For the first time scientists observe the creation of matter from light.

One of the most intriguing ramifications of Einstein's well-known equation E=mc2 is the interchangeability of matter and energy.

Stated otherwise, matter ought to be able to be generated from pure energy, like light. In 1934, physicists Gregory Breit and John Wheeler first postulated this process, which is also referred to as matter creation or pair production. But because it needs very high-energy photons to collide and form electron-positron couples, it has remained elusive for decades.

The first direct observation of matter being created from light in a single step has now been revealed by a group of scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Their tool of choice was the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a potent particle accelerator capable of colliding heavy ions at speeds close to light. They produced strong electromagnetic fields containing virtual photons—transient perturbations in the fields that behave like actual photons—by doing this.

A portion of the virtual photons from two ions that were passing by each other without interacting collided and changed into extremely energetic real photons. Following their collisions, these photons created electron-positron pairs, which the STAR detector at RHIC was able to detect. After examining over 6,000 of these pairings, the researchers discovered that the angular distribution of the objects matched the theoretical expectation for the formation of matter from light.

This experiment not only offers a new approach to examining the properties of matter and antimatter under extreme conditions, but it also validates a longstanding prediction of quantum electrodynamics. The goal of the scientific investigation is to learn more about this occurrence and how it relates to cosmology and basic physics.


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