Deep in the southern hemisphere, science is being done. Atthe Australian National University(ANU), scientists led by Morgan Hedges havefound a way to stop light as it enters a crystal, creating a read-only hologramthat destroys itself after use. Holster that sidearm and cue the MissionImpossible music – it’s time to get your spy on.
The entire process operates under the slightly sketchy lawsof quantum mechanics, which don’t really get along so well with relativity.Sure, they can be in the same room together, but good luck getting them toexchange civil pleasantries, let alone talk about the weather.
Here’s how it goes down. Light can’t really make up its mindas to whether it wants to be a particle or a wave, and it zips around, doingpretty much whatever the hell it feels like. It’s hard to pin down, and goodluck catching a light beam, even if you use the most sophisticated equipment.
That’s where the ANU guys and gals come in. By using acrystal and chilling its electrons to a balmy-270 degrees Celsius (3 degrees off of “absolute zero”, for those in the know),this intrepid band of smart-makers were able to actually “freeze” a beam oflight in place within the crystal. Light can come in, but is unable to escapedue to the extremely low temperature. Asa result, the ANU team has been able to hold light in place for over a second,which is 1000 times longer than any previous attempt.
Cold Crystal: Electrons at their slowest
When they decided to release their tightly-held light lines,they found that any information stored within the beam was still present injust the same way as when it entered. Due to the quirky nature of light beamsand quantum mechanics, once this information is accessed and read – say in thecase of super-secret spy instructions, the nature of the light is irrevocablychanged, and the information is destroyed. In effect, looking at it makes itself-destruct.
This gets even cooler when the scientists go on to talkabout entwining the quantum states of two crystals. Basically, this would allowthe information in the two crystals to be irrevocably joined, regardless ofdistance. If at any time the memory of one crystal was accessed, theinformation stored in its twin would be altered.
The next plan of attack from the team is to increase thestorage time of light-information up to hours rather than seconds, and thiscombined with its inherent security is poised to lead a revolution in quantumcomputing.
Sure, we're not there yet, but can the days of ultra-secret mission briefings and ever more plausible denability be all that far off? We deny all knowledge. Here, check our light-beam.