For the very first time, the speed of light was slowed down by Scottish physicists at the University of Glasgow. Using a mask, the physicists sent photons through to change their shape, and then raced an altered photon against an unaltered one. The altered photon was slowed by up to 20 wavelengths over a distance of one meter. Their findings show that light can be slowed down in free space by changing its shape. The experiment took two years to complete.
Back in 1905, Albert Einstein postulated the speed of light as being constant at 186,282 miles per second and that nothing can travel faster than light in vacuum. Until now, many also thought the speed of light was a constant. As the Inquisitr previously reported, physicists such as Dr. James Franson at the University of Maryland had begun to question Einstein’s findings about the speed of light.
The speed of light does slow down when passing through mediums such as air, water, or glass but returns to its same speed when it comes out the other side. In this experiment, the speed of a photon remains slightly slower when the shape was changed.
Professor Miles Padgett from the University of Glasgow’s optics group talked about briefly about what the findings could mean.
“The results give us a new way to think about the properties of light.”
In order to help the layman understand the findings, the researchers compared a beam of light to a team of cyclists. The team travels at a constant speed, but the individual cyclists will be traveling at their own speeds, swapping positions. This is also the same for a beam of light traveling at the speed of light.
The paper containing the results was submitted to the journal Science Express on November 14, 2014, and was accepted for publication on January 8 this year. Daniel Giovannini, one of the lead authors of the paper, explained the results in more detail.
“The delay we’ve introduced to the structured beam is small, measured at several micrometres over a propagation distance of one metre, but it is significant.”
These findings about the speed of light will shake up astronomy in ways that will change what we’ve thought to be true until now. Astronomers will need to recalculate the distance from the Earth to the sun, other planets, and other universes.
Science is a subject that is incredibly fluctuating with new discoveries all the time that change the way we see the world around us. These new findings regarding the speed of light prove just that.
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