Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Light Trap!

Optical computing has long been the dream of the types of people who dream about such things. Cat lovers, most of them. And probably the same types who would love all their appliances to run via USB. The thing about optical computing is that it would be super fast. Information could be encoded in light instead of having to travel through copper or silicon as electricity. But that information eventually has to be converted from an optical to an electrical signal at some point so it can make your screens go blink and your motors go whir. And if we could kindly ask light to slow down a bit, sapping the information from it would be much easier. Well, researchers at Towson University have persuaded light to hold up a bit by creating a tapered waveguide. They coated a lens with a thin layer of gold, laid it on a similarly gold-coated slide, and shined a laser into it. The light slowed to the point that rainbows appeared to be trapped inside the lens. The bottom line here? My download of "Backyard Butt-Bangers VIII" may one day be instantaneous thanks to this exciting discovery! More details here.