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Ordinarily, waves don't play favorites with direction--they flow the same way from right to left as from left to right. But a theoretical paper in the 22 April Physical Review Letters suggests a way to make finicky light that flows freely in one direction but not the other. The idea is to use an asymmetric arrangement of so-called nonlinear materials, in which the wave's amplitude affects its speed. The device could find applications in areas from quantum computers to soundproofing.

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Category: Science