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Scientists Create the First Working Anti-Laser

A team of Yale University scientists led by Professor Douglas Stone have realized a longstanding dream in theoretical physics and built a functional anti-laser. Designed to absorb incoming laser beams, the device is not really designed with prospective mad scientists in mind, but rather could make possible advances in computer architecture.

BBC News reports:

Their device focuses two lasers beams of a specific frequency into a specially designed optical cavity made from silicon, which traps the incoming beams of light and forces them to bounce around until all their energy is dissipated.

Building something which can absorb light over a wide range of wavelengths is pretty simple, said Professor Stone, but only doing so for a particular wavelength makes the anti-laser potentially useful in optical computing.

Next question: Why should we even care about optical computing? Aren’t electricity and light basically just as fast as each other? Redditor SteveJEO provides an insightful answer:

1. Electrons are actually slow. (drift speed in a conductor with resistance is retarded).

2. Conductors are rubbish. (resistance is just that. we lose energy everywhere ~ consider how much of the power and noise of your own computer is dedicated to keeping it cool seriously… system I’m using now has a 1.2Kw power supply and 9 fans, I use it as a heater when its cold.)

3. Electrons have charge. (yep, i know its obvious but it also means you cant pass two signals down 1 conductor without them screwing each other up)

4. Moving electrons cause problems for other electrons. (back EMF ~ spiking etc)

5. All micro electronic devices whether they are designed to do it are not are at heart capacitors. (they store charge due to residual capacitance).

All of these things become problems when you are trying to change a signal from on to off very quickly on a very small scale. (ignoring quantum, even the transistors can screw things up since if they are too small and the frequency too high they act more like capacitors)

Light has none of these problems.

Stone et al.’s anti-lasers are still some way from commercial application, but once they do hit the computer market, they could shake it up in a big way. Cyborg sharks, probably not as much.

(via BBC)

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