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Star Wars Lightsabres Made Reality By Science
Star Wars fans will feel the force is definitely with them after a scientific breakthrough which has turned the lightsabre from science fiction to fact.
Harvard and MIT physicists writing in the new edition of Nature say they have discovered a way to bind photons together in order to form a new molecule, which behaves almost exactly like the lethal devices wielded by Jedi Knights.
Harvard university physics professor Mikhail Lukin said: "Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless and do not interact."
This is illustrated when two laser beams are shone at each other, and they pass through one another.
Professor Lukin said: "What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they act as though they have mass, and bind together to form molecules.
"It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabres. When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other.
"The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies."
And the group did not have to go to a galaxy far, far away to do it.
But they did have to use a set of extreme conditions, including ultra-low temperatures.
Describing their work in Nature, the scientists said: "The fundamental properties of light derive from its constituent particles - massless quanta (photons) that do not interact with one another.
"However, it has long been known that the realisation of coherent interactions between individual photons, akin to those associated with conventional massive particles, could enable a wide variety of novel scientific and engineering applications."
But it is doubtful these uses will include lightsabres, and is more likely to involve building a super-fast quantum computer, which will harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks.
Or the system might one day even be used to create complex three-dimensional structures - such as crystals - completely out of light.