. That kind of energy is not very common around here, but in places where such high energy photons are created, matter is also formed.

Done in the late 90's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036335)

Collaborators demonstrated gamma-gamma pair production at SLAC in the late 90s.

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/proceeding/aipcp/10.1063/1.52962

What element would it be? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 7 months ago | (#47036375)

So what kind of matter would be produced? Some element we are already familiar with, or something entirely new?

Re:What element would it be? (1)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | about 7 months ago | (#47036381)

RTFA - you wouldn't get any element.

Re:What element would it be? (2)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036393)

They are planning to create an electron/positron pair. Also, it is extremely unlikely you could create anything entirely new with currently available energy levels.

Re:What element would it be? (-1, Flamebait)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#47036425)

So... essentially we're researching how we can spend a lot of money to produce the most abundant element in the universe?

Re:What element would it be? (4, Insightful)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 7 months ago | (#47036429)

The goal is to verify our understanding of quantum physics, not to create matter.

One thing is certain (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#47036421)

No matter the result, they'll surely be able to make grant money go poof at the speed of light.

Re:One thing is certain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036453)

Do you mean this [fiftydollarbill.info] money?

(philip.paradis posting as AC from this computer)

Heh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47036465)

You know, if they manage to pull this off, they find themselfs immediatly in court sued by number of established 3d printing companies for violation of their patents..

So no, its not going to happen in any significant scale..

Use for space propulsion? (1)

sturle (1165695) | about 7 months ago | (#47036679)

A possible use for this is propulsion in space with no fuel. Even ion thrusters need fuel, and eventually run out of Xenon gas. If you can create matter in this way, it would, at least in theory, be bossible to make an engine which use only electricity from solar panels to make electron/positron pairs, and acellerate those in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Enabling satellites to stay in low earth orbit forever, and geostationary satellites to stay in position until it is time to de-orbit. And it would actually be economically feasible to de-orbit them, it will just take a very long time.

Re:Use for space propulsion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47037505)

Considering this conserves energy and momentum, and most of the light involved won't interact, I don't think it would be far more efficient to just fire a laser out of the spacecraft using light pressure directly instead of trying to convert a fraction of the light into mass carrying a fraction of the momentum the light had already.

some physicists work on real physics. (5, Funny)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 7 months ago | (#47036727)

Good to see. The analogy to theoretical physics I use is, it's the difference between Imagining you are getting laid to getting laid.
I don't really use that analogy, it just occured to me and now i am sad.

e=mc^2 (1)

MildlyTangy (3408549) | about 7 months ago | (#47036829)

My guess: Matter and energy are much of the same thing, E=mc^2 shows this. You put enough energy in a small enough space, its pretty likely that matter and antimatter condenses out of the energy.

Put two high energy photons in a small enough place....

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