As with most presidential races, several candidates for the 2012 election have experienced their fair share of moments that I’m sure they wish had never happened.
Does the word “oops” come to mind? Sorry, Governor Perry. You can’t erase that eloquent response from our memories just yet. But, down the line, you might find this new discovery from Cornell University particularly useful.
Scientists have developed a breakthrough system that – if fully developed in the future – could literally make you disappear.
Now, we’ve mentioned here before a few ways that researchers are making objects vanish. For example, BAE Systems’ (BAESY.PK) temperature-changing pixels that can make military vehicles invisible to thermal imaging devices. And the carbon nanotubes that can replicate the effect of a mirage to trick the mind into thinking an object is invisible.
Now, Cornell researchers have stumbled upon something even more groundbreaking…
Instead of cloaking an object using heat signatures or optical illusions, they’re actually wiping out entire events. In other words, they’re bending time itself! Here’s how…
If Only H.G. Wells Were Alive to See This
We see events happening in front of us due to the continuous flow of light beaming into our eyes. But Cornell scientists have found a way to interrupt that flow, making it seem like nothing’s happening at all.
Such a concept is obviously complex, so here are the basics…
The researchers were able to alter the light patterns around us by using a jumble of fiber-optic cables. Essentially, they manipulate the beams of light created by the cables to develop a “time lens” that splits light into two different speeds.
This creates a gap in the flow of light, which erases an event before your eyes. And although this might sound similar to other invisibility technologies we’ve come across, what sets this research apart is the focus on shifting the speed of light, rather than how light hits an object.
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Co-author of the study, Alexander Gaeta, says, “You kind of create a hole in time where an event takes place… You just don’t know that anything ever happened.”
This is huge, especially given that this “is the first time that scientists have been able to mask an event in time,” according to the Associated Press.
Now before you start daydreaming about what you could do with your very own time lens, you should know that the scientists weren’t able to bend time for very long.
Blotting Out a Fraction of An Eye Blink
During the study, they were only able to make the effect last for 40 trillionths of a second – about 1% of the time it takes to blink.
Not exactly enough time to pull off a bank heist, or make a few tweaks to your personnel file behind your boss’ back. But they’re making progress…
Gaeta’s next goal is to block out one millionth of second. Then they’ll progress to removing one thousandth of a second from view.
And considering they were able to develop this time lens in just a few months, shaving off a few milliseconds shouldn’t be too big of a deal.
But this technique can only go so far…
For instance, to eke out just a full second of time bending using their current fiber-optic method, they would need a huge amount of space. According to Martin McCall, a professor of theoretical optics in London, the system would stretch 18,600 miles. That’s over 41 times longer than the state of Florida.
So no Hiro Nakamura-style time travel for us just yet.
But with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funds continuing to fuel their research, here’s hoping Cornell’s brightest can make it happen soon enough.