We are truly living in the age of tomorrow. Making leaps from the Internet, touch screens and human computing, human civilization is moving on to the next phase of technology — defying the laws of physics even more. As technology gets even better, science fiction such as Star Trek serve as pegs for the reality. The tricorder is today’s smartphone, voice commands are in computers and mobile phones, touch screens are everywhere … so now it’s time to look at the more astounding “macro” uses of technology.
Last week we were made aware that levitation is now possible (hello hover bikes, hover boards and gravitational plates). It’s possible because of a little thing called quantum physics. This week, we’re seeing another stab into epic science: tractor beams. And they’re being made possible by taking a second look at lasers and how they behave in conjunction with other particles.
With around USD $100,000 in funding, NASA explores making the tractor beam a reality (actually this is sad — if this was the case Kim Kardashian’s failed wedding could have funded this and perhaps warp gate technology).
NASA scientists Barry Coyle, Paul Stysley and Demetrios Poulios of the Goddard Space Flight are in charge of this project. It seems that a laser light can be manipulated to carry an object towards a destination in the same way a vacuum cleaner pulls an object by creating “empty” space between it and whatever it’s pulling.
Note that this isn’t the first time something like this has been attempted. In 2010, a team of Australian scientists were also able to move an object more than a meter into the air. The laser attempts to move small objects through changes in air pressure and heat (I would assume that this is because hot air rises while cold air falls).
These two methods have one thing in common — the use of air and vacuums to create a pull like effect. In science fiction, we see tractor beams working outside space and perhaps this is still a long way off. Yet NASA seems want the tractor beam to be used precisely for space — cleaning up debris outside our atmosphere.