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50 Years Ago

Three-inch pieces of light

Because of quantum mechanics, the chopping of photons is a fuzzy endeavor.

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2:41pm, March 9, 2012

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January 1, 1927 | Vol. 11 | No. 299

Three-inch pieces of light

A method of cutting off three-inch pieces from a beam of light, like a meat cutter slicing a bologna sausage, though the light moves at 186,000 miles a second, is described by Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence and Dr. J. W. Beams of Yale University.

Though light travels so fast that it can encircle the earth seven times in a second, the two physicists made use of a shutter that turned the light on and off with such rapidity that each “piece” of light was only about three inches in length. Each flash lasted a hundred billionth of a second.

The investigation was undertaken in an endeavor to measure the length of what are called “qu

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