More than 80 years ago, scientists deemed turning light into matter to be an impossibility. However, not only do they now feel that it is possible, but believe it will be achievable within the next 12 months. If these assumptions are true, then we (as a species) could very well be on the cusp of a new scientific era.
However, are these claims just a little too lofty to achieve? Even though these scientists making the claims are quite confident, what exactly does mainstream science have to say about such claims?
The idea of turning pure light into physical matter was thought up by Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler in a paper they published in 1934 titled Collision of Two Light Quanta. In the study, the two physicists theorized that it would be possible to create matter from light (photons) by colliding the photon into short electromagnetic pulses, such as a laser.
In their paper, Breit and Wheeler theorized, “In the present note are given analogous calculations for the production of positron electron pairs as a result of the collision of two light quanta.” Meaning, the result of colliding the photon in this manner would result in the creation of a electron-positron pair.
This theory was the exact reverse of the well-known and accepted idea that if an electron and a positron collide, the result is the creation of two photons. The theory of matter (the electron-positron pair) from light (photons) has become known as the Breit-Wheeler process. However, Breit and Wheeler both believed that it would be impossible to put the theory to the test because of the issues with colliding beams of gamma rays.
Fast forward nearly 80 years to today, Steve Rose and Oliver Pike, two researchers at Imperial College London, believe that creating matter in this way is entirely possible.
In their paper on a photon–photon collider in a vacuum hohlraum, published in Nature Photonics, they state:
“Here, we present the design of a new class of photon–photon collider in which a gamma-ray beam is fired into the high-temperature radiation field of a laser-heated hohlraum.”
Rose and Pike theorize, based on simulations, that this experiment could result in 105 electron-positron pairs with a single collision.
Essentially, this would be creating matter from pure light; even though, the matter that would be created could not be observed by the naked eye. Nevertheless, such a result would usher in a new era of high-energy physics.
Creating a Buzz
Though many scientists are not jumping to conclusions until the experiment comes to fruition and is a success, this recent paper is generating a buzz throughout the physics community. Andrei Seryi, director of the John Adams Institute at Oxford University, is truly excited about the possibilities and wonders exactly what this potential discovery could mean for the world of physics.
“Would we be able in the future to convert energy into time and vice versa?” Then, there is the matter of money.
Hirotaka Sugawara, former director of Japan’s KEK, believes that a photon-photon collider should be built first because it would be cheaper than an International Linear Collider. According to Sugawara, this lower price would be more appealing to funders and, in turn, easier to obtain funds for. It would appear that mainstream science is going “all in” on the photon-photon collider.
The theory is still in the theoretical stages, but Rose and Pike are in discussions to get an experiment in the works within the next 12 months. If their simulations are proven correct, it could have profound effects on the future of physics and science as a whole.
Provided by Dennis Dufrene