Making the passage of time invisible (and the illusion of a Star Trek transporter)

November 16, 2010

While a range of ingenious man-made materials bring us ever closer to realising the possibility of cloaking objects from visible light, research from Imperial College London is now taking invisibility into the fourth dimension - time - creating the groundbreaking potential to hide whole events.

The laws of physics might make the creation of a transporter which can dematerialise objects and then rematerialise them elsewhere a little beyond us, but it is now being suggested that an object could move from one region of space to another, completely unseen by anyone watching.

Research published today, Tuesday 16 November 2010, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Optics, explains how the propagation of light can be manipulated to create a 'temporal void', allowing undetectable moments of invisibility.

As lead author, Professor Martin McCall from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, explains, "Our spacetime 'event' cloak works by dividing illuminating light into a leading part which is sped up and passes before an event, and a trailing part which is slowed down and passes after. Light is then stitched back together seamlessly, so as to leave observers in ignorance."

Graduate student Alberto Favaro explains further, "It is unlike ordinary cloaking devices because it does not attempt to divert light around an object. Instead it pulls apart the light rays in time, as if opening a theatre curtain - creating a temporary corridor through which energy, information, and matter can be manipulated or transported undetected."

Researcher Dr Paul Kinsler is enthusiastic about their proof of concept design which uses customised versions of optical fibres already used in telecommunications to achieve the feat.

The team is confident that their findings will initiate a race to create a practical spacetime cloak.

Professor Martin McCall continues, "We have shown that by manipulating the way the light illuminating an event reaches the viewer, it is possible to hide the passage of time. Not only can specific events be obscured, but it is possible for me to be watching you and for you to suddenly disappear and reappear in a different location."

As well as making a safe-cracking thief's dreams come true, the optical breakthrough promises exciting advances in quantum computing, which depends on the manipulation of light for the safe transmission of vast amounts of data.

Besides the science-fiction capabilities of the event cloak, signal-processing applications will play a key role in driving research forward on this topic.
-end-
The researchers' paper can be downloaded from Tuesday 16 November 2010 here: http://iopscience.iop.org/2040-8986/13/2/024003/pdf/0240-8986_13_2_024003.

IOP Publishing

Related Physics Articles from Brightsurf:

Helium, a little atom for big physics
Helium is the simplest multi-body atom. Its energy levels can be calculated with extremely high precision only relying on a few fundamental physical constants and the quantum electrodynamics (QED) theory.

Hyperbolic metamaterials exhibit 2T physics
According to Igor Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland, ''One of the more unusual applications of metamaterials was a theoretical proposal to construct a physical system that would exhibit two-time physics behavior on small scales.''

Challenges and opportunities for women in physics
Women in the United States hold fewer than 25% of bachelor's degrees, 20% of doctoral degrees and 19% of faculty positions in physics.

Indeterminist physics for an open world
Classical physics is characterized by the equations describing the world.

Leptons help in tracking new physics
Electrons with 'colleagues' -- other leptons - are one of many products of collisions observed in the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider.

Has physics ever been deterministic?
Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the University of Geneva, have proposed a new interpretation of classical physics without real numbers.

Twisted physics
A new study in the journal Nature shows that superconductivity in bilayer graphene can be turned on or off with a small voltage change, increasing its usefulness for electronic devices.

Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.

2D topological physics from shaking a 1D wire
Published in Physical Review X, this new study propose a realistic scheme to observe a 'cold-atomic quantum Hall effect.'

Helping physics teachers who don't know physics
A shortage of high school physics teachers has led to teachers with little-to-no training taking over physics classrooms, reports show.

Read More: Physics News and Physics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.