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The article “magnetic experiment appears to drain life from stars” discusses the PVLAS experiment. This experiment which was conducted in 2000 by the PVLAS collaboration in Italy set out to measure the rotation of polarized light when passed through a magnetic field [1]. The results of the experiment showed that the polorazation of the light only rotated by 100,00th of a degree[1]. As small as this rotation is however the observed rotation was 10,000 times greater than expected. The implications of a rotation this large is great[1], it implies a new kind of particle that couples very closely with light. The magnetic field causes the photons to turn into this new neutral particle which is “about 1 billionth the mass of of electrons”[1].

The scientifice community was of course skepticle of this result as it implies a new particle. Further more the new particle that would be required to explane this result would couple to light so closely that if it exists would drain stars of all that energy in a mere 1000 years[1], and we know that stars in fact last for billions of years. Because of this the PLVAS collaboration has spent 5 years redoing the experiment with variations trying to get rid of the rotation[1]. They have failed to make the signal dissapear [1] which would seem to indicate that the results are correct. Many physicists still think though that the signal is a result of the instrument that is used to take the measurments.

The PLVAS collaboration is currently working on another experiment to definetively prove of disprove that the photons are in fact turning into an exotic neutral partcle. they plan to do this by setting up a polorized laser light source and a magnet on one side of a wall and a second mangnet along with a detector on the other side of the wall. If some of the photons do infact turn into a neutral particle when passed through a magnetic field. [1]Then the neutral particles that are produced will pass through the wall and and some of them will be converted back to photons by the magnet on the other side of the wall. They will then be picked up by the detector[1].


[1] M. Schirber, " Magnet Experiment Appears to Drain Life from Stars," Science, vol. 311, pp. pp. 1535, 2006.