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Single-atom Laser Built at Caltech 232

Posted by Hemos
from the one-atom-long dept.
hweimer writes "A research group at Caltech has successfully constructed a laser consisting of only one caesium atom. The emitted light is very weak but highly ordered, so such a device may be used to control a quantum computer. More on this can be found at PhysicsWeb."
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Single-atom Laser Built at Caltech

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:48AM (#7025131)
    How big are the sharks?
  • Standby (Score:2, Funny)

    by Brahmastra (685988)
    for all the ray-gun and light-sabre posts
  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:49AM (#7025149) Journal
    Hooray

    Quantum computers, sure. I bet they'll even run Duke Nuk'Em Forever lan parties over IPv6.

  • by inteller (599544) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:50AM (#7025157)
    Will this incinerate ants better than my trusty magnifying glass?
  • Rubbish (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    why does every science experiment have to throw in buzzwords such as "may be use in quantum computers" or "may help a cure for cancer"

    until any of this is a reality or someone actually builds it, its all bullshit, maybe im fed up of scinetific experiments with no purpose until they throw in the critical
    "nanotubes" "space elevators" "quantum computers" "cure for cancer"
    • Agreed! Aything *MAY* be used with anything else. Why do they always put it in there?

      This just in: This post MAY be modded up/down.
    • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by canajin56 (660655) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:58AM (#7025238)
      why does every science experiment have to throw in buzzwords such as "may be use in quantum computers" or "may help a cure for cancer"
      Because "it's nifty" doesn't get you grant money.
    • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Funny)

      by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:01PM (#7025264) Homepage Journal

      why does every science experiment have to throw in buzzwords such as "may be use in quantum computers" or "may help a cure for cancer"

      A 12 gauge shotgun could be used in cancer treatments. Of course making sure you only blast out the cancer cells is the really hard part.
    • why does every science experiment have to throw in buzzwords such as "may be use in quantum computers" or "may help a cure for cancer"

      because the buzzwords, "may be used in the porn industry" or "may help find a cure for Genital herpies" just is not what the public want's to hear yet coming out of the physics research labs...

      Silly, I know.... but true!
    • Uh...they did build it. I'm real glad you weren't around when they built the first (lightbulb sized) transistor.

      Anyway, this kind of thing is much more interesting when thinking of optical computing. That's the next step anyway...quantum computing is just too far off at the moment.
    • "why does every science experiment have to throw in buzzwords such as "may be use in quantum computers" or "may help a cure for cancer"

      So are they supposed to build the quantum computer, and then build the lasers that would control it?

      Baby steps.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaptBubba (696284) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:52AM (#7025185)
    This is simply amazing. I'm trying to picture all the machinery and people that went into getting that one atom to light up.

    And now the physicists hand the engineers the huge task: "Ok, we got it to work, you get it to do something usefull"

    • Even the SUMMARY said what this will be used for - creating a Quantum computer. Keep up, please! :)
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by EulerX07 (314098) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:20PM (#7025421)
        SCIENTIST : With this you could create a Quantum computer.

        ENGINEER : Uhhm, it's not that simple...

        SLASHDOTTER : Yes it is! Keep up please!
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by javelinco (652113) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:56PM (#7025740) Journal
        Since I've had two replies that basically say the same thing, I'll reply to myself to answer:

        1. Of course it isn't easy; and
        2. This is a tool that quantum computer researchers have pretty much been requesting - a laser to more easily manipulate the devices they currently are using.

        Point is, this isn't some obscure, not so useful (yet) tool - it has immediate applications, and can be put to immediate use.
        • I wonder if you could use this technique for nanite lidar. I assume it would also have some applications in optical switching.
  • GoogleNews (Score:5, Informative)

    by Leffe (686621) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:53AM (#7025188)
    Here's a handy link with all the articles on GoogleNews:

    http://news.google.com/news?q=single+atom+laser [google.com]
    • Re:GoogleNews (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TopShelf (92521) * on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:24PM (#7025462) Homepage Journal
      With any luck, the editors would start putting links like this into the articles themselves.

      *SMACK*

      That is, when they're not too busy submitting dupes without checking for messy details like facts, grammer, spelling, etc.
      • That is, when they're not too busy submitting dupes without checking for messy details like facts, grammer, spelling, etc.

