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Physicists Break the Speed of Light Using Plasma in New Experiment

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the University of Rochester have seemingly broken the universal speed limit.

 At 186,000 miles per second, photons are the fastest moving particles in the known universe. And set a pretty hard cap on travel times. Now scientists have seemingly managed to break the speed of light with pulses sent through hot plasma. And it’s all within the laws of physics.

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the University of Rochester used plasma to put the brakes on light waves, so to speak, as well as speed them up 30% faster. While individual light waves traveled at their usual speed, refraction from the plasma’s fields and the polarized light from a laser, caused their features to change shape. And the rhythmic rise and fall of the group of light waves to appear to change speed.

The discovery doesn’t mean we’ve cracked interstellar travel, but it could pave the way for a new brand of lasers. Using streams of plasma to alter the features of light could prevent the solid-state optical materials of some lasers from getting damaged at higher energy levels. The findings of the experiment were published in “Physical Review Letters.”

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