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BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Next-generation computer. The optical computer is one of technology’s Holy Grails, and it came one significant step closer when IBM developed a way to slow the speed of light. No, IBM hasn’t broken Einstein’s Law of Relativity: E=mc2; it just found a way to slow data-encoded light beams, which travel at 186,000 miles per second—too fast for a computer to decipher the code—to a creeping 620 miles per second. That’s getting slow enough for deciphering without losing data. What’s so special about optical computers? They’re potentially much faster, simpler and more energy efficient—and they wouldn’t suffer from the heat and magnetic-interference problems of electric-powered hardware.

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