Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Fastest Waves Ever Photographed 167

starfoot writes, "Pictures of the fastest waves ever photographed, traveling at 99.997% of the speed of light, were presented today at the APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting in Philadelphia. The waves were formed in the wake of an intense laser pulse passing through a plasma of electrons and ionized atoms. The waves create enormous electric fields (over 100 billion electron volts/meter), which can be used to rapidly accelerate charged particles to high energies in the span of a few meters. The pictures will help scientists better understand wakefield interactions — an important factor in their quest to replace machines that accelerate particles over the course of miles with compact, tabletop versions. High energy particle accelerators are vital for cutting edge physics and many types of medical therapy, and miniaturizing them would be a boon for both basic physics research and medicine."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fastest Waves Ever Photographed

Comments Filter:
  • Yeah right (Score:4, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:19PM (#16668545) Journal
    I bet it was just photoshopped. Gimme ten minutes, and I can give you a wave doing 99.999% of the speed of light.
  • do they run Linux?

  • Whoa (Score:3, Funny)

    by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:25PM (#16668607)
    Thats hot.
    • by dch24 ( 904899 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @12:49AM (#16669241) Journal
      many types of medical therapy

      Hey, so I understand the applications in Physics of desktop particle accelerators, but what kinds of medical therapy use particle accelerators? Wikipedia suggests creating rare "proton-heavy" isotopes [], but I'm having trouble finding more about what kinds of "killer apps" (pun intended) would be enabled if there were cheap desktop particle accelerators. Someone in med school?
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
        Cyclotrons and nuclear reactors are used for creating radioactive compounds for PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanners, other types of radiography and radiation therapy. PET scanners in particular are often built with an adjoining cyclotron facility to produce the usually fairly short lived radioactive compounds.

        Synchrotron radiation also looks like it's useful for a variety of both imaging and radiation therapy techniques. Rather than hauling patients off to the synchrotron facility you could take t
  • Managment won't care until they get to 99.999%.

  • Ok, seriously... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Aurora ( 969557 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:37PM (#16668713)
    Wouldn't the fastest waves ever photographed know...light waves? And don't we photograph those every day? Correct me if I'm wrong, but light goes 100% the speed of light.

    Dead serious, I know there's a difference here between my family photo album and the pretty graph thing FTFA, could someone explain to me why photographing LIGHT doesn't count here?

    • Because, like you said, it happens every day. It's not every day that we see things which aren't light go that fast... I mean, light doesn't have the useful properties that really fast not-light things do.
    • When you photograph light, you can't see the wave. Taking the classical E&M view for a second, a light wave is an oscillation between the magnetic and electric fields - you can't photograph that. TFA is admittedly sketchy with the details, but these seem to be waves in the "globs of stuff moving around" sense, like water or sound waves.
    • because you can't? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sofar ( 317980 )

      There's currently no way to take a snapshot of a single photon in motion and produce an image out of it. An ordinary photograph captures the effect of many millions of them impacting a chemical, so that's not really the same :)
      • There's currently no way to take a snapshot of a single photon in motion and produce an image out of it.

        Sure you can -> .

        (Magnified for easier viewing)
      • by aditi ( 707829 )
        You can't actually photograph light. You can only photograph stuff. When you photograph something, you're recording the light that bounces off it. Light doesn't bounce off other light, so it's impossible to photograph. Light does interfere with other light (high school double slit experiments), and you can record the patterns, but that's not the point of the article. It's point is that the waves in question are not electromagnetic, but vibrational - "oscillations moving through a plasma" - like sound waves
    • I don't think you can directly photograph a single photon, what you'd need is a medium with process that senses the photon passing by, and changes state accordingly, something similar to how the bubble chamber photographs charged particles - you don't actually capture the particle, but you look at the myriad of photons emitted by the bubbles formed in the superheated liquid. The story above too photographs a medium - plasma - and it's state. That's how you get to see single particles.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      These are matter waves. The summary should really say fastest matter waves ever. You're right... the same though occurred to me.
    • Considering light IS electromagnetic waves and that what was photographed WAS an electric field (or rather the disturbance it caused, but the effect goes at the speed of the field, not the disturbance), then...... 99.997%*c, that light was awfully slow. Note that light only goes at the "speed of light" in the vacuum. In anything else, it's slowed down.
  • by abscissa ( 136568 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:44PM (#16668777)
    If you made instant coffee in the microwave, would you go back in time?
    • by finity ( 535067 )
      Only if you made instant coffee while you're in the microwave...
    • If you made instant coffee in the microwave, would you go back in time?
      Damn! That's why I can never get out of the house in the morning...
    • You're thinking of stove-top popcorn (the kind that's got foil) - but then only if you are near an exploding supernova.

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing time from Mr. 'I'm my own grandfather'"
      -Professor Farnsworth
    • Yes, but the field is localized entirely within your microwave.. that's why instant coffee in a microwave tastes even worse than regular instant coffee, it's actually thousands of years old.
  • Hubble telescope pictures consist of photographing waves travelling at 100% of the speed of light in vacuum by definition!