        Here's an idea. Why don't the story submitters get the google cache links when they submit the story? Why is it that the slashdot editors are held up as solely responsible for this problem, and the submitters who fail to provide such links are not held up as well? For that matter, we'd have to trickle the effect down to every person who clicks on the link and causes the server to be

        • What I am suggesting is that these links become a standard element in an article - such standards would naturally be maintained by the editors...

          The editors are the ones who determine what the articles look like when they show up on the site, so in that sense, they are the responsible party. That's what being an editor means (at least in the real world).
  • by caluml (551744) <<gro.mulac.erehseogmaps> <ta> <todhsals>> on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:55AM (#7025203) Homepage
    I want a laser that can burn a 200 metre-wide hole through the moon from Earth.
    What's that you say? Why? What do you mean, why?
  • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:58AM (#7025231)
    with frigin lazers on their heads.
  • Is it just me, or would this make one hell of a gyroscope?
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by e_lehman (143896) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:58AM (#7025240)
    How do you put an "on" switch on a cesium atom?
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06&email,com> on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:59AM (#7025241)
    to conquer the Nanobot world. I WILL rule in Nanobotia. Benevolently, but firmly.

    But should even one of those Nanobots cross me, ZZAPP!

  • Ah yes.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by adeyadey (678765) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:59AM (#7025243) Journal
    ...so such a device may be used to control a quantum computer..

    Ah, that would be the quantum computer on board the manned space expedition to Mars, power by a fission-reactor ion-drive. Back home we can watch it via our ubiquetous videophones, or our Linux powered desktops, which can run applications with true Artificial Intelligence. All our homes will be supplied by nuclear electricity that is too cheap to meter. There will be peace in Isreal.. etc..
    • You forgot the flying cars. We were promised flying cars.

      Apologies to IBM and Avery Brooks.
    • Re:Ah yes.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:18PM (#7025397) Homepage

      Ah, that would be the quantum computer on board the manned space expedition to Mars, power by a fission-reactor ion-drive. Back home we can watch it via our ubiquetous videophones, or our Linux powered desktops, which can run applications with true Artificial Intelligence. All our homes will be supplied by nuclear electricity that is too cheap to meter. There will be peace in Isreal.. etc..

      We live in such interesting times that everyone is taking everything for granted. The idea of a quantum computer was born in 1982 (history of Quantum computing [ic.ac.uk]). Now, just over twenty years later, we already have brought bits of the idea into practice - that is stunningly fast, compared with history. Quantum computers are an extremely advanced idea.

      Charles Babbage got the idea of a general computer around 1812 (Babbage [st-and.ac.uk]), but one wasn't built until World War II.

      So after only 20 years we already have done some tiny, extremely simple calculations involving a few qubits. Very far from being useful, and still totally amazing that we've come so far. Most ideas take twenty years to become widely known before they're looked at seriously.

      So Slashdot readers compare it to Duke Nukem and flying cars, and laugh. These times are so interesting that everyone is jaded.

      • It is strange that we live in a time where in the west anyway anyone can pretty much find out about anything.
        We do have bandwidth that seems to cheap to meter right now. I am still waiting for the manned trip to mars or even back to the moon.
      • Various forms of quantum computing have been toted for a long time now - as has affordable fission power (or any form of safe&cheap nuclear). True AI is a long way off still, despite being thought to be closer for a long time.. And we might have reasonably expected manned space exploration to be further than it is now, after Apollo..

        I wasnt being entirely serious in my original post, but I suppose if I was I would say it is probably not too suprising that quantum computing and AI are taking time to hap
      • Now, just over twenty years later, we already have brought bits of the idea into practice - that is stunningly fast, compared with history.

        No, it's not.

        All evolutionary progress, including technology, has always increased exponentially [kurzweilai.net]. Once you understand this -- and I mean really understand -- then the naturally increasing rate of change is no longer so shocking [sysopmind.com].

        --

  • by Teahouse (267087)
    All I can think to say is wow! This is pretty awesome when you consider the ramifications. QM just took an interesting step forward.

  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:00PM (#7025257)
    Cesium in your computer, huh?

    Now there's a good reason not to spill coffee at your desk...

