Watch out, Han! Physicists Create Functional Tractor Beam - Update

Watch out, Han! Physicists Create Functional Tractor Beam - Update

Physicists have created a water-based tractor beam that uses waves to pull in objects.

UPDATE: In an email communication with The Escapist, Professor Shats provided further details on where this technology may lead. "In principle, I see no reason why these experiments cannot be scaled up to generate large surface flows," he wrote. "We are planning to do that. However at this stage I would not go as far as to confidently promise applications in the Navy or to capture boats by police."

Seems we may still be a while away from a weaponized tractor beam, but there are certainly other applications to this technology.

Original story:

Seen prominently in Star Wars and Star Trek, tractor beams have been a science fiction staple for decades. Put simply, it's a device that allows you to attract an object - such as a spaceship - from a distance without physical intervention.

Well, physicists at The Australian National University made this a reality - at least on small scale. While it isn't space-based, it's at once incredibly simple and frustratingly difficult to explain. The secret? Water waves.

"We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave," said Dr Horst Punzmann, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering, who led the project. "No one could have guessed this result."

By generating waves of the correct size and frequency, the research team was able to create a current that led back to the source of the waves.

"We found that above a certain height, these complex three-dimensional waves generate flow patterns on the surface of the water," said Professor Shats, who led the group. "The tractor beam is just one of the patterns; they can be inward flows, outward flows or vortices."

As yet no mathematical theory can explain these experiments, Dr Punzmann said.

"It's one of the great unresolved problems, yet anyone in the bathtub can reproduce it. We were very surprised no one had described it before."

This isn't the first tractor beam that scientists have developed. In 2013, scientists created a tractor beam that works on a microscopic scale. Isn't physics awesome?

Source: Science Daily

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So in other words, not in any way a tractor beam, just a study on water currents...

Jadak:
So in other words, not in any way a tractor beam, just a study on water currents...

How is it not in any way a tractor beam?

"A tractor beam is a device with the ability to attract one object to another from a distance." (wiki)

The researchers themselves refer to it as acting like a tractor beam. We don't have space fleets right now, but maybe this technology can eventually be used by Navy vessels. Or hell, tugboats.

If we could do this with the Higgs field, we could have the beginnings of a zero point energy field manipulator!

Or at least the right click function, anyways...

Our Water-Tractor-Beam is ready, sir. They'll never get aw-

*plane takes off*

... I think we need to rethink our tractor beam, sir!

Jadak:
So in other words, not in any way a tractor beam, just a study on water currents...

Currently it's water waves but this knowledge could be transferred to other types of technology to create the tractor beam we know and love.

RicoADF:

Jadak:
So in other words, not in any way a tractor beam, just a study on water currents...

Currently it's water waves but this knowledge could be transferred to other types of technology to create the tractor beam we know and love.

How could that knowledge be transferred to other types of technology? By definition it's pretty much limited to things that rely on, at the very least, a liquid environment.

Maybe it could lead to something cool and water based, but it's not exactly applicable to other fields.

I just had to make an account here to rant how stupid this is.

So basically they realized that they can make waves, and waves push things in the direction they're moving. Whoopie-doo!
Putting aside the blatant sensationalism of the article itself; this is really just dumb. Why? Because yeah, it may work on a ping-pong ball, but you know, boats tend to have engines and propellers so that they can drive against the waves. Didn't think of that, did ya?
And now, let's imagine for a second; how much energy would you need to spend to create a wave strong enough to pull back a boat going against it; without creating a potential threat for everything around you, and still being cost-effective?

The non-tractor beam-ness of this aside, it is interesting if indeed nobody described this behavior before. So this might not be completely useless after all if other people will catch on and start researching further.

Electromaster:
I just had to make an account here to rant how stupid this is.

So basically they realized that they can make waves, and waves push things in the direction they're moving. Whoopie-doo!

Incorrect.

The waves are pushing things in the opposite direction they're moving. That's the mindf***. I'm shooting waves forward at you... and the waves, while moving forward toward you, are pulling you back to me.

Rhykker:

Electromaster:
I just had to make an account here to rant how stupid this is.

So basically they realized that they can make waves, and waves push things in the direction they're moving. Whoopie-doo!

Incorrect.

The waves are pushing things in the opposite direction they're moving. That's the mindf***. I'm shooting waves forward at you... and the waves, while moving forward toward you, are pulling you back to me.

"mindf***" isn't really the word I would use. It works on a fairly simple principle of constructive/destructive interference of waves. The trick is controlling the wave generation precisely enough to make it work. Still, it's an incredibly weak force (barely moved a ping pong ball), so I doubt we'll be seeing a practical use. In order to create a significant attractive force, the wave amplitude would have to be so much greater, it would be dangerous.

Oh good lord. This is old news. "Rotons" are vortex rings (like smoke rings) in liquid helium that do the same thing. They've been known about for fifty years. This is not a "tractor beam" in the traditional sense because it only works if you are in a fluid medium. There absolutely is a "physical intervention" - the medium of the fluid itself. Moreover, it seems to demand knowledge of the size and shape of the object you are "tractoring."

Okay, so apparently there's a weird effect that physicists haven't entirely figured out the workings of. It happens, but it's really a large stretch from a tractor beam, especially because you'd have to surround your death star/whatever with a bubble of water. But that's been pointed out already.

No, the REAL CRIME here is the fact that you matched the words "Watch out, Han!" with a picture from Star Trek. Also, that's not a tractor beam, it's one of those borg cubes doing it's scanny thingy i believe. Probably from TNG, but I'm not even that deep into the franchise. Now that I think about it, I don't think New Hope ever actually showed us the tractor beam?

Win32error:
No, the REAL CRIME here is the fact that you matched the words "Watch out, Han!" with a picture from Star Trek. Also, that's not a tractor beam, it's one of those borg cubes doing it's scanny thingy i believe. Probably from TNG, but I'm not even that deep into the franchise. Now that I think about it, I don't think New Hope ever actually showed us the tractor beam?

Hahahah. I don't think A New Hope ever showed the tractor beam - I believe we were always seeing things from inside the Falcon. I knowingly used a Star Trek image instead, but I didn't realize that was a scanning beam. All borg stuff is green. Scanners, weapons, tractors...

Okay, so...let's go down the list.

{1} Real-life Enterprise design.
{2} Particle beam technology.
{3} Space drive technology.
{4} 3D printing (Replicator).
{5} Hologram-making chamber.
{6} Cellphones
{7} And now, tractor beams.

Well, I think all that's missing, really, is transporter tech and we're well on our way to boldly go places.

Rhykker:

Jadak:
So in other words, not in any way a tractor beam, just a study on water currents...

How is it not in any way a tractor beam?

"A tractor beam is a device with the ability to attract one object to another from a distance." (wiki)
.

So tractor beam = gravity?

Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which all physical bodies attract each other.

This then means that tractor beam technology = artificial gravity = better spaceships.

 

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