    For the pedants technically your own photographs generally don't count because the refractive index of air (1.0008) actually means that light waves in air will only travel at 99.92% of the speed of light in vacuum.
    • by Soko ( 17987 )
      Hubble telescope pictures consist of photographing waves travelling at 100% of the speed of light in vacuum by definition!

      Wrong - the Hubbel uses waves travelling at c to record the electro magnetic emissions of distant bodies in our universe, it does not photograph the waves themselves. To match what was done in TFA, you'd have to photograph, er, photons. Not the same thing at all.

      Again - you'd have to photograph photons themselves to match the experiment, regardless of the RI of the medium they're travell
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        Thank you.
        I was reading these moronic response wondering if there was any intelligence on slashdot at all anymore.

        Apparently there is.
      • Wrong - it detects photons of light and records their momenta (effectively). So a single photon detector (which I'm guessing they have on the hubble) - records the image of a photon as a single dot. Not a very informative picture of a photon but not the less is is AN image of a photon. This builds up into an image of a galaxy or whatnot but that image consists of single photon "pictures" added together. Just because you don't think that a single 'dot' is much of an image is neither here not there. If you
  • Wow's up, man. Fast waves? I'm in! Time to hit the beach!
  • How easy is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gracenotes ( 1001843 ) <wikigracenotes@gma i l . com> on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:53PM (#16668859)
    100 billion electron volts/meter sounds like a lot. In reality, if the same amount of physical energy were applied to a paper clip over one second, it would be moved 8.0108823 microns. That's 0.000315389067 inches; 0.00080108823 centimeters. Completely not impressive.

    The reason this is so awesome is that scientists can apply this to nanotechnology -- actually, the prefix "nano" is not small enough. After all, everything moves in waves, but these waves are only noticeable on a small enough scale. On this scale, electric energy is so much more important than gravity. The fact that this energy is electric and not physical means that, instead of bumping atoms around continuous for a month, something might happen sooner. The fact that it's been proven done might help with something, like (for example) supplying a power source. The question is, "How easy is it to synthesize this phenomenon, and is it worth it?"

    What excites me most is the fact that
    a technology that could make tabletop high-energy particle accelerators a reality.
    Are we still afraid of put explosives into our chemistry kits for fear that kids might get hurt? Just like how, around Sputnik time, the US gov't tried to make all of the children in its public education system little scientists of future, it is (seriously) important to get kids interested in science, math, and academic pursuit at a young age. Can a little kid read the KJ version of the Bible at 4 years old, as was done in days of yore?

    It would be a good thing that, with this increased technology, scientists would try to give nuclear chemistry to the public and make atomic physics more tangible. There was an ambitious project some time ago that wanted to create a huge electromagnetic field somewhere in Texas. It was shut down because the US gov't saw no use of it. If this technology can do something as simple as power a light bulb, the public will notice. No one cares if Element 118 is created in a matter of seconds instead of across the span of a week, but if people can actually see something, this is better for science in general. (So long as John Galt doesn't get angry.)
    • Surely we could hook up half a dozen of theses accelerator things to the bottom of a round ... er ... 'UFO like' structure and really get some movement going.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by agentcdog ( 885108 )
      How about: not even wrong. eV/m is a FIELD STRENGTH. eV = energy. 1eV is a small amount of energy, but you cannot apply any amounts of eV/m to any object. Remember phys 101? Dimensional analysis?
      Haw did he get modded up? Modders: If you don't know what he's talking about, don't mod him insightful. I feel like that duck in the barber shop.
      Note: You could imagine what would happen if you put a paperclip in this field, but without a net charge it aint movin'. If there were a net charge you better get o
      • by doru ( 541245 )
        Actually, V/m is a field strength; eV/m would be the force applied by said field to an elementary charge. But I do agree that the grand parent doesn't make much sense
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phanatic1a ( 413374 )
      100 billion electron volts/meter sounds like a lot. In reality, if the same amount of physical energy

      *Bzzzt*. Wrong with the second sentence.

      100 GeV/m isn't an amount of physical energy. It's a field strength.

      It's still not a lot on a macroscopic scale (about 1.6E-8 joules per meter). But, jeeze, at least get your units right before you start doing dimensional analysis.
    • I nominate you for a Sokal-Bogdanoff award!
    • by GWBasic ( 900357 )
      Can a little kid read the KJ version of the Bible at 4 years old, as was done in days of yore?

      Quite frankly, if a 4-year-old was able to read the entire Bible, I'd consider him to be pretty damn smart! (I'd also hope that he/she could tell the difference between fact and fiction.)

