Sometimes scientists present stuff that just seems to hit a trifecta of awesomeness. In these cases, after I have finished giggling uncontrollably and making the guy next to me nervous, I start thinking about how I might describe it to others. Without further ado, let me present the trifecta of awesomeness: a seemingly ridiculous idea, one that works in a bizarre manner that has little to do with the justification given by the scientists, and—to really make matters special—it involves lasers in space.
I think you will agree that the idea of making a giant telescope mirror by using a giant laser to control tiny beads in space has a degree of ridiculousness exceeding all safety limits. Even if the experimental results turned out to be highly subjective and slightly dodgy, there was no way that I could let this pass.
Caught in a trap
So let’s start at the beginning. Light can be used to trap objects. An easy explanation for one of the trapping mechanisms can be seen by considering how light is bent when it passes through a small glass sphere. A light beam traveling through the center of the sphere will not be deflected, while light that hits to one side is bent toward the center. (Yes, I just described a lens to you. Sorry.)
via Ars Technica http://ift.tt/1aBsFP4