Photographing the Speed of Light

If you’re the type of geek that stays current on scientific news out of MIT, this is not new for you. For everyone else, the MIT-developed camera that can capture up to one trillion frames a second (yes, that’s a “T”) is mind boggling, yet conceptually clear. In existence for a few years, the Photon Camera is not only quick enough to capture light waves as they travel through space, but it can also see around corners by capturing bouncing light. I was reminded of just how amazing technology like this is when a old 2013 Youtube video from Nova made it’s way across my Twitter feed yesterday.

Again, nothing new…but for those that haven’t seen it, it’s downright amazing, and brought to mind all of the slow motion image captures that surely graced science text books in many of our formative years. You know that ones I’m talking about:

Bullet Through Apple
Harold Edgerton’s “Bullet Through Apple”

It’s technology like this that excites me. Yes, Augmented Reality is cool, Google Apps make life more efficient, and Apple manages to find new ways to “wow” everyone with shiny new hardware every year. But being able to capture a light wave as it propagates across empty space, see it splash across the surface of an object, and the subsequent shadow formed a few seconds later after it’s washed over the subject and finally bounced into the wall behind it; that kind of technology is revolutionary on a scale that will truly change the way we see our world. People look back with their first memories of powerful instructional technology tools with fondness, but the indelible moments of our future scientists’ memories will be marked with the first cameras that could capture the speed of light.


  1. This technology will let teachers have glasses that let them see though the backs of their heads when they go to the chalk board. “I saw that, Johnny!”

  2. Emily I am in the green group right? I have two emails bscuaee when I first registered I picked the wrong one blue . I visited Sam’s sight seriously you two are so amazing. I can’t wait to have my printer working so I can print off some worsheets. love shelby

  3. Online courses and Moocs can help the teaching of physics for their production quality. Just think about the resources which are beyond the reach of the average teacher. Kids get turned off by naff, fusty old physics so some higher quality materials should lead to better physics engagement, something I’m all for!

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