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back to article Scientists store whole image on a single photon

An entire image's worth of data has been encoded into a single photon, without information being lost, for the first time. Credit: University of Rochester The image "UR", for New York's University of Rochester, where the work was carried out, was also decoded (pictured above) after being stored briefly. The team behind the …

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Poorly worded press release makes this sound better than it is

Howell's research is undoubtedly excellent and an important advance in the field, but the press release about this experiment is severely misleading. Although he has demonstrated maintaining transverse phase coherence (storing the image) while slowing a light pulse, the experiment requires repetition thousands, if not millions, of times to generate the image shown.

A fundamental property of light is that it is only detected as a particle, which means detecting one photon will give you, at most, one pixel of an image. If the wavefunction of the photon has spatial information, then multiple photons must be prepared identically and the histogram of results taken to represent the wavefunction of each photon individually. Howell did exactly this by attenuating the laser to the point that on average each pulse contained less than one photon. The real trick isn't encoding an image on a photon, it's using only one photon to get it back out again. Hopefully this will get cleared up when Howell's PRL paper actually hits print, but by then I'm guessing the media grab will be complete.

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Anonymous Coward

Missed the mark

For a fuller and more concise (spelled "correctly explained") article, see here:

http://scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?articleid=5116CF53-E7F2-99DF-3B64CF41CFBB5B91&chanId=sa026

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Anonymous Coward

Did seem implausible

Thanks David - if they had stored that image on a single photon some fundamental laws would have to have been rewritten.

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Anonymous Coward

This is BS

This is BS at its worse.

Remember, scientists still believe in Evolution, so its no wonder BS like this still gets thrown into the pot.

Photons don’t behave like little sheep - easily herded into gratings. This is rubbish!

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong wrong wrong

Quotes from the article posted above:

'Howell was bemused that some media outlets focused in on one aspect of the report: that an entire image was somehow produced from a single photon, the smallest unit of light. "A lot of people are getting excited about the single photon," he says.

...

"The people that are more aware of this are wondering how we're measuring an image from a photon—and we're not," Howell says.'

Wave particle duality of light is a well known physical phenomenon, the 'filter' they are using is just a fancy grid of Young's slit experiment. Yes, one photon carries information, but you still need a big ol' filter to create that information, and the output will not be visible. As my learned friend at the beginning of these comments explains very comprehensively - it is information only.

Perhaps there will be an application for this in transmitting information, but its imaging capabilities seem limited compared to what is already available. The problem with transmission however is that any medium in which the information has to travel will cause some sort of attenuation. And one again it seems limited compared to what we have already.

In years to come this may well be the answer to some sticky data storage or transmission issues (more likely storage), but not now, and not like you've reported here.

Bad reporting I'm afraid to say.

Still the ignorance of the comments above is puzzling. Evolution is a sound theory with tons of evidence to support it. Photons DO all travel through the grating at one time (not sure what you mean by herding? They travel in straight lines, so wherever you point them, they will go).

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