Hollywood has to resort to trickery to show moviegoers laser beams traveling through the air. That's because the beams move too fast to be captured on film. Now a camera that records frames at a rate of 0.6 trillion every second can truly capture the bouncing path of a laser pulse.
The system was developed by researchers led by Ramesh Raskar at MIT's Media Lab. Currently limited to a tabletop inside the group's lab, the camera can record what happens when very short pulses of laser light—lasting just 50 femtoseconds (50,000 trillionths of a second) long—hit objects in front of them. The camera captures the pulses bouncing between and reflecting off objects.
Raskar says the new camera could be used for novel kinds of medical imaging, tracking light inside body tissue. It could also enable novel kinds of photographic manipulation. In experiments, the camera has captured frames roughly 500 by 600 pixels in size.