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

| 12 Aug 2014 01:44

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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