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Math Science

Big Bang Could Be Recreated Inside a Metamaterial 113

Posted by kdawson
from the never-met-a-material-i-didn't-like dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Metamaterials are substances with a permittivity and permeability that has been manipulated in a way that allows fine control over the behavior of light. They have famously been used to create an invisibility cloak that hides objects from view. Now Igor Smolyaninov, a physicist in the US, has calculated how metamaterials could be used for a much more profound demonstration: to reproduce the behavior of light in various kinds of spacetimes, in particular a (2+2) spacetime (one having two dimensions of space and two of time). His method is to show that there is formal mathematical analogy between the way metamaterials and spacetimes affect light. He goes on to show how a phase transition in a (2+2) spacetime leads to the creation of a (2+1) spacetime filled with photons, an event analogous to the Big Bang." Here are the abstract and the preprint (PDF).
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Big Bang Could Be Recreated Inside a Metamaterial

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  • ... but you have to admit, "Big Bang could be recreated inside a Metamucil" is every bit as intriguing.

  • by salesbot (1524011) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:51PM (#29156847)
    and they don't work at wide bands. setting mu_r and epsilon_r to -1 in an equation is not the same as making a physical metamaterial.
    • by Landak (798221) <Landak@gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:21PM (#29157011) Homepage
      Saying "metamaterials are just periodic structures" is like a circular argument - perfectly valid, but not very interesting. It so happens that currently all of the structures we've manufactured with a refractive index that is negative somewhere, have that 'somewhere' outside of the visible spectrum. This is due entirely - it is theorised - due to our aqueous origins when we were evolving eyes and doesn't make the materials any less fascinating! As the understanding behind these structures grows, we might be able to produce more and more exotic 'period structures' that have a refractive index closer to glass (i.e. a real refractive index in the visible that rapidly becomes purely imaginary [dissipative] elsewhere). The same is true of Type II superconductors - just because they're periodic structures that we don't understand fully yet doesn't mean that they're not useful to society at large!
      • by Ruie (30480)

        This is due entirely - it is theorised - due to our aqueous origins when we were evolving eyes and doesn't make the materials any less fascinating!

        An additional consideration is water absorption spectrum [wikipedia.org] which has a big dip right where "visible" light is (in a wide sense - it extends a bit to UV and infrared). So being sensitive to Sun's rays (say for navigation) requires sensitivity to visible light, regardless of whether you live in water, air or dry land, as Suns spectrum is filtered by the atmospher

      • Saying "metamaterials are just periodic structures" is like a circular argument - perfectly valid, but not very interesting. It so happens that currently all of the structures we've manufactured with a refractive index that is negative somewhere, have that 'somewhere' outside of the visible spectrum. This is due entirely - it is theorised - due to our aqueous origins when we were evolving eyes and doesn't make the materials any less fascinating! As the understanding behind these structures grows, we might be able to produce more and more exotic 'period structures' that have a refractive index closer to glass (i.e. a real refractive index in the visible that rapidly becomes purely imaginary [dissipative] elsewhere). The same is true of Type II superconductors - just because they're periodic structures that we don't understand fully yet doesn't mean that they're not useful to society at large!

        You are intelligent!

    • by Jurily (900488)

      The very idea of two time planes makes my head hurt. Who the hell thought this could be something that can interact with our universe, or rather, our perception thereof?

      For all intents and purposes, we're firmly locked in our own time. Maybe dreams, meditation, etc. are an exception to this, but afaik science doesn't care about those.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kjllmn (1337665)

        Perhaps two dimensions of time is like you could go not only forward and backward in time (not that you can), but also up and down, moving "within" what we now think of as a unit of time. I can imagine such a concept could come in handy to explain mysterious things like action at a distance (gravity, QM).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jurily (900488)

          Perhaps two dimensions of time is like you could go not only forward and backward in time (not that you can), but also up and down, moving "within" what we now think of as a unit of time.

          I can imagine it, but I probably won't ever understand how we can interact with it if we create it. We're not even capable of altering our speed in this time plane, let alone our direction, even if nothing in quantum mechanics even hints at time being unidirectional.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by EdZ (755139)
            We can easily alter our relative flow of time ('speed in time plane') by altering our relative velocity.
            • by Jurily (900488)

              That's relative time, and relative velocity, and as the name implies, relative only to something else. Your subjective time only changes when you don't pay attention.

