Key Takeaways:

  1. The Slow Mo guys, Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy, tackle the challenge of capturing the speed of light in their latest YouTube experiment.
  2. With the assistance of Peng Wang from Caltech, they utilize advanced technology to film light passing through a water bottle at an astonishing rate of 10 trillion frames per second.
  3. This groundbreaking feat provides insight into the rapid propagation of light in space, allowing humans to witness a phenomenon previously unseen.
  4. Lihong Wang, a Caltech professor, highlights the innovative approach, comparing it to traditional streak cameras and emphasizing its ability to produce comprehensive 2-D imagery.
  5. The collaboration between technology and scientific inquiry pushes the boundaries of understanding, showcasing the potential for future advancements in high-speed imaging.

Have you ever wondered the astonishing speed of light and how one might capture it on film? The Slow Mo guys, consisting of Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy, renowned for their slow-motion portrayals of high-speed phenomena, have tackled this very question.

Over the course of a decade, the duo has mesmerized audiences with their slow-motion renditions, ranging from explosive C4 reactions to a person encased in a 6-foot water balloon.

In their latest experiment, showcased on their YouTube channel boasting 14.9 million subscribers, Free and Gruchy set out to capture the speed of light, widely recognized as the fastest known phenomenon to humanity.

Their objective was ambitious: record light’s movement at a staggering rate of 10 trillion frames per second. This monumental task was achieved through collaboration with Peng Wang, a postdoctoral scholar at the esteemed California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Addressing the challenge in a video, Free remarked, “Many viewers request us to film the speed of light. However, light’s velocity is nearly incomprehensible; even our cameras, operating at under a million frames per second, cannot perceive it.”

With Wang’s assistance and his state-of-the-art camera utilizing compressed ultrafast photography, the team managed to visualize light’s rapid traversal through the length of a water bottle.

Wang elucidated the process, noting that it took approximately 2,000 picoseconds for the laser beam to traverse the bottle’s span. Free further contextualized the timeframe, explaining the progression from milliseconds to femtoseconds.

Equipped with safety goggles, the trio ventured into a dimly lit room to capture multiple images of light coursing through the bottle at the specified speed.

Lihong Wang, a Caltech professor and camera co-inventor, expressed the significance of their achievement, stating, “For the first time, humanity can observe the propagation of a light pulse in space,” highlighting the technology’s capacity to examine exceedingly brief time intervals.

Reflecting on the experience, Free marveled, “It’s surreal that humans have witnessed this phenomenon.”

Lihong Wang elaborated on the technology behind the feat, comparing it to conventional streak cameras and emphasizing its ability to generate 2-D imagery, unlike the typical 1-D output.

An image showing how specialised it is to be able to film the speed of light.

In essence, by employing a digital micromirror device and a specialized coding process, the team redirected the captured light onto the streak camera, allowing for the creation of a comprehensive 2-D movie capturing light’s fleeting journey.

This groundbreaking innovation opens new frontiers in temporal imaging, offering unparalleled insights into the swift dynamics of light propagation.

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