Star Trek patents are edging towards fact
Warp drives may be the stuff of science fiction, but another Star Trek staple appears to be edging toward science fact.And not just anti-matter matters might be on their way - even cloaking devices!
The energy source that enables the starship Enterprise to boldly go where no one has gone before has, according to one controversial new claim, moved much closer to reality.
A New Mexico company has just completed its initial studies of an antimatter-powered rocket that it hopes will someday take astronauts to Mars in 90 days or less.
In the 1950s Austrian engineer Eugen Sänger first suggested using positron-electron annihilations to power spacecraft. But one of the chief problems that dogged his efforts was storage.
Positronics' researchers base their novel antimatter rocket design on published studies that an electrically neutral positron atom could be artificially held together for at least several years.
The atoms, called positronium, consist of an electron and positron orbiting each other. Normally positronium can exist for only fractions of a millisecond before the two mirror particles annihilate each other.
However, in a series of papers published in the journals Physical Review Letters and Physical Review in 1997 and 1998, a team of German and U.S. theorists calculated that the right combination of electric and magnetic fields would stretch out the positronium like a barbell and greatly reduce the probability of the electrons and positrons annihilating.
"We've done the calculations," Smith said. "And it's not uncommon to find that the lifetime [of the enhanced positronium] is [practically] infinite."
The cloaking devices that are used to render spacecraft invisible in Star Trek might just work in reality, two mathematicians have claimed.It's incredible, but it looks like what we first thought to be just the stuff of science fiction is now becoming real, just like space travel as in Jules Verne's own From Earth to Moon eventually did.
They have outlined their concept in a research paper published in one of the UK Royal Society's scientific journals.
Nicolae Nicorovici and Graeme Milton propose that placing certain objects close to a material called a superlens could make them appear to vanish.
It would rely on an effect known as "anomalous localised resonance".
However, the authors have so far only done the maths to verify that the concept could work. Building such a device would undoubtedly pose a significant challenge.
The phenomenon is analogous to a tuning fork (which rings with a single sound frequency) being placed next to a wine glass. The wine glass will start to ring with the same frequency; it resonates.
The cloaking effect would exploit a resonance with light waves rather than sound waves.
The concept is at such a primitive stage that scientists are talking only at the moment of being able to cloak particles of dust - not spaceships.
In this example, an illuminated speck of dust would scatter light at frequencies that induce a strong, finely tuned resonance in a cloaking material placed very close by.
The resonance effectively cancels out the light bouncing off the speck of dust, rendering the dust particle invisible.
One way to construct a cloaking device is to use a superlens, made of recently discovered materials that force light to behave in unusual ways.
Now how many comic book staples will soon be on their way to the real world...