Warp Drives, Cloaking Devices, and Blasters

11 08 2008

So maybe we don’t have blasters — yet! — but the other two things are a little closer to reality today. There’s a lot of buzz on the intertubes about this, but I’m going to summarize a bit for you here.

First, the cloaking device. UCBerkeley has been working on one of these for years. I remember when there was talk out of Berkeley of a cloaked suit that someone might wear. They hadn’t created one, but they had discovered how to cloak a thin surface. Bending that surface through 3-space seemed to present a bit of a challenge. Because of the method by which we do it, light in the microwave range can be refracted much easier than optical light. Well, according to physorg.com this has been accomplished on a small scale just recently. In papers due to be released in both the journals Nature and Science this week, the team describes the metamaterials they created to bend visible light beyond 180 degrees. Not only can these materials be used for cloaking devices, but also for ultra-high resolution imaging and nanocircuits. As if any of us really care about that stuff when we can have Harry Potter’s cloak in our closet. (BTW, that physorg article is an awesome read. I learned a lot!)

Secondly, the warp drive. Though this technology is nowhere near achievable right now, recent advancements in the theory of faster-than-light travel have given physicists some promise in its development. How does it work? Here’s a little banter to illuminate you.

Cubert: Nothing is impossible. I understand how the engines work now. It came to me in a dream. The engines don’t move the ship at all. The ship stays where it is and the engines move the universe around it.

Bender: That’s a complete load.

Cubert: Nothing’s a complete load. Not if you can imagine it. That’s what being a scientist is all about. Right, Professor? Let’s ride!

That’s right. Check out the graphic at the beginning of this UniverseToday article.  Researchers are proposing generating a field that can warp the spacetime in front of and behind a spaceship, in effect moving the universe around a (relatively) stationary ship.  With what we find in the LHC, the physics of gravitons and dark matter might be utilized to realize this feat.  “If we can understand why spacetime is already expanding, we may be able to use this knowledge to artificially generate an expansion (and contraction) of spacetime,” said researchers Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy from Baylor University in Texas.  “This is a hypothetical propulsion device that could theoretically circumvent the traditional limitations of special relativity which restricts spacecraft to sub-light velocities. Any breakthrough in this field would revolutionize space exploration and open the doorway to interstellar travel.”  Interesting stuff.

In the meantime, I’m still working on a laser turret on my garage.  It’s not quite ready for me to start blasting my enemies, but a man can dream.  A man can dream.

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2 responses

12 08 2008
Nick Jones

Either one of those would be freaking awesome technological breakthroughs! I can’t believe that the Professor’s dream could be realized before they have to increase the speed of light in 2208. (By the way, this is the year that the Stop-n-Drop suicide booths go into production and I haven’t heard anything about that little technological advancement). As for the laser turret, I find it to be a rather impersonal way of destroying my enemies, but it is a great way to keep the squirrels of the bird feeders. http://xkcd.com/382/

15 08 2008
Trey French

So, with the warp travel, do you mean something along the lines of the Alcubierre drive where in the front of the ship space is warped to a point and in the back the space gets wider? By doing that it would create a bubble type space that envelops the spacecraft. I found it interesting when i read about it and the math doesnt look too difficult. However there is one problem where they would need to prove exotic matter. Will exotic matter come in to play with the type of warp travel you mentioned? Or is it strictly going to use gravitons and dark matter? Also, by exotic matter I mean particles that are non-baryonic and also negative mass. Nice topic.

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