Science is similar to a good book. You latch on to a subject and study it and every time you blink, there’s something new—new research or studies, new medicines, new therapies, new technologies, new, new, new. It’s like opening Ulysses, reading the word “contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality,” and coming up with a new meaning every time. Don’t pretend that’s not your new favorite word.
Over the past decade and a half, there have been scientific breakthroughs in medicine and technology that seem like—or at one point were—science fiction. Isn’t that fantastic? Can the same be said if we move a bit over to the more fantastical side of sci-fi?
Well sure, because…
There is a New Method to Levitate Objects
When I learned this, my first thought was, “There are already levitation methods?” followed closely by, “Jean Grey, here I come.” Right. So, the two means of levitation that physicists were utilizing previously are magnetic levitation and optical levitation. As the names imply, these forms of levitation have their limits—magnetic to magnetized items and optical to objects that can be polarized by light.
Frankie Fung and Mykhaylo Usatyuk, third- and fourth-year UChicago undergrad physics student respectively, must have wanted more. The two led a team of researchers to figure out this new levitation technique, which utilizes a warm plate and cold plate in a vacuum chamber. The way the technique works is:
The bottom copper plate [is] kept at room temperature while a stainless-steel cylinder filled with liquid nitrogen serve[s] as the top plate. The upward flow of heat from the warm to the cold plate [keeps] the particles suspended indefinitely.
As Fung, the study’s lead author, describes it, “The large temperature gradient leads to a force that balances gravity and results in stable levitation. We managed to quantify the thermophoretic force and found reasonable agreement with what is predicted by theory. This will allow us to explore the possibilities of levitating different types of objects.”
The goal of this research, of course, is not to find the answer of how to mimic telekinetic ability, but to explore its usefulness to space applications and “for the study of particle dynamics and interactions in a pristine, isolated environment,” according to the research team’s paper. But, as with any progress in science, third parties can use the research and technique for different purposes.
In a 2008 article in Discover Magazine explaining the claim that parapsychological phenomena are inconsistent with the known laws of physics, Sean Carroll says that “there are only two long-range forces strong enough to influence macroscopic objects—electromagnetism and gravity.” Electromagnetism is limited and impractical, but gravity? That’s getting much closer, considering Fung and Usatyuk’s research.
And, that’s not the only thing giving us a potential look into X-Men remastered, because….
Scientists are Delving into the Mysteries of Time Perception
Time perception is tricky business that scientists currently just have no answers to. It’s a subject being pursued by both journalists and scientists. Maybe one of the most useful pieces of information is that the brain’s clock can be easily swayed by anything from emotion to illness. Take tachypsychia, for example: A perceptual slowing of time during high stress situations. This afflicts many military personnel, first responders, and pro-fighters.
Then there was a series of five experiments done at University College London by Nobuhiro Hagura. Hagura found that our ability to process visual information speeds up as we are preparing to move.
What if we knew what parts of the brain—all signs point to multiple locations—work toward time perception and learned to manipulate our ability to speed up visual information processing? Could we stop time within ourselves long enough to solve problems or figure out a reactionary plan to a bad situation? Could we manufacture a drug we could give to others that would induce in them a stopped-time scenario while we moved about with impunity for the duration the drug was active?
Maybe. The possibilities are endless.