Growing up, Jonathan Simon loved playing Dungeons & Dragons — but not because the game involved elves, orcs or other fantastical creatures. It was all about the dice: Rolling them determined the outcome of every action. “What I thought was cool was that someone had gone through the effort of making rules to determine how a universe worked,” he says.

Now an assistant professor of physics at the University of Chicago, Simon recently tested his understanding of how the laws of nature govern our universe by pursuing a lofty question: Is it possible to make light behave like matter? In other words, could he create matter from light?

The answer: Yes.

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