            • We can easily alter our relative flow of time ('speed in time plane') by altering our relative velocity.

              Relative speed. The direction of motion is irrelevant, only the magnitude.

            • by beguyld (732494) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:42AM (#29161727)

              And we can alter the perceived flow of time quite easily.

              As Einstein explained: "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity."

              And more seriously, some people have had time "slow down" considerably under extreme circumstances. I have had that experience during a motorcycle crash at 60 mph. I have a very vivid recollection of what happened in a split second seeming like slow motion and remembering each perception and thought and action. For all intents and purposes, the flow of time from my perspective was different than normal.

              If consciousness is perhaps more than a chemical reaction in a "meat machine" then perhaps there is something else going on in those situations....

              • by dizzydogg (127440)

                Thats just your mind filtering all other distractions and focusing on as much detail of the current situation as possible, and is a trick caused by your memory. For more info: http://www.livescience.com/health/071211-time-slow.html [livescience.com]

                • by beguyld (732494)
                  That is the thesis of ONE experiment, involving how many subjects? A video link showed a total of 4. A friend told me he had read this only happens to this degree to a subset of the population. Perhaps 15%. The subjects of that experiment only estimated their fall as 1/3 longer than observing others. My experience more like an order of magnitude. At the speed I was traveling, it would have been no more than 1/4 second, but the perception was more like 2-3 seconds. If you read some of the comments to the a
                  • by beguyld (732494)

                    Sorry, I had HTML formatting on by mistake, as the preview didn't seem to be working properly yesterday and I had to muck with formatting manually... (and it still never showed me in preview mode what it actually looked like after submitted)

                  • I have noticed that we can't seem to get out of the flow of time as long as we are (alive and) subject to death.

                    But, yeah, some (many) people seem to be able to temporarily alter their consciousness of the rate of flow. Not the direction, and not entirely stop, but slow it down or speed it up.

                    (I hate it when I'm trying to get something done and find myself stuck in a faster swim down the current. Sometimes I wish I could slow the rate down at will, too, of course, but I have resigned myself to the lack of u

                    • by beguyld (732494)

                      Death seems to be the end of entropy, doesn't it?

                      At least for the physical body. (technically only when our body is completely decomposed..)

                      Consciousness might be something else. But we don't have the equipment to measure that, so regardless of anyone's beliefs either way, we just have to wait to pass judgment...

                      Though some people do pretend that lack of ability to measure is "proof" that we are simply meat machines (among other things). Others think that the brain operates as some kind of quantum communication device with "something else" which is the ac

                    • by reiisi (1211052)

                      Are you thinking that the spirit is subject to entropy?

                    • Why not?
                    • by beguyld (732494)

                      Are you thinking that the spirit is subject to entropy?

                      That's a very deep subject, with no definite answers... And very much dependent on one's definition(s) of "spirit."

                      Besides, it all depends on one's point of view. Maybe from some non-physical point of view (by definition NOT measurable from the physical) overall entropy is actually decreasing. Awareness might be growing to a more structured and sophisticated state.

                      In trying to define the entire cosmos from the basis of physical instruments, we might be going down a dead end road for really understanding Lif

                  • Fixed formatting:

                    That is the thesis of ONE experiment, involving how many subjects? A video link showed a total of 4. A friend told me he had read this only happens to this degree to a subset of the population. Perhaps 15%.

                    The subjects of that experiment only estimated their fall as 1/3 longer than observing others. My experience more like an order of magnitude. At the speed I was traveling, it would have been no more than 1/4 second, but the perception was more like 2-3 seconds.

                    If you read some of the comments to the article you linked to, you'll find that other people have experiences which suggest that something different was going on than the researchers in a contrived experiment measured.

                    For me, it was not just impulse reaction. There was a thought process, including an evaluation of the situation and choosing the best course of action. This situation was like a faster thought process and perception.

                    And actually, time itself is sort of an illusion. It's just a comparison of some sequence of events vs some other sequence. Such as the definition of a second being the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of radiation corresponding to the transition between two energy levels of the caesium-133 atom. ( Atomic clock [wikipedia.org] )

                    (Under the Big Bang theory, time is also a measure of entropy. But not everyone agrees...)

