Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tractor Beams!

Hey, remember the tractor beam used in every Star Trek version, in Star Wars, in - heck - probably hundreds of science fiction movies? Well, they are here!
I read about it a couple days ago. Scientists have figured out how to move things either towards them or away from them using a circular laser. They called it as a doughnut laser, because the middle was empty (of laser light).
With less than 400 words in the article, there wasn’t a lot of information for me to gather, but it also involves putting tiny (microscopic) hollow glass beads coated in gold in the ‘hole’ of the doughnut. Heat from the laser light transfers to the gold of the beads and creates hot spots. When air molecules hit the hot spot, they bounce and speed off, and the bead recoils in the opposite direction. By careful manipulation of the laser’s polarization, the tractor beam operator can decide if the item they’ve grabbed is pulled closer or pushed away.
Okay, Scotty, push that missile away from us and make it fast!
I kinna doo it, Cap’t! There isna enough molecules in space to make that kind o’ tractor beam work!
Yes, I was excited about this announcement until that bit of reality crashed the party. Then I reread the article.
It turns out that what they’ve managed to beam around their lab is an item 2 mm in diameter, which is pretty small. And they moved it not quite 8 inches. Well, it’s a start.

Not sure how they’re going to overcome that ‘not enough molecules in space’ problem, though.

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