Seeing Around the Corner, Physics Style!

Peeking your head around the corner to see what's behind it? That's for mere mortals. MIT physicists Ramesh Raskar and Andreas Velten devised a fancy gizmo that allows them to see around corners with laser:

They fired a laser through the beam-splitter and at a wall, with pulses occurring every 50 femtoseconds. [...] When the laser light hits the splitter, half of it travels to the wall, and then bounces to the object around the corner. The light reflects off the object, hitting the wall again, and then returns to a camera. The other half of the beam just goes directly to the camera. This half-beam serves as a reference, to help measure the time it takes for the other photons (particles of light) to return to the camera.

Using a special algorithm to analyze when the returning photons arrive and checking them against the reference beam, the scientists were able to reconstruct an image of the object they were trying to see.Velten noted that when analyzing the photons, the ones that hit an object in a room will return sooner than the ones that bounce off a rear wall, and the algorithm accounts for that. They could even see three-dimensional objects, such as a mannequin of a running man used in the experiment.

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