Seeing the Light

A breakhrough? Or wishful thinking?


Seeing the Light

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

The renowned Smithsonian Institute recently published an article “Scientists Create a New Form of Light by Linking Photons.” Yeah, a “New Form of Light” – really?

Piltdown man – Wikipedia

This revolutionary discovery is eloquently described by freelance journalist Marissa Fessenden in a post published as noted above. The research report she refers to has recently been  published in the Science magazine, authored by no less than ten authors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Princeton University, National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Maryland(NIST/UM) , and the University of Chicago, surely, all renowned institutes of higher learning and top notch research. The lead author, Dr. Qi-Yu Liang, currently hails from the NIST/UM.

Novel Form of Light

Fessenden’s essay (quoting an MIT press release) contains such explanations as:

The physicists’ theoretical model suggests that as a single photon moves through the cloud of rubidium, it hops from one atom to another, “like a bee flitting between flowers,” the press release explains.

For easy understanding of the nature and significance of the work by common folks like you and me, the article in Science adds, above the scientific Abstract, a précis that reads:

Forming photonic bound states

Photons do not naturally interact with each other and must be coaxed into doing so. Liang et al. show that a gas of Rydberg atoms—a cloud of rubidium atoms excited by a sequence of laser pulses—can induce strong interactions between propagating photons. The authors could tune the strength of the interaction to make the photons form dimer and trimer bound states. This approach should prove useful for producing novel quantum states of light and quantum entanglement on demand.

It certainly sounds like a breakthrough discovery with great potential for future practical applications and advances. Important developments do occur from time to time. However, not all findings fall into the category of scientific breakthroughs. I’d like to mention three past discoveries of note.

The Polywater Discovery

The current photon discovery reminds me of the late 1960’s when a claim of the discovery of “Polywater” made the news circuit then. That novel form of water was not only of obscure interest to some scientists, it was portrayed as a major menace to any life depending on the current forms of water. It was hypothesized that, by just adding a drop of it to 300 km long Lake Ontario might –instantaneously – “polymerize” the entire lake into something of the viscosity of gelato.

The problem then was that no other laboratory could replicate those earth (or water) shattering findings. In the end, the novel substance thought to have been discovered was determined to be nothing more than trace remnants of stop-cock grease. Polywater, as proclaimed then, did not and does not exist; period.  It wasn’t a breakthrough-discovery after all.

In retrospect, the originators of the polywater (PW) claim were probably convinced to have stumbled upon a breakthrough finding. However, it turned out to be wishful thinking, according to D. Rousseau, a classical example of “pathological science.”

Before I go on about the novel “Photon-Threesome” discovered now, allow me brief excursions to two other claims of historic science breakthroughs, “Cold Fusion” and the “Piltdown Man.”

Cold and Hot Fusion

Cold Fusion (CF) sounded like the Holy Grail for energy. In essence, it was a term to describe a controlled low temperature (“cold”) harnessing of the energy of a nuclear (fusion-type) bomb without having to deal with the destructive force of such. Clearly, successful CF would have led to an “energy-nirvana” on earth – if true. In the end, CF was determined to be just another example of wishful thinking.

In contrast, Hot Fusion (HF) does exist. The long running Tokamak and ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) systems are also in pursuit of controlled HF using super-high temperatures with atoms suspended in magnetic force fields. Of course, the idea is great and, eventually, it might become reality. At least it is theoretically possible, though the technological requirements are extremely high.

So let’s go on to the next example, namely a true hoax:

The Piltdown Man

In contrast to the PW and CF ideas, the Piltdown Man (PM) was nothing but an elaborate hoax, right from the start. It’s over one hundred years ago that this fraud was perpetrated in England. The amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed that he had discovered the “missing link” between ape and man. Clever Charles had combined orangutan and human skull fragments to appear as part of the same “find.” It took four decades to definitively prove his assemblage as purposeful forgery and hoax.

So, you may wonder, where does that leave the newly discovered “photon threesome?”

I wonder myself. Could it be real, is it a mistaken interpretation of some observations, or another elaborate scientific hoax?

It’s not an easy question to answer but I’m willing to go out on a limb here. For that, it is useful to look at past records, like PW and PM (and there are others, not just in the field of science; for example, think Bre-X ), to find the commonalities that made them “sensations” at the time.

The Commonalities

There are numerous commonalities between false reports, whether by honest mistake or wanton intention. They include a variety of characteristics, such as:

  • Main stream media (MSM) “news worthiness” (here “new form of light”).
  • Coming from professionals at widely recognized entities (here MIT, NIST, etc.).
  • New theory, combined with new experimental data (here “tunable interactions”).
  • Uncommon terms, here “polariton” (described as “a hybrid that is part photon, part atom”).
  • Suggestion of applicability to other, yet more futuristic ideas (here “quantum entanglement” and “light crystals”).

In short, they combine newsworthiness, perceived importance, new experimental findings, a new theory, new words with vague definitions, far-flung futuristic ideas, and come with “name-plate” sources.

So, my dear readers, what’s YOUR take on this news?


Dr Klaus L E KaiserDr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is a professional scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Technical University, Munich, Germany. He has worked as a research scientist and project chief at Environment Canada‘s Canada Centre for Inland Waters for over 30 years and is currently Director of Research at TerraBase Inc. He is author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, computer programs, trade magazines, and newspaper articles.

