There’s this cliche that buzzes around the place (breathlessly repeated) “advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and I must admit I find it quite irritating… partly because it seems to be a way of saying “we can make perpetual motion machines if we really put our minds to it” and partly because I can’t imagine any technology that I would consider to be anything other than technology.
But I think I’ve met my match. Lene Hau can stop light.
<snip>she brought light to a complete halt in a cloud of ultracold atoms. Next, she restarted the stalled light without changing any of its characteristics, and sent it on its way.</snip>
<snip>In the experiment, a light pulse was slowed to bicycle speed by beaming it into a cold cloud of atoms. The light made a “fingerprint” of itself in the atoms before the experimenters turned it off. Then Hau and her assistants guided that fingerprint into a second clump of cold atoms. And get this – the clumps were not touching and no light passed between them.</snip>
The techniques sound simple; the simple description of what is actually taking place does my head in.