Scientists create real-life Star Wars lightsaber

Ryan Leston
28 September 2013
Scientists create real-life Star Wars lightsaber
Real-life lightsabers? I'll take two...

It's official - lightsabers actually exist! At least, that's what Harvard and MIT physicists are claiming after they stumbled upon a new molecule that behaves exactly like them.

Let's face it, 'Star Wars' fans - we've all dreamt of the day we finally get to pick up our very own lightsaber and won't have to make the noises ourselves while we swing around an old golf club. Well that could be a lot sooner than we thought as physicists at Harvard and MIT discover an all-new molecule… and it behaves exactly like a lightsaber blade.

[Star Wars fan launches campaign for Chewbacca job]

In an astounding report from some of the boffins over at Harvard and MIT, a team of physicists who were mucking about with photons has managed to get the particles to clump together to form a molecule… and apparently that's a very big deal.

"It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers," said Professor Mikhail Lukin. "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."

That's right folks - real-life lightsabers. Well, sort of… The experiment managed to create this new form of matter after a number of photons were blasted through a cloud of rubidium atoms. And when more than one photon was sent through at a time, scientists noticed that they began to cling to each other and interact in a similar manner to the famous lightsaber blade.

The effect is caused by the Rydberg Blockade - a principle which states that when an atom is excited, atoms nearby can't be excited to the same degree. Coincidentally, this principle also applies to those rare 'Star Wars' fans who actually liked the prequel trilogy.

[Star Wars VII casting call for new Chewbacca?]

But before we get too carried away, it looks as though we might not be slicing off each other's hands and shouting "No, I am your father," just yet… as the experiment was used in order to help develop photons for use in building a quantum supercomputer.

"We do this for fun," said Professor Lukin. "And because we're pushing the frontiers of science. But it feeds into the bigger picture of what we're doing because photons remain the best possible means to carry quantum information. The handicap, though, has been that photons don't interact with each other."

We might not be getting the coolest weapons in the universe just yet, but if you ask me, at least it's a step in the right direction. Let's just make sure they're available in purple.

What do you think of this incredible breakthrough? Are we one step closer to actual lightsabers? Let us know what you think in the comments below…

Ryan Leston is a sci-fi geek from Cardiff who loves all things Star Wars. His favourite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back and he still wants to be Han Solo when he grows up. Follow Ryan Leston on Twitter or Facebook.

More articles from Ryan Leston:

The enduring charm of vintage Star Wars figures

The Star Wars cameos you might have missed

How Star Wars fans restored the Lars Homestead

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