May 3, 2001
11:52 AM   Subscribe

It might not be strong enough to keep a rebel freighter from escaping your space station, but scientists have built a working tractor beam.
posted by harmful (9 comments total)
Unfortunately, the comments about scaling it up are nonsense, if you're thinking about moving macro-objects around.

This works by catching objects in reinforcement patterns, which means that the wavelength of the light being used has to be somewhat larger than the object being moved. For atoms, that's no problem -- but no-one knows how to make a laser which runs at wavelengths of a meter or more (300 MHz or less radio frequency).
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:17 PM on May 3, 2001

Did you have to spoil the fun so quickly, Steven?

Well, it looks like I'll have to postpone the completion date of my Death Star... AGAIN.
posted by turaho at 12:32 PM on May 3, 2001

Lord Vader will not be happy about that Turaho...
posted by kokogiak at 12:35 PM on May 3, 2001

Steven: when you were born, there were no lasers. I wouldn't give up hope just yet...
posted by techgnollogic at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2001

Y'know we human beings sure put a lot of effort into putting less effort into things. Like remote control devices for televisions so we don't have to actually get up to change the channel. Someday we'll have a tractor beam we can aim at the remote control, so we can pick it up and push buttons without actually picking it up and pushing buttons. Of course we'll have to pick up the tractor beam device to accomplish this, but I'm sure someday someone will invent a tractor beam for the tractor beam...
posted by ZachsMind at 8:47 PM on May 3, 2001

I can think of uses for this technology at the microscopic. It wouldn't surprise me if someone found a use for it in IC fabrication, for instance. Kind of hard to pick up a single silicon atom with your fingertips in 10^-9 Torr vacuum, you know.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:58 PM on May 3, 2001

Further uses may be found in medicine. It may be possible to use tractor beams to manipulate cells (e.g. IVF techniques: pulling a sperm cell to an egg cell). Interesting development....
posted by nonharmful at 1:44 AM on May 4, 2001

How exactly do you twist light anyway?
posted by quirked at 6:52 AM on May 4, 2001

this might come in handy down on my farm...
posted by ph00dz at 7:48 AM on May 4, 2001

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