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First Toy Multiverse Created in a Laboratory, Say Physicists
February 5, 2013 4:05 PM   Subscribe

foundational notions of classic science fiction seem to be moving closer to reality there's way more here than I am capable of comprehending, but anything that talks about Minkowski spacetime has my attention.
posted by TMezz (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sometimes analogies really are just analogies. Usually in fact, they're just analogies.


Now I think about it, I'm having trouble thinking of a time an analogy wasn't an analogy.
posted by edd at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


An analogy is like an analogy; it is an analogy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:13 PM on February 5, 2013 [34 favorites]


Smolyaninov and his 'buddies' and 'pals' have done something surely; can anyone shed light on exactly what? I may be a layman, but I have a hard time believing they made a "universe".


.
posted by parki at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2013


Technology Review has rather jumped the shark of late, I fear - it's lost a lot of its rigour.

This story is, as far as I can tell, just that systems have been created that model some of the theoretical other dimensional configurations that could exist. You could say the same of a computer program that does the same through straightforward (I use the word with a certain lack of rigour myself) mathematics.

That metamaterials have the funk, nobody doubts. That they can model stuff, is quite cool. But they're not unique in this, and it's a LONG way from "Researchers exploit the strange properties of a liquid metamaterial to watch Minkowski spacetimes leap in out and [sic] of existence" as the standfirst says.

It would be a much better story if it wasn't straining to be something it's not, and that's something I've noticed more and more often in what used to be one of my go-to touchstones of solid science and technology reportage.
posted by Devonian at 4:16 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh dear. Something has gone terribly wrong with science journalism ...
posted by crazy_yeti at 4:20 PM on February 5, 2013


Have they created Life?
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on February 5, 2013


Now I think about it, I'm having trouble thinking of a time an analogy wasn't an analogy.

When it's just a cigar?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:24 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Have they created Life?"

No, that was Milton Bradley.
posted by boo_radley at 4:25 PM on February 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


I typed go-to touchstone. The BBC is having a festival of Orwell, and I typed go-to touchstone.

Has anyone seen my pearl-handled revolver? The shame must be expunged.
posted by Devonian at 4:32 PM on February 5, 2013


This is not an analogy.
posted by basicchannel at 4:36 PM on February 5, 2013


Moving reality around is like reality moving around, realize physicists.
posted by crayz at 4:37 PM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clearly a toy universe in the same way a glider is an artificial being in a Conway "Game of Life" simulation.
posted by sammyo at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know how you're trying to open a bag of bread and you're untwisting the twist tie and you can't open it and then finally you realize that the person who packaged the bread fastened the twist tie counter-clockwise, so you start turning the twist tie clockwise in the manner you would normally use to tighten it in order to to loosen it but you don't know where to stop and so you start to tighten it again? Well, reality and science fiction are just clockwise and counter-clockwise versions of the same twist tie, and when you get to zero twists they're one and the same but it's pretty difficult to figure out when that is.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:48 PM on February 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


And here I was thinking this was going to be about Toy Story 4 and high energy physics.
posted by danhon at 4:49 PM on February 5, 2013


anything that talks about Minkowski spacetime has my attention
2+1 dimensional systems fit inside 3+1 dimensions. (Thin superconducting) film at eleven.

This high-profile analogy chasing is more Volovik's style, but it will probably bemuse the "cosmology in the laboratory"/analogue gravity researchers who have been struggling with the details of actually understanding the Kibble-Zurek mechanism or dumb holes in materials, and working out whether they tell us anything useful about the universe writ large.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 4:54 PM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


So how are we going to use this to bomb people in other countries?
posted by deathpanels at 5:09 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


An analogy is more like a simile, I'd say.
posted by uosuaq at 5:17 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Life is like an analogy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 PM on February 5, 2013


A simile is like a metaphor is not a simile.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2013


Am I the only one who went through this thought process?

"2+1 dimensions... two spatial dimensions and one time-- you fucking made Flatlands!"
posted by BiggerJ at 5:37 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


First Cobalt/Kerosene Slurry Created in a Laboratory; Kind of Like a Multiverse, Says Physicist Desperate For Funding
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:09 PM on February 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have an electronic watch whose face simulates an old watch face. It is analogy.
posted by etc. at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Horsie!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2013


"Researchers exploit the strange properties of a liquid metamaterial to watch Minkowski spacetimes leap in out and of existence"

I know I'm in over my head when I don't even understand the sub-heading of the article.
posted by zardoz at 6:21 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, first it's Minkowski spacetime. Pretty soon it's Ken & Barbie spacetime. Then you've got the GI JOE spacetime.