  • Thats almost as fast as MS new security breaches!
  • That laser was burning at a full 30 terawatts. Fit THAT on a desktop. Please.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Given that that was a pulse laser, this might be possible. Depends on how much energy needs to be dissipated. Frankly, I think the radiation shielding requirements would be more troublesome than the laser power. I imagine a few meters of concrete laced with ball bearings is necessary to play with this safely (assuming energy levels that would generate useful physics). Not something that you stick on your desktop.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Oink ( 33510 )
        These laser pulses are on order 100 femtoseconds. That's 100 * 10^-15 seconds. That works out to only about 3 Watts assuming the 30 TW and 1 shot per second (which is reasonable).

        This is nothing compared to the petawatt laser that is being built in the same building here at UT in the same building that this published research was done (one door down from my office in fact). They can only take a shot every 45 minutes after charging a huge bank of capacitors.
  • Jiggly watts to warp speed - anyone know the conversion?
  • exclusive pics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @12:41AM (#16669181)
    / \

    This is me waving so fast my arm looks stationary
    • by Thansal ( 999464 )
      normaly I don't comment on moderation, however I have to make an exeption this time...


      I hope some one missed the Funny button....
  • I'm a bit of a laymen, the huge stadium sized accelerator uses some kind of giant magnetic field to propel a particle and split atoms at the other end right?

    Why do we do this again? Just to detect the junk that's emitted from the destroyed atom? Why do hospitals need a tabletop accelerator?

    Thanks for filling me in :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Positron Emmision Tomography. AKA a PET scan. It's like an MRI on steroids. Helps them find all sorts of broken/excess bits in that big bag o' meat called a patient. The things are really useful, really really big, and really really really expensive. Make them smaller and, well, they'll be smaller, probably still really really expensive. This is the health care industry we're talking about.
    • Hospitals use accelerators to make various isotopes, that are then injected and imaged.
  • My dad pratically fell on top of a tiger shark when we were out fishing once, and the waves were, well, nevermind.

    I never get a chance to work that story into anything...
  • Now, to create the world's fastest surfboard :-)
  • I measured these but I can't make up my mind if they're a particle or a wave.
  • Officials from Taco Bell were unavailable for comment.
  • ...enormous electric fields (over 100 billion electron volts/meter)...

    I think normal matter like the iron my Toyota is made from has the same field strenght near the nucleus. Anything less, and the car would fall apart. Not sure what is so enourmous about it.
  • Speed Limit (Score:3, Funny)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:15AM (#16669977)
    | _ 5MPH__ |
    | No Wake_|

    The harbor master isn't going to like this one.

  • A few thousand of these running in parallel may offer methods for creating meaningful amounts of antimatter.
  • ...are of waves traveling *at* the speed of light.

    You kids and your new-fangled sub-light speed waves.
    Get offa my lawn!

    • At the speed of light in atmosphere you mean. Not at the speed of light in a vacuum. The medium through which the photons are traveling impact their speed. Thus, your photons were traveling a little bit slower than those in this experiment.
      • At the speed of light in atmosphere you mean. Not at the speed of light in a vacuum.

        I looked in my vacuum here at home, but saw no light.
        Perhaps the Hoover at work...

  • I have be capturing light waves at 100% for years with my digi cam.
  • ``Pictures of the fastest waves ever photographed, traveling at 99.997% of the speed of light ...''

    Rafting is recommended to experienced rafters only.
  • The light in photographs is (usually) the average power falling on an element, be it a CCD chip or a piece of silver halide salt in emulsion which interacts with the incident radiation over the timescale of many wavelengths. What these researchers are doing is "photographing" the individual wavefronts of a matter wave, rather than just the intensity information. Spatially resolving the so-called phase information of such a wave is no mean feat and is an area of current research in optics. Wakefields are a v
  • Pfft. I've got tons of pictures of light waves traveling at 100% the speed of light.
    • As has been pointed out already, no, you don't.

      You have tons of pictures made by light waves travelling at the speed of light, but you haven't got a single picture of a light wave travelling at the speed of light.

      there's a difference...

  • What might I want to do with a tabletop particle accelerator?
  • finally ghostbuster technology for the masses
  • Electron volt is a ùass unit. An electric field is measured in volt/meter. That "electron" word has to be a typo from someone with a very limited understanding of physics.
    • has to be a typo from someone with a very limited understanding of physics.

      Yeah, that's what I thought, too. Then I looked at TFA - they had "electron" in the story, but it's now crossed out. I guess "Physics Buzz" isn't run by physicists nor engineers.

      BTW, the word "mass" didn't come through correctly in your post.

      • by SysKoll ( 48967 )
        Weird typo. I guess it is a fitting punishment to let a typo go through in a post complaining about a typo...
  • Ok, where are the photos?
  • by PalmKiller ( 174161 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @01:24PM (#16675039) Homepage
    I want me one of those tabletop accelerators for my shop, oh and a tabletop nuclear fusion reactor would be nice too.
  • The waves create enormous electric fields (over 100 billion electron volts/meter).

    Could these (i assume) elertrons/electric charges be harnessed in some way?

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson