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Science

Scientists Propose Collider That Could Turn Light Into Matter 223

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-me-my-holodeck dept.
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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Scientists Propose Collider That Could Turn Light Into Matter

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  • by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @01:31AM (#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.
  • by Bobakitoo (1814374) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:11AM (#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.

  • by stoploss (2842505) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:25AM (#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.

  • by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:42AM (#47036429)
    The goal is to verify our understanding of quantum physics, not to create matter.
  • by stoploss (2842505) on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:12AM (#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.

  • by stoploss (2842505) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:14AM (#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.

  • by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:34AM (#47037249) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by DrLudicrous (607375) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:21AM (#47037557) Homepage
    Think of photons as the central point from which oscillating magnetic and electric fields originate. And that this point moves through space at ~3x10^8 m/s. It is kind of like throwing two stones into water and watching the resulting interference patterns, excepts that the centers of those patterns are moving instead of stationary. Hence, collision isn't really an apt description.

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