Light consists of photons, which have an actual physical spin, which is called angular momentum. That angular momentum has always been thought to be a direct multiple of Plank’s constant. It’s always been a whole number, but it’s now been discovered that light isn’t quite so strict, which has some pretty large implications despite sounding boring.

Fiber Optics - Photons

The motion of photons could have big implications for IT security

A source of light with a spin that’s in half numbers has been discovered by physicists at the University of St. Andrews in a way that might be able to add a bit more security to fiber optics, and even make data travel a bit faster too. For instance, polarization of receiving equipment could have a profound effect on data passing through.

What Paul EasthamĀ and his team discovered was that when passed through a certain crystalline structure, light will have a completely different spin compared to when it does not, which ends up being an exact multiple of the Planck’s constant, as predicted.

Though it’s only experiential at the moment, the significance is quite profound. This half spin could end up being quite key in designing secure communications for fiber optic systems and in helping to have more data flow through the same size lines, all while being marginally more expensive.

If you’re not quite sure what angular momentum is, this small video should help explain it pretty well.