I love this stuff.

I see the "How to Build a Supersonic Ping-Pong Gun" piece just below:
"If there’s one thing wrong with Ping Pong Guns, it’s that they can’t fire their ammunition at supersonic speeds. At least, that’s the feeling of Mark French, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University in Indiana"

God dammit I just love science. Screw this "I need funding so I have to show results" crap.

I don't care if the press gets caught up in hyperbole. I want to just drive a dump truck of money in front of the guys doing making metamaterials and just say "here, go make some serious f'ups and catastrophic errors while just screwing around with the stuff" because that's where the real breakthroughs are going to come from anyway.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:32 PM on February 5, 2013


This reminds me of As She Climbed Across the Table, which isn't my favorite book.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:40 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated: "First Cobalt/Kerosene Slurry Created in a Laboratory"

"Does it -- does the cobalt make the kerosene better in some way? More efficient?"

"Oh, God, no. The cobalt we use is radioactive, stupid! You'd be insane to use the slurry as fuel. Even the fumes are, like, crazy dangerous."

"..."
posted by boo_radley at 6:45 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Researchers exploit the strange properties of a liquid metamaterial to watch Minkowski spacetimes leap in out and of existence

Tou know how when you see a graph of motion on a page, you have motion in space on one axis, and time on another axis? You're using one space dimension to represent time.

Basically he essentially forced a spatial dimension in this material to act like a time dimension, except for actual light moving through it. He didn't convert space to time, but if you look at the path of the light, it looks like a a graph of 2-d motion, with the third dimension representing time (a 2+1 world line)

It's a neat effect, but it's not really practical for anything.
posted by empath at 6:56 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the pretty-damn-good Cosm by Gregory Benford, which may be a novel-length exposition of this joke.
posted by hexatron at 7:09 PM on February 5, 2013


[Skims article]

Does this multiverse have jet packs?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:51 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this multiverse have jet packs?

Of course. However, to paraphrase @greatdismal, they are not evenly distributed.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:14 PM on February 5, 2013


The linked article is a bit thin (excuse the pun), but there is a growing body of research in this area, much of which is motivated by the simple observation by Bill Unruh in 1981, that shallow water waves in a moving fluid can behave like photons in the vicinity of a black hole. Such a system might provide allow experiments to observe the analogue of Hawking Radiation, which is one of the great untested predictions of theoretical physics.

In fact analogue universes can be modelled not only in water waves, but also in ultracold atoms (so-called Bose-Einstein condensates) and guided light as well as many other systems (see this article for a general but technical overview). As well as Hawking Radiation, such models may allow us to also test other predictions from "quantum field theory in curved spacetimes" such as cosmological particle production and superradiance. This is a perfectly valid school of thought as there is a formal mathematical analogy between the behaviour of the real and analogue system.

It should be noted that predictions in quantum field theory in curved spacetime are based on a major simplification - that quantum phenomena "live" in a classical background (ie. gravity). However, the prediction of HR may be subject to important modifications if a full theory of quantum gravity could be taken into account. This provides the main motivation for much of the research in analogue gravity - there is a hope that predictions like HR or Cosmological particle production will soon be testable in the laboratory. Some practitioners even believe this may provide some hints on how to unify quantum theory and gravity. Nevertheless, there is a lot of interesting physics to look at!
posted by piyushnz at 10:45 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


(sorry, it's late, so I hope at least some of that made sense)
posted by piyushnz at 10:47 PM on February 5, 2013


Whatever your theory on the multiverse is, can we all agree that scientists at MIT now are just makin' crap up?
posted by Perko at 11:00 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stop, stop, go back. The universe is made of kibble?!
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:02 PM on February 5, 2013


Read "simulate" for every instance of "create" and your frustrations will fall away, friends.
posted by clarknova at 2:00 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we have anisibles yet? That's all I want. Freaking ansibles!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:37 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this multiverse have hot pockets?
posted by zippy at 4:46 AM on February 6, 2013


This multiverse it vibrates, yes?
posted by jph at 6:41 AM on February 6, 2013


The universe is made of [K]ibble?!
More so than you might think...

At the subatomic level he's jointly (along with half a dozen other people) responsible for describing the Higgs mechanism, and on much larger scales he introduced the idea of topological defects to cosmology. Now, we haven't any such objects (most of what we do see is inflation... probably) but I'd take the bet that they're out there, because field theories beyond the standard model - and many models of inflation - predict their creation.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 7:08 AM on February 6, 2013


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