A photon steers a photon with an atom

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Science  22 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6199, pp. 871
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258142

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Light beams cross each other unperturbed, at least in vacuum. To induce an interaction, optically nonlinear media are needed, but the polarizability of these materials is usually so small that long propagation lengths and high-intensity laser beams are required. However, that situation has changed, as reported on page 903 of this issue by Shomroni et al. (1), who performed an experiment in which just a single atom induces an interaction between two light pulses containing only a few photons.