Physicists Have Broken The Speed of Light With Pulses Inside Hot Plasma

Sailing through the smooth waters of vacuum, a photon of light moves at around 300 thousand kilometers (186 thousand miles) a second. This sets a firm limit on how quickly a whisper of information can travel anywhere in the Universe.

While this law isn’t likely to ever be broken, there are features of light which don’t play by the same rules. Manipulating them won’t hasten our ability to travel to the stars, but they could help us clear the way to a whole new class of laser technology.

Physicists have been playing hard and fast with the speed limit of light pulses for a while, speeding them up and even slowing them to a virtual stand-still using various materials like cold atomic gasesrefractive crystals, and optical fibers.

This time, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the University of Rochester in New York have managed it inside hot swarms of charged particles, fine-tuning the speed of light waves within plasma to anywhere from around one-tenth of light’s usual vacuum speed to more than 30 percent faster.

This is both more – and less – impressive than it sounds.

To break the hearts of those hoping it’ll fly us to Proxima Centauri and back in time for tea, this superluminal travel is well within the laws of physics. Sorry.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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