UnNews:“Beam me up, Scotty” is possible with lasers, say scientists
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3 March 2011
HONG KONG -- Scientists here say they have found a way for a laser to act as a teleportation beam or matter-energy transporter.
It has long been known that objects can be pushed by light. Writers have contemplated solar sails by which a spacecraft might be pushed away from the light source on a “wind of light”--a development that would provide centuries of work for sailmakers and cotton-pickers alike.
Now, a research paper has calculated the conditions required to create a laser-based matter-energy transportation system that is safe for humans. Rather than a Star Trek-style transporter, however, the approach would only work over small distances, such as to the bathroom and back to the television during commercial breaks.
“You couldn’t transport from, say, Hong Kong to San Francisco,” said Prof. Won Hung Lo. “If we were to use light to pull you that far, the beam might get dim, and there might be no way to use light to push you back to where you started," Lo warned.
Prof. Lo says the idea came from the simple child's game, Red Light, Green Light, in which a leader calls out, "Red Light" and turns around to see that players approaching him are no longer moving. "Wu was a jerk and accused us all of cheating. We began thinking that, if the light itself could make the people move, we could write that twerp out of the picture completely."
The trick is not to use a standard laser beam, but rather the so-called Bessel beam, an unconvential laser which, seen straight on, looks like a piercing light that melts your eyeballs. And it relies on directly impinging on an object, making it distinct from other objects by using an approach demonstrated in 2010 that heated the air around objects. (In those experiments, several lab rats were unfortunately fricaseed and the study was halted by protests.) In other words, the subject would have to wear the laser beam. Lo wrote, "In nearly all cases, it is easier to attach a grappling hook and use a winch."
But Lo remains optimistic. "Light can indeed pull or push an object," he wrote, "and this has opened up new avenues for optical manipulation. We could replace all the sorters at the Post office - though, unfortunately, not the letter carriers."
However, Orwin Hess at Imperial College in London said the work - which has not yet been peer-reviewed - was "bloody mad." He dwelled on the distance limitations and the lack of a practical demonstration. And, he said, "I don't see anyone stepping up to take the first ride."
- Staff "'Tractor beam' is possible with lasers, say scientists". BBC News, March 3, 2011