Valentine’s Physics: Flashes of Light and Diamond Rings

The whole romance thing is always described in terms of fireworks of light and diamond rings and the appearance of something, suddenly, that wasn’t there before.  Hmm.  Something appearing from nothing?  Light appearing in a vacuum?  Sounds like an impossibility!  With today being Valentine’s Day and all, it seemed a good opportunity to explore some of the more, uh, romantic aspects of physics to come up recently.

And no, we’re not talking about physics pickup lines.  (Use at your own risk!)

Love is in the air. Combusting in the air, that is. Photo: Flickr/Selbe B, Creative Commons.

But wait!  What about the Casimir effect and quantum entanglement?  It was recently reported that researchers, using a supercooled array of superconducting quantum-interference devices, or SQUIDs (how romantic), have succeeded in detecting photons emanating from a vacuum — essentially, light in the darkness, coming from “virtual photons” that were always present, but not in the form of light.  Well, if the entanglement of two particles isn’t appropriate for V-day, we don’t know what is.

And then of course there’s the ultra-miniature photon-emitting diamond ring.  The concept exploits a natural defect in diamonds called a nitrogen vacancy, where a pair of carbon atoms within the diamond are replaced by a single nitrogen atom.  This leaves an empty space that can be triggered to emit photons of a particular wavelength.  Entangling multiple of these photons would enabled the devices to be used as quantum repeaters — a necessity to transmitting quantum information.

Sadly, quantum diamond rings won’t fit on your finger, unless your finger is 2µm wide.  But it’s still a diamond ring, darn it!

A diamond ring. NOT a quantum diamond ring, however. Photo: Flickr/ADFStore, Creative Commons.

Got any other ways that physics can be accidentally romantic?  Share your thoughts in the comments, or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!

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Advice to Students

Physics can be hard, and you spend a lot of time doing homework, preparing for the GRE, etc. But do some activities that remind you why you love it, and keep you enthusiastic about what you’re studying. — Kendra Redmond, Program Coordinator and Assistant Editor, Society of Physics Students, Podcast Episode #1

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