Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: How to Build a Warp Drive Using MetamaterialsI liked the May 2010 multiverse link ...
...Metamaterials are substances in which their ability to support electric and magnetic fields can be changed. Fiddle with these properties in just the right way and you can steer electromagnetic waves in all kinds of strange and exotic ways.
The highest profile use of this idea is to build invisibility cloaks but there's another more fascinating application. It turns out there is a formal mathematical analogy between the way metamaterials bend light and the way gravity does it. Inside metamaterials, electromagnetic space becomes distorted in exactly the same way as spacetime in general relatively.
That means physicists can use metamaterials to simulate the universe itself and all the weird phenomenon of general relativity. We've looked at various attempts to recreate black holes, the Big Bang and even multiverses...
Today, Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland in College Park... says it is possible to create metamaterials that are analogous to various kinds of spaces dreamt up by cosmologists to explain aspects of the Universe.
In these theories, space can have different numbers of dimensions that become compactified early in the Universe's history, leaving the three dimensions of space and one of time (3+1) that we see today. In symmetries of these spaces depend on the dimensions and the way they are compactified and this in turn determines the laws of physics in these regions.
It turns out, says Smolyaninov, that it is possible to create metamaterials with electromagnetic spaces in which some dimensions are compactified. He says it is even possible to create substances in which the spaces vary from region to region, so a space with 2 ordinary and 2 compactified dimensions, could be adjacent to a space with just 2 ordinary dimensions and also connected to a 2d space with 1 compactified dimension and so on.
The wormholes that make transitions between these regions would be especially interesting. It ought to be possible to observe the birth of photons in these regions and there is even a sense in which the transition could represent the birth of a new universe."A similar topological transition may have given birth to our own Universe," says Smolyaninov.
He goes on to show that these materials can be used to create a multiverse in which different universes have different properties. In fact it ought to be possible create universes in which different laws of physics arise.
That opens up a new area for optical devices. Smolyaninov gives the example of electromagnetic universes in which photons behave as if they are massive, massless or charged depending on the topology of space and the laws of physics this gives rise to...In more recent related news Hawking radiation has also been detected in a non-metamaterial optical experiment that created a physical system with the mathematical properties of black hole.
Talk about the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. The universe is feeling awfully recursive; maybe Wolfram was on to something. If you're going to run a simulated universe, it's good to make it highly recursive.
Meanwhile another group of physicists have implemented Maxwell's demon, and have allegedly demonstrated the extraction of energy from information. Soon they'll extract so much information they'll create a black hole (sorry, I'm feeling a bit giddy).
Oh, I almost forgot. You can't make an FTL warp drive, but maybe you can make a 1/3 c warp drive. I wonder if the warped space time would make gravitational wakes ...
Update 10/4/10: More on information physics. How long before someone announces that they've discovered how to reboot the universe?