A team of 20 physicists from four institutions has literally made something from nothing, creating particles of matter from ordinary light for the first time. The experiment was carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) by scientists and students from the University of Rochester, Princeton University, the University of Tennessee, and Stanford. The team reported the work in the Sept. 1 issue of Physical Review Letters.
Scientists have long been able to convert matter to energy; the most spectacular example is a nuclear explosion, where a small amount of matter creates tremendous energy. Now physicists have succeeded in doing the opposite: converting energy in the form of light into matter — in this experiment, electrons and their anti-matter equivalent, positrons.