Science: Curved Light

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At the Pittsburgh meeting of the American Chemical Society last September, Dr. Harry Robert Dittmar of the du Pont Research Laboratories described "Pontalite," a new plastic known chemically as methyl methacrylate polymer, as clear as optical glass, only half as heavy as common glass, flexible, non-shattering (TIME, Sept. 21). Last week du Pont scientists in Manhattan demonstrated that a pretzel shaped length of Pontalite could conduct light, carry it around bends as a cable carries electricity. A flashlight was held close to one end of the twisted plastic tube. The other end of the tube shone brightly.

Except for the great space-curvatures which Relativists say surround stars and suns, no conceivable agency or material could actually cause light to travel in a curve. The reason that du Font's plastic appears to do so is that the crystalline structure of the material refracts the light in a series of very short straight lines joined at slight angles, like bar links in a watch chain, so that the light stays inside the conductor until it reaches the end.