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by fruey (563914) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:00PM (#7025259) Homepage Journal

    (Blatantly stolen from link on the right of the article)

    A system with one or more individual atoms at rest and strongly coupled to a single mode of the electromagnetic field is ideal for testing fundamental concepts of quantum computing and quantum information processing (see Physics World 1998 March). Indeed, Scott Parkins, now at the University of Auckland, and collaborators at the JILA Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and Caltech first proposed this system as a highly efficient quantum interface in 1993. Using the strong coupling of an atom to a single photon, it should be possible to map a quantum bit at rest from an atomic medium onto a propagating light field, and vice versa. In other words, this scheme could allow quantum information to be sent from one place to another. The first experimental results in this direction were obtained very recently by Markus Hennrich and co-workers at the MPQ. Moreover, two atoms in the cavity should make it possible to realize a "controlled NOT gate", the elementary building block of a quantum computer.

    But it does answer the question I was asking myself...

    • Like this (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      /--------\
      Cesium atom ---- Internet ---> quantum computing
      \--------/

      Obviously you've never written a business proposal before.
      • by orthogonal (588627) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:19PM (#7025400) Journal
        > /--------\
        > Cesium atom ---- Internet ---> quantum computing
        > \--------/

        > Obviously you've never written a business proposal
        > before.

        No, obviously YOU have not. The proper proposal looks like this:

        /--------\
        Collect underpants ---> Cesium atom ---- Internet ---> ??? ---> quantum computing
        \--------/
  • I learned it spelled as Cesium, and everything I've ever seen spells it that way. Is this just some over-spelling, or is it something like the Aluminum vs. Aluminium spelling/pronunciation conflict?
  • Imagine? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Slicebo (221580) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:01PM (#7025269)
    Can you imagine what you could make with a Beowulf cluster of these?

    A FLASHLIGHT!
  • by panurge (573432) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:03PM (#7025286)
    Some of the ruby rods we were getting in the early 80s were such poor quality, I wouldn't be surprised if they were single atom lasers. Pity we didn't know it would one day be leading edge research.

    I know, I know, I actually read the article. I can remember when lasers were interesting, before they were just cheap modern replacements for phonograph needles.

  • construction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by colinleroy (592025) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:05PM (#7025308) Homepage
    I wonder if the term "constructed" is really relevant, considering they used a single atom ;-)
  • Chip Manufacturers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bruha (412869)
    I'm sure Intel and others are probably going to be highly interested in this.
  • Yay! (Score:3, Funny)

    by andy@petdance.com (114827) <andy@petdance.com> on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:21PM (#7025433) Homepage
    The emitted light is very weak but highly ordered

    Does this mean it's not yet bright enough to point at my Keynote slides?

  • Finally! (Score:2, Funny)

    by JWhitlock (201845)
    The emitted light is very weak but highly ordered, so such a device may be used to control a quantum computer.

    I, for one, can now overthrow our quantum computer masters!

  • Next Step: (Score:2, Funny)

    by show me (696663)
    2 atoms!
  • by Spectre (1685) on Monday September 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#7025926)
    Given the state of my desk, I'll never be able to find the hot-swap spare atom ...

  • by sluke (26350) on Monday September 22, 2003 @01:20PM (#7025952)
    Off the top of my head I can think of two areas where this could be useful for quantum computing. The first would be as a way to comvert flying qubits (photons) in to stationary qubits. If this could be done, than technology such as quantum repeaters would be possible, therefore allowing for long distance quantum cryptography. The second would be as a single photon source, which would have big applications in optical quantum computing.

    The article, however, was very light on specifics. It says that the light exhibits antibunching, yet calls it a laser. My understanding of coherent states was that the probability of sending out two photons was high enough that it causes problems with quantum cryptography (Eve can simply observe one of the flying qubits and let the other one go). So do they envision using this as a single photon source? I haven't had a chance to read the journal article yet, so if someone who has a little more info could clarify I would be quite appreciative.
  • by Fubar411 (562908) on Monday September 22, 2003 @01:30PM (#7026050)
    How long until ThinkGeek puts up a banner ad for single atom green lasers?
  • Dieter Meschede and Herbert Walther made the first single-atom laser [uni-muenchen.de] in 1985.

    This experiment is new only in that the atom is nearly at rest in the cavity.

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