Many know that the Lantern Corps of DC Comics are capable of constructing objects of any shape or size out of hard light using their power ring fueled by their emotions. However, I'm wondering what the science could be behind this. Not exactly how they do it through their ring, but rather what actually happens when they make a solid light construct.

Light is a weird phenomena. It is both a particle and a wavelength with no mass. Surprisingly though, scientists have recently discovered a way to make light solid to an extent: http://news.mit.edu/2018/physicists-create-new-form-light-0215. As you can tell by this article, they were able to make light behave like regular matter by shining a laser through a cloud of ultracool rubidium atoms.

So tying this back to the Lantern Corps of the DC Universe, it seems most of the time they create a structure, they do it almost instantaneously in just about any shape or size they can imagine. And unlike in this experiment, temperature doesn't seem to be a factor in the creation of these constructs, as they've formed them in both the vaccuum of space and the core of planets before. Is it therefore possible their rings allow them to somehow entangle and solidify the photons in their area?

I know I'm dissecting the science of a comic book-based setting, but this is quite interesting to think about. So the main question is: What could be a plausible scientific explanation for how the Lantern Corps is able to form these solid light constructs? Could this ever be something we could achieve in our reality?

  • $\begingroup$ cite images please. Or take credit if you drew that! $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 16 '20 at 22:27

It would appear to me that the questions comes down to:

"Can light behave as matter (form localized energy constructs), without interaction from or with matter?"

Short answer: Photons cannot form matter-like constructs, even if they form bound states, since matter-like interactions necessitate mass.

Long answer:

Matter "particles" are distinct from photons in that they possess wave-functions which are expressible in position space. Using waves functions for particles we can sensibly talk about matter; we can compute the probability that the "particle" is localized to a region of space.

While Electromagnetic radiation (light) does not possess mass, it does have particle-like behavior, but only in the sense that it can interact with matter via the electromagnetic interaction and it does so with discrete amounts of energy.

A large difference between light and mass is seen in how the momenta of light is inextricably linked to its existence. Light must propagate or be "destroyed" through an electromagnetic interaction and, in the absence of interacting via the electromagnetic interaction, will always propagate at the speed of light (c). This is not found in mass carrying particles, whose momenta is only a component of their total energy, the rest being found in their mass.

This image is difficult to visualize, but not unique to light, nor even quantum systems. In fact waves of all sort demonstrate "particle" like behavior (solitons and phonons for instance). Thus we see, localization of interaction and coupling of states is not enough to create systems of localized energy which requires a medium.

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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 What I was trying to convey is that photons cannot, fundamentally, conform to locally bound states in the absence of matter, thus they cannot form constructs which behave like solids or any other locally bound energy construct. Photons are massless, chargeless bosons which serve as electromagnetic quanta as well as the charge carriers of the electromagnetic force. The massless property ensures that they cannot be truly localized (i.e.) you cannot compute where the particle is at (see my explanation above).......(1) $\endgroup$ – user110866 Apr 17 '20 at 2:31
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 ...the chargeless property ensure that the photon will not interact via the electromagnetic interaction (this is because the photon is the carrier of the EM interaction). However, photons are still are quantum particles and as such obey spin statistics, in this case Bose-Einstein Statistics meaning there are not the same restrictions on occupancy of state as Fermions experience. However, as the article shows, state interactions are still possible under the right conditions. State interactions themselves however, do not imply bound localized states in the absence of media......(2) $\endgroup$ – user110866 Apr 17 '20 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ ...This last point is especially compounded by the non-quantum and classical analogs to light, complete with particle/wave duality, such as phonons, in media forming bound localized states. Since these waves obviously cannot exist outside of media, it is paradoxical to talk about phonon-phonon bound localized states in free-space. However, because photons can exist in free space it is tempting (as evidenced by the "solid-light" in Sci-Fi) to envision photons forming bound localized states in free-space. However, photons in free space must propagate at the speed of light.......(3) $\endgroup$ – user110866 Apr 17 '20 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ ...Even if the photons occupy bound states with each other, their energy will be determined by the frequency of the wave packet and thus there is no residual invariant mass-energy which is necessary for localization. Notice the nuance here, however, I am specifically referring to photon-photon interaction, photons can interact and form bound localized stable states. However, they no longer can be photons for the reasons given above, but rather they become electron-antielectron pairs. $\endgroup$ – user110866 Apr 17 '20 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Strivs Yes, Lantern constructs made from plasma I believe to be physically plausible $\endgroup$ – user110866 Apr 20 '20 at 20:50

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