                    All that said, there is probably also something the idea that these events trigger more brain activity and memory being activated. But from my experience, that's not quite all of it...

                    In fact as I get older (over 50 now) I notice this effect more and more, such as when something is about to fall and my hand is under it well before it is actually falling. Like some of the commentators on the article you linked to, I had some martial arts training; though it was 30 years ago now. Probably didn't hurt, though it might be that people who pursue that training have something in common. So causality is not established by the training itself.

                    I attribute it to my mind being more quiet now. Meaning more able to be quiet until needed, like a cat waiting for prey, attentive to its environment. Then a burst of action when needed (though unlike a cat, also capable of sustained bursts of effort for many hours)

                    And that comes from seeing the "personality machine" for what it is, and not confusing it with who and what I actually am. When the monkey chatter calms down, we are more able to respond to real events rather than imagined ones.

              • by suffe (72090)

                For all intents and purposes, the flow of time from my perspective was different than normal.

                More likely, your memory of the event as you look back at it makes it seem like time was slower. As I understand it, the brain has something very much like a short buffer memory that it can use for instant replays. You notice this in situations like when someone at the table next to you say your name. It's not like you react to every word starting with 'b' or 'be'. Instead, the brain is playing it back to you (an

                • by beguyld (732494)

                  I definitely agree that the brain is a strange place, and memory is most often unreliable. It will make up an appropriate story to try to explain feelings and events. I'm sure it's a survival advantage to try to model the world and make sense of it.

                  Though in this case, there were physical actions associated with the memory, and because I was going through gears at an rpm I did hundreds of times on that bike, and hit some gravel at the very instant I was shifting gears, I knew the speed I was traveling very

                • There is a real external world and a real internal world, and our consciousness of the flow of time occurs at the interface.

                  And the fun pills screw the interface up in the end.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            We're not even capable of altering our speed in this time plane

            Of course we are. In an uncomfortable or boring situation, time goes slow. If you're having fun it speeds up. Einstein said "When your hand is on a hot stove, a second seems like an hour. When you're with a pretty girl, an hour seems like a minute. That's relativity."

            Time is nothing but the measure of entropy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Karma Bandit (1305259)

      Metamaterials don't need to be periodic. They are made up of small (compared to the wavelength of light they work with) nano-fabricated structures, but even if they are randomly distributed it will have the desired effect. Just like both periodic structures (crystals) and amorphous ones (glass) have "normal" dielectric constants, so can metamaterials.

      Some people say "periodic" when they just mean "made up of small stuff". If that was your complaint, then I challenge you to find something with any index of r

  • Typical Bad Title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:01PM (#29156903)

    an event analogous to the Big Bang.

    Analogus To is not the same is Identical To. This article's title is badly in need of an accuracy correction.

    • by inamorty (1227366)
      "An event Analogous to the Big Bang Could Be Recreated Inside a Metamaterial" while more accurate is less attention grabbing.
      • by Tailsfan (1200615)
        So that means being only analogous to, it will not blow up the world. I mean what could possibly go wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lbalbalba (526209)
      From the referenced article : " ... What Smolyaninov is describing is an optical analogue of the Big Bang in which a spacetime is created along with the particles to populate it. "The characteristic feature of this phase transition appears to be a kind of toy "big bang"," he says. In principle that's an experiment that could be done in the lab in which you could watch the Big Bang in action. ... " ... which is 'close enough' for me...
    • by brianc (11901)

      This article's title is badly in need of an accuracy correction.

      You're new around here, aren't you?

    • by weicco (645927)

      Yes but now if only we could simulate the Big Crunch [wikipedia.org] we don't have to build a restaurant at the end of the universe [wikipedia.org]. What a saving in resources!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Batteries not included.

  • by CptNerd (455084) <adiseker@lexonia.net> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:08PM (#29156931) Homepage

    Somebody will probably experiment with this sometime in December, 2012...

