December 13, 2011

Speed of Light Lingers in Face of M.I.T. Media Lab Camera - NYTimes.com

In the early 1960s, I worked in a laboratory that used Doc Edgerton's ultra high speed strobe lights to measure the elongation (and breaking strength via deflection of a pendulum of know mass and period) of nylon cargo parachute webbing. It was a simple method to capture stretching/elongation characteristics of the various webbing samples sent to us by the Army and the Air Force. 


We set up a camera in a pitch black room and fired a projectile from a compressed air gun into a V-shaped webbing sample. When the projectile struck the webbing, the strobe light flashed at a very high rate. This created multiple exposures on the film.


We developed the photographs and measured (with a ruler!) the elongation as the webbing stretched to the breaking point from the impact of the projectile. A simple but effective way to determine the 'stretch' of each sample.
"More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk.
Now scientists at M.I.T.’s Media Lab are using an ultrafast imaging system to capture light itself as it passes through liquids and objects, in effect snapping a picture in less than two-trillionths of a second.
The project began as a whimsical effort to literally see around corners — by capturing reflected light and then computing the paths of the returning light, thereby building images coming from rooms that would otherwise not be directly visible."

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