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German Scientists Create Bose-Einstein Condensate Using Photons 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-this-discovery-away-from-sharks dept.
xt writes "A team of physicists, led by the University of Bonn's Martin Weitz, have managed to create a Bose-Einstein condensate (here's a more detailed explanation) out of photons, previously thought to be impossible. The research was published in the journal Nature (abstract, and the arXiv has the submitted paper as a PDF) and has possible applications on solar energy technology and shortwave lasers, which would be well-suited to the manufacture of computer chips as the process uses lasers to etch logic circuits onto semiconductor materials. Seems like Moore's law is safe again!"
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German Scientists Create Bose-Einstein Condensate Using Photons

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  • How do you like them photons?

    • Einstein is responsible for those crappy Bose speakers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You know whats odd?

      If this was previously thought to be impossible - you'd think it would have much larger implications.

      Perhaps they should have said previously thought to be improbable?

      • by infaustus (936456)
        I think this was pretty firmly considered impossible - there is a problem in my stat mech textbook (Kittel and Kromer, Thermal Physics) as follows: 7.7) Photon condensation. Consider a science fiction universe in which the number of photons N is constant, at a concentration of 10^20 cm^-3. The number of thermally excited photons we assume is given by the result of Problem 4.1, which is Ne=2.404V(tau^3)/(pi^2hbar^3c^3). Find the critical temperature in K below which Ne N. The excess N - Ne will be in t
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 26, 2010 @06:16PM (#34353382)

    Super Photons, original flavor: Not From Condensate.
    Regular Photons: From Condensate.
    Spooky Photons: (Note: contains only about 50% of stated volume)

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Friday November 26, 2010 @06:16PM (#34353386)

    "Seems like Moore's law is safe again!"

    That's great, but if memory and I/O speeds don't keep up, the extra FLOPS are becoming more and more worthless....

    • by Baseclass (785652)
      One less bottleneck is always a good thing in my book.
      • True, but FLOPS have not been the bottleneck for a long time. When was the last time you had to up your CPU speed or used all your CPU? But people always need RAM and disk I/O to be faster. This gets worse every year. At giant supercomputing facilities, this is well known. I wonder when it will start hitting the consumer level?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          True, but FLOPS have not been the bottleneck for a long time. When was the last time you had to up your CPU speed or used all your CPU?

          Last night. Then again, I was trying to play a game on netbook, so I had it coming. Really, for a desktop, if I am not getting enough speed I am probably just being cheap and not upgrading, but for a netbook or phone, a faster processor would make a noticeable performance difference. I agree that the other stuff is important too, but CPUs are still a bottleneck for real consumer applications, just not on the desktop.

          • Hmm, when you say you were maxed out on CPU with a game -- did you mean that your graphics card was maxed out? Are games really that CPU intensive? But it's a fair point, that increasing FLOPS/Watt is an advantage for small portable devices. I am guessing that your GPU (not CPU) was maxed out and that more memory in your GPU would make a big difference.
        • by ClintJCL (264898)
          Firefox maxes one core out all the time. I could certainly use more flops.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by camperdave (969942)

            Firefox maxes one core out all the time. I could certainly use more flops.

            No, you could use a better version of Firefox. There's no reason a browser should max out a current multi-core CPU.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by ClintJCL (264898)
              Because of course you know everything about every computer and every situation. Haha. Hilarious "generic defensive geek" archtype response.
              • Well, actually there are two possibilities; either you have a single-core machine, in which case the current conversation doesn't really apply to you as you are not taking advantage Moore's law anyhow, or Firefox is not making use of all that horsepower. Put good software on a good machine and what will limit it is memory and/or I/O, if anything.
                • by ClintJCL (264898)
                  Firefox only uses one core. Moore's law still applies, however. The rate of cores becoming faster, y'know. Not using a 2nd core doesn't just throw all that out the window. Slapping on a second core doesn't make things twice as fast, either. Very few things use both cores. (I'm on a 32 bit operating system.) One notable one is LAME encoder.

                  Point being - under the same conditions [firefox using 1 of 2 cores], a faster cpu will use faster cores and will result in this happening less often.

                  I do find your re

            • You know, there's something called JavaScript.

          • Only if you open Slashdot with a long discussion. Really, it's the only page I'm visiting regularly which maxes one core out for an extended time.
            Well, at least now it's fast enough that I don't get a browser warning that a script takes too long (there was a time where Slashdot triggered that regularly).

    • "Seems like Moore's law is safe again!"

      That's great, but if memory and I/O speeds don't keep up, the extra FLOPS are becoming more and more worthless....

      Well, THAT'S why it's so important to do things that were previously thought to be impossible.
      Once we finally get small scale time travel going we can write memory values before the calculation is actually performed!
      Slow I/O? No problem as the information arrives before it is sent... so it's always on time for the super fast processor to make the next calculation and send the result back in time to the slower I/O and memory!
      I don't know why but I get this vision of a heat sink that looks like a 12 acre lak

    • by Theovon (109752)

      Our CS department chair made an interesting comment the other day (although I think he was quoting someone else). When it comes to energy consumption in todays processors, computation is almost free. All the energy goes into moving data around.

    • Wouldn't an improved (shrunk) fab process also be used to improve memory and storage (SSD) performance? It really is all about the I/O now.
  • So this would presumably be used for extreme ultraviolet lithography [wikipedia.org]?

