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A SIMULATION OF A PARTICLE THAT MAY NOT EXIST?

the Decca Journal
9-23-99

 

For decades the argument over the particle composition of light has provided material for scientists and philosophers alike. The only thing that anyone has been able to agree on has been that light behaves as if it is composed of waves or particles depending on how it is observed.

Recent simulations created in a research lab associated with the CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics near Geneva, Switzerland seek to find a definitive answer on one side of the argument or the other.

Starting with recent experiments out of the Cambridge Massachusetts based Rowland Institute for Science, a small group working on computer simulations began collecting data about the behaviors of individual light particles. The Cambridge based experiments slowed the speed of light to 17m/sec. by projecting it through a Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC) of sodium atoms.

The group, led by Dr. Natasha Bartham of the Computer Simulations Department at CERN, has taken to recording the state of individual photons as they travel through the BEC. By compiling data from several thousands of photons traveling through the condensate the group was able to produce startling three dimensional renderings of the behaviors of photons.

Typically physicists have assumed that light behaved as a wave until it was observed at which time it would behave as though made up of particles. Dr. Bartham’s group is starting to find simulated behaviors arising that suggest that light may always behave as a very clever particle.

“Some of our programmers have been quite surprised at the results.”, said Dr. Bartham,”They were convinced that statistically they were dealing with intelligent populations.”

While no one is prepared to defend the position that light particles are intelligent beings, the possibility that light does not exist as a wave at any stage outside of the minds of mathematicians, could in time revolutionize the field.

Dr. Bartham says her team remains humble, “We aren’t really trying to change the principles of physics. We just want to produce simulations that make it simpler to understand the raw data produced by new experimental techniques.”