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For First Time, Physicists Succeed in Converting Light Into Matter

September 18, 1997|From Times staff and wire reports

Physicists have for the first time converted light into matter, according to a report in the most recent Physical Review Letters. They have often converted matter into light, as in an atomic bomb, but never the opposite.

They achieved this feat by dumping a huge amount of power for a fraction of a second into an area smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. This was done by focusing an intense electron beam at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center onto a beam of light from a powerful laser. The resulting collision converted several closely packed photons, the basic units of light, into an electron and a positron. The researchers are studying the strong electromagnetic fields created by such collisions.

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