Monday, January 22, 2007

Storing an image in a single photon!

Yes, you read it right, storing an whole image (like of yourself taken with a normal camera) in a single photon. That is impossible you would think! But what hasn't been done today with modern technology in quantum optics? They have teleported information across a small distance here Copenhagen amongst other things. But this headline is actually just what your guts tell you, bullshit.

For the past few days many news media (including specialized science media like have botched up a science breakthrough and made it into something it isn't. I don't know whose to blame (if it is the science writers or the people who made the press release because the news was out before the article got published so most science writers didn't read the article) but when a team of science writers all make the same mistake what is the public to think?

The mistake they made is saying that an experiment that researchers at University of Rochester could carry a whole image in a single photon when all the experiment did was slow light down and make the light continue to withhold information during and after the slowing which had not been done before.

You know that you can get information about the shape of a thing by shining light on it and look at its shadow, right? So you know how a cross section of the thing looks like without looking at the thing itself. Or you can have a mask and shine a light through the pattern in it and the pattern will emerge on the wall behind the mask. Thats just what these researchers did. They shone a lot of light through a mask and recorded the light afterwards, but in between the mask and the detector they let the light go through a certain gas that was specially prepared so it would slow the light down and allso not make the light loose information about the original pattern. What got the science writers confused was that they managed to do this for very low light levels, so low in fact that in each light pulse there were less then one photon (0.8 actually, now how is that possible?), but they still sent a lot of those pulses to recreate the original image, they did not send one photon through the mask and then detected it and recreated the image using only that one photon, no sirrrreeeeee.

No comments: