World's Brightest Laser Sparks New Behavior in Light

Physicists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are seeing an everyday phenomenon in a new light. By focusing laser light to a brightness one billion times greater than the surface of the sun — the brightest light ever produced on Earth — the physicists have observed changes in a vision-enabling interaction between light and matter.

“When we have this unimaginably bright light, it turns out that the scattering — this fundamental thing that makes everything visible — fundamentally changes in nature,” said Umstadter, the Leland and Dorothy Olson Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

He said, “So it’s as if things appear differently as you turn up the brightness of the light, which is not something you normally would experience,” Umstadter said. “(An object) normally becomes brighter, but otherwise, it looks just like it did with a lower light level. But here, the light is changing (the object’s) appearance. The light’s coming off at different angles, with different colors, depending on how bright it is.”

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