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Tiny sphere bends light like a black hole does

Previously seen at the megascale, gravitational lensing goes micro

1:23pm, October 4, 2013

BEND IT LIKE A BLACK HOLE  A beam of light curves around a glass sphere embedded in plastic. Light making a close encounter with a black hole would take a similar path.

Light rays bend around a microscopic sphere just as they would around a gargantuan black hole thanks to a new chip-sized device. The experiment, detailed September 29 in Nature Photonics, demonstrates physicists’ newfound ability to mimic and miniaturize cosmic-scale physical processes in the lab.

“It’s a nice little demonstration that can bend light around 360 degrees, just as gravity can around a black hole,” says William Unruh, a theoretical physicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity defines gravity as the curvature of space and time around objects with mass: The more massive the object, the more drastically it warps space and time. As a result, the trajectory of light bends as it whizzes past the universe’s densest, most massive objects, including black holes and neutron stars, the remnant cores of dead stars

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