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Airy theory, but true

12:35pm, December 16, 2007

For decades, physicists have known that quantum theory allows for wavelike objects to follow curved trajectories known as Airy functions, after the 19th-century British astronomer George Biddell Airy. Scientists have now managed to bend a beam of light into just such a shape.

Demetri Christodoulides, Aristide Dogariu, and their colleagues at the University of Central Florida in Orlando passed an ordinary, but thick, laser beam through a liquid-crystal screen. The incoming light waves were oscillating in sync, but the orientations of the liquid crystals knocked them out of sync in a predetermined way. So the waves emerging on the other side formed interference patter

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