How slow can slow motion get?

ever been wondering how slow can slow motion get? If you hang for a longer time on YouTube eventually you might notice the channel The Slow Mo Guys or Smarter Every Day, both of them feature „quite often“ slow motion videos, meaning videos that have many frames per second (FPS). If you then slow the frames down you will get very slow video showing detail of whatever you are filming, whether it is flame tornado or AK-47 under water.

The slowest I ever watched is this one:

It has FPS of 343 915. That is a lot and in the video they are cracking glass container with high temperature difference. The video is so dark because in the short amount of time, not much light can get into the camera and that is often the limit for such high speed filming. You can also see that even though the video is so slow, the crack still propagates through the glass in surprising speed.

MovieBut this is not the limit, you can go much slower but it requires whole different technique. With 1 trillion FPS you can actually see light traveling through medium, it looks pretty impressive but how can it be done?

The scientists use a laser to lighten up what they want to take photo of. They take a 1 dimensional pictures, basically line of pixels[1], couple hundred times and then with a smart mirror they move along the object that they photograph. This technique is called femto-photography and the event on stage has to be performed many times before one gets the picture.

To put it in different words, you take a titanium-sapphire laser. Lighten up the object for a short time. Capture the photons that bounce back to you. Repeat over and over again and with some mathematical reconstruction techniques you got your result:–gaM

Interestingly enough this kind of device is able to see around corners and has very high potential for use in many technical fields if we are able to make it work faster and in smaller devices.

Post based on TED talk.


[1]It is not really line of pixels as you can read in the next paragraph. You are getting back couple of photons and through the mathematical analysing you get the picture.

Gif source.