Dr. Kaiser has been president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research, a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers for several journals, Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly a decade, and an adjunct professor. He has contributed to a variety of scientific projects and reports and has made many presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

Dr. Kaiser can be reached at:

16 thoughts on “Seeing the Light

  1. We’re not seeing anything new nor anything gamma-gamma physics and QED hasn’t already predicted. At the energy levels of everyday life, we don’t see the effects of photon-photon interaction, nor are our instruments sensitive enough to measure it, but it still occurs.

    Photons do interact, but the cross-section of interaction is so low that in order for our equipment to detect it, we need a lot of photons at very high energies.

    A photon is merely a traveling wavefront, an electromagnetic disturbance in the quantum vacuum. And just as waves on a pond interact, so too do photons via constructive and destructive interference.

    NASA slideshow:
    See slide 22.

    I invite those who are interested to study the de Broglie-Bohm Pilot Wave Theory… it explains how and why photon-photon interaction takes place. The theory was originally proposed by Max Born, mathematically fleshed out by Louis de Broglie (who gave the first mathematical proof that particles can also act as waves and waves can also act as particles), then adopted and popularized by David Bohm.

  2. So in effect, they’ve (re)discovered that photons can combine into matter… another confirmation of E^2 = p^2 c^2 + m^2 c^4.

    And it is matter coming out of the rubidium… if it were light, it would be traveling at the speed of… light. It’s reported as traveling 100,000 times slower than c.

    The breakthrough is that they’ve discovered a mechanism for doing so. This marks perhaps the third step in that long scientific slog toward a Star Trek-like replicator, creating any matter desired directly from energy.

  3. To use quantum mechanical parlance, they’ve discovered a means of setting up three photons in a stable standing wave within the Higgs field.

    All invariant matter is merely that… standing waves (still traveling at c, but ‘pinging’ back and forth at ~100 trillion trillion times per second according to theoretical physicist Matt Strassler)… so it’s stationary in our frame of reference.

  4. always amuses me the smaller and one could say likliest invisible (emperors new clothes) the more it costs to “find” it
    but only the special few see it….
    the boson higgs god particle for nanoseconds or pico or whatever..seen..or sensed by extra special mega million machinery using massive power and resources to set up…
    even the dudes working there admitted they dont have a huge benefit they can say its going to show for all that..but they can now get more funding for further obscurantist “science” cos..
    they can- pretty much.
    meanwhile loopaper lewandowski the aussie pschyc whos into trying to prove sceptics are crazy got airtime on ABC RN science show this arvo
    by changing titles of so called climate facts
    and labelling them as financial stats
    he ran it by money people and they reckon its correct
    what the hell that shows about the financiers IQ as well as decption by loopaper lew.(.whos STILL totuting 97% of 100 scientists say its warming, as a rote quote;-/)
    i will let you all judge the podcast of the science show is available on abc rn sat 24th feb 12pm )webpages

  5. Actually, the Cold Fusion or LENR discovery has been replicated many times the World over. There even is current research being done on the subject. It was not real “fusion” of course, but the reaction itself was quite real.
    “David J. Nagel, an electrical and computer engineering professor at George Washington University told the Scientific American, “LENR is real experimentally, and not understood theoretically. There are results that you just can’t explain away. Whether it’s cold fusion, low-energy nuclear reactions, or something else—the names are all over the place—we still don’t know. But there’s no doubt that you can trigger nuclear reactions using chemical energy.””

    • The US navy research labs decided to look closely into cold fusion to see if it could be weaponized, sort of a poor man’s Hydrogen bomb. The question they had to answer first was cold fusion a true fusion reaction. They did confirm it was in fact a true fusion reaction. They ultimately decided that it was too poorly understood to be made into a weapon.

  6. From a non-scientificc outsider : When the basis of the observed is electromagnetic , isntit like Tesla predicted more a matter of frequency and resonance ?

  7. I’m not sure the verdict is out yet on cold fusion. We should know more soon.

    Hot fusion, on the other hand, might be real, but for decades it has gobbled up billions of dollars of research money and has not produced any useable energy.

  8. It’s BS.
    As are 99% of “scientific” (Generally no scientific methodology applied) discoveries.
    we live in the golden age of science fraud.

  9. “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your BS.”
    And ask for money to prove you right.

  10. The more authors sign it, the less science it contains (a guideline I learned on WUWT). So I call BS on this discovery with a high degree of certainty.

  11. There are several widespread problems in modern science. One big one is the steady shift from science, which is empirically driven and inherently exploratory, to “scientism” which is dominated by “models” and mathematics to the point that reality has taken a back seat to “theory.” Scientists have become “experts.” Instead of following the unknown, they spend far too much time trying to squeeze reality into the theory (thus data “adjustment” in climate “science”).

    Another is “labeling” – slapping a label on phenomenon as if it were meaningful. The phenomena Pons and Fleischman found is real enough, while there have been replication failures, there have been more replication successes. The problem was the words “cold fusion.” Instead of announcing a new phenomenon of unknown nature, P&F or the UoU PR people labeled it and immediately created a storm of controversy because of the label. Many failed “replication” “attempts” were never close to following the original, documented procedure and could not be expected to succeed (expectation bias).

    Another good example of this is the EM drive. It has a more felicitous history since it at least had quantum mechanics as a potential theoretical support. Never the less, “experts” mindlessly asserted that it violated Conservation of Momentum and large numbers of US “experts” repeated ritually that it was impossible, rather than actually replicate and hypothesize as true scientists would. Consequently, the Chinese are now experimenting using EM drives for satellite station keeping while the US institution of science squeezes its eyes shut and chants “impossible.” Sad, really.

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