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Light’s weird dual nature weathers trip to space and back

‘Delayed-choice’ test, a first with spacefaring photons, affirms light can behave like a wave or a particle

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2:00pm, October 25, 2017
experimental setup

THERE AND BACK AGAIN  Light retains a double life, acting like either a particle or a wave. To test this idea in space, scientists sent light through a setup (shown) to a satellite and back.

Light is two-faced: Sometimes it behaves like a wave, sometimes like a particle. Now, scientists have shown that light’s shifty disposition persists even after trekking thousands of kilometers into space and back again, researchers report October 25 in Science Advances.

Depending on how light is measured, it can either be particle-like, lighting up a camera pixel, for example, or wavelike, interfering with other waves like ripples on the surface of water. It’s one of the many oddities of quantum mechanics. Before light is measured, quantum theory suggests, it is in a particle-wave limbo, neither purely one nor the other.

Physicists have tested this idea by performing “delayed-choice” experiments in the lab, in which researchers send light into a device and randomly choose

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