Physicists and Light Tie the Knot

Okay, when you see “Physicists tie light into a knot” linked on the sidebar of a page, you have to click on it.

See the article from physicsworld.com here!

Plot of a trefoil knot solution to Maxwell's equations

First thing I thought: Rapunzel’s hair in Tangled.

Calculations made by physicists in the US, Poland and Spain have helped them to  discover a new family of solutions to Maxwell’s equations: knots of light that do not disperse or lose their specific topological properties.

The researchers say that if these knots could be made real, thy  could be used to trap atoms or create similar knots in plasmas or quantum fluids.

This sounds really out there. By that I mean that it’s pretty difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea of wrapping light around anything.

Hridesh Kedia at the University of Chicago and colleagues believe that these knots could be made using  Laguerre–Gaussian beams. These are tightly-focused beams that, unlike most other beams of light, carry orbital angular momentum. 

How is this in anyway useful besides being pretty cool? Firing these knots into a plasma or quantum fluid could potentially cause knot-like entities to propagate through those materials,  offering new ways of studying these states of matter.

Wow! You have to admit, scientists really think outside the box, unafraid to try something that sounds totally bizarre. I mean, when Thomas Edison said he was going to create a lightbulb, not a lot of people could fathom that idea either.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Thomas A. Edison

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