    I guess this paragraph from the Wikipedia article may be relevant:

    A further characteristic of the plasma-based EUV sources under development is that they are not even partially coherent, unlike the KrF and ArF excimer lasers used for current optical lithography. Further power reduction (energy loss) is expected in converting incoherent sources (emitting in all possible directions at many independent wavelengths) to partially coherent (emit

  • by durrr (1316311)
    As the photon BEC works at room temperature and seems quite simple, and shows a switching behaviour, can't it simply be miniaturized and used as a replacement of circuitry instead of used for lithography?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227)

      Better yet, if it really works at room temperature, this method will still be workable once we've squandered the world's supply of helium. (Thanks for a "free market" solution, Congress.)

      How much other basic science is going to shortly become impossible - basically prohibitively expensive when we hit the end of "Cheap Helium"?
      Makes you wonder what fraction of helium is in the parade floats, and if they attempt to scavenge any of it.

      • > Thanks for a "free market" solution, Congress.

        There's nothing "free market" about depressing the price by an order of magnitude or so by dumping stockpiles.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          That was kind of my point, but I'll bet at the time it was heralded as a "market-oriented bipartisan solution." At the time, it rather slipped under my radar screen - I didn't hear about the mess until about 6 months ago.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As the photon BEC works at room temperature and seems quite simple, [...] can't it simply be miniaturized and used as a replacement of circuitry instead of used for lithography?

      Define simple.

      You do realise how good the technology you want to replace really has become?
      MOSFET's are reliable switches that are really, really small.

      They are so small, modern transistors are composed of a number of atoms that
      humans can actually imagine.

      There are few other technological items that are that small, and yet fullfil a
      task with incredible reliability over a long period of time as an individual device.
      I actually don't know of any right now.

      If you can't miniaturize these cavities to sub micromet

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday November 26, 2010 @06:33PM (#34353512)

    The research is a fascinating work about fundamental physics. This is one case where a sales pitch about about possible, only tangentially related applications in computing is quite unnecessary.

  • How is a Bose-Einstein condensate of photons any different than regular ol' standing wave?
    • Photons bouncing around inside the resonant cavity could be considered a standing wave, but the BEC requires them to reach a minimum critical density in order to achieve the BEC state. Meanwhile lasers formed by traditional population inversion can happen at any amplitude.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's a pretty dense article but, as far as I can tell, they're considering the motion of the photons in the plane transverse to the cavity axis as the particle movement. The problem is then two-dimensional in nature with the curvature of the mirrors directing photons back towards the cavity center. The situation is then analogous to a two-dimensional gas of particles confined by a central trapping potential.

      In essence, the temperature is related to the transverse velocity of the intra-cavity photons. I beli

  • Then God help us. God help us all.
  • The first link [wikipedia.org] reads like an elementary school primer, while the second link [wikipedia.org] reads like a PHD dissertation. Is it not possible to explain quantum mechanics at a normal adult level?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no. you either get dumbed down, or you get equations.

      shit's complicated. deal with it or deal with not understanding it.

    • by hweimer (709734)

      The first link [wikipedia.org] reads like an elementary school primer, while the second link [wikipedia.org] reads like a PHD dissertation. Is it not possible to explain quantum mechanics at a normal adult level?

      Lemme try:

      Quantum mechanics tells us that there are only discrete energy levels allowed within any physical system. For example, if you put a single particle into a box, the allowed energy levels a given by plane (matter) waves. Now, you don't have only a single particle, but say a million of them. Since they are the same atoms, they are indistinguishable. So, you cannot say that atom A is in level X and atom B is in level Y, but only that 2 atoms are in level X and 5 atoms are in level Y and so on. Since w

      • Does this work?

        Any elementary particle, atom, or molecule, can be classified as one of two types: a boson or a fermion. For example, an electron is a Fermion, while a photon or a helium atom is a Boson.

        Fermions can be elementary, like the electron, or composite, like the proton. All observed fermions have half-integer spin. An important characteristic of a Fermion is that it obeys the Pauli exclusion principle. Thus, if more than one fermion occupies the same place in space, the properties of each fermi
  • by Michael_Burton (608237) <michaelburton@brainrow.com> on Friday November 26, 2010 @08:32PM (#34354488) Homepage
    What I want to know is: Will this do as much to improve the sound of my Bose speakers as Monster cables do?
  • Neither the linked wiki to the layman's explanation, nor the "detailed" one explain it the way I think I understand it.

    As you cannot know momentum and position simultaneously with great accuracy (I think it's those two anyway), when you cool these down to near absolute zero, you know their momentum very accurately, which is almost zero. Hence their positional accuracy skyrockets into fuzziness.

    Can someone please clean this up for me so I can understand it better?

    • by nashv (1479253)

      Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle : For a particle, the mutiplication of a change in momentum (x) and position(y) is a constant. (roughly speaking).

      Which means that if x is close to zero, and there is only infinitessimaly small change in x, the change in y (position) is infinitesimally large, which means you have no freakin idea where it is at any given moment of time.

      thats the best I can do

  • Tell me this won't lead to sentences like "Excuse me, but could I please borrow a cup of red light???"

    • My name is Arnold Rimmer, and I can tell you I have been waiting for a hard light drive for simply eons. As soon as I get one, I shall lend the requested cup of red light, but you must furnish me with a 27b/6 form first.
  • It saddens me to see all these oh-so-funny Bose audio system jokes. Its rather an injustice to the scientific work of Satyendra Bose [wikipedia.org].

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