  • >there is formal mathematical analogy

    can an analogy be formal? is a mathematical analogy a mathematical description? an explanation can be said to be formal; but can the same be said of a description? does analogy have a special maths meaning? i dunno, i got the rest tho

    • ok, so any maths is necessarily formal, so the formal part is redundant and the analogy is like a correspondence mapping... i think therefore i'm confused.
    • by kjllmn (1337665)

      Wild-guess-answer: A hypersphere and a torus share a formula (don't recall for what though, volume perhaps), though they are not the same thing. Perhaps there's a formal mathematical analogy somewhere in there?

    • Mathematicians and physicists sometimes use the term "formal" to mean without certain types of rigor. One frequent example is where one formally manipulates series without regards to convergence. If at the end of the day one ends up with something clearly convergence then "formally" what one has done is likely ok. This isn't always true. But physicists are especially fond of this sort of argument and then leave it to the mathematicians to fill in the gaps. This sometimes takes a very long-time. One example
      • Thanks for the response. It reminded me of the late, Danish physicist, Per Bak's narrative, (IIRC in his book describing his 'sandpile model of self-organized criticality') about the quick and dirty maths physicists employ much to the chagrin of mathematicians. I took the word formal to have a connotation more akin to maximized rigor.

        I'm probably going to have to revisit 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences' by Eugene Wigner and 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathemati

  • by Kugrian (886993)

    I'm pretty ignorant. And Back to the Future II was on TV a couple hours ago. And I've had a few beers. And I *really* want Duke Nukem to not be vaporware.

  • Re-created, but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772)

    The analogy between the physics of superfluid helium and general relativity is well known. The mathematics that describe these systems are essentially identical so measuring the properties of one automatically tells you how the other behaves.

    A caveat is that if either general relativity or our science's understanding of the physics of superfluid helium have issues, or if there are other factors involved that don't have a direct equivalent comparison, then the analogy may have issues.

    Our lack of unders

  • by modrzej (1450687) <m.m.modrzejewski ... m ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:27PM (#29157051)
    Graphene [wikipedia.org] (which is a single sheet graphite in made of) displays somewhat analogous electronic properties. Its electrons travel with speed comparable to to speed of light and act as they've got no effective mass. In particular they can be described by modified Dirac equation, which is relativistic equation for a single particle. Thus, the story is not the only example of formal (mathematical) similarity between physical objects that seem to have absolutely nothing in common. it's the power of mathematical abstraction to see what's essentially similar when your senses say it can't be.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The more I've studied mathematics the more I've come to think that one should never underestimate the power of analogies. You could summarize this as two things are alike precisely to the extent they can be described by the same language.

      When you can describe greatly different things with the same words or equations, without sacrificing the important details, there's a good chance you're on to something important.

      • Shannon discovering that information density uses the same equations as entropy. To the degree that he called information density "entropy" and that's still the term used for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "... a (2+1) spacetime filled with photons ..."

    'and God said, "Let there be light".'

  • Wouldn't this be a universally bad idea?

    Thanks you, thank you! I'll be here all week! ...unless they create a new big bang...

  • Ok, regular 3+1 spacetime I understand, and multiple dimensions I comprehend well enough, but two dimensions of space and two of *time*?

    My brain hurts!

    • OK, I think I've got it. It's a series of parallel Flatlands. One can move backwards and forwards through time, just like "normal", but one can also cross the parallels. Maybe? Possibly? That's some seriously twisted, mind-bending stuff there.
    • by SnoopJeDi (859765)

      Well, my favorite way to think about 3+1 spacetime as a relatively inexperienced student is as a "loaf" of bread (a la The Elegant Universe [wikipedia.org]). If a "slice" of the loaf contains the 3 conventional space dimensions, and different slices represent different placement in time, then you have a basis for any particular event (4 coordinates that allow you to locate it perfectly).

      Perhaps a second dimension of 'time' (which is a slightly incorrect notion, as far as I understand) allows another degree of freedom (lik

    • Re:2+2 spacetime? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Squiffy (242681) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @04:51PM (#29157505) Homepage

      It probably just means the spacetime metric has two positive terms and two negative terms. Instead of

      ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2 - dt^2

      you have

      ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 - dt^2 - du^2

      Can a real physicist speak to this?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by radtea (464814)

        It probably just means the spacetime metric has two positive terms and two negative terms

        That is correct. The paper points out that "due to causality restrictions the analogy is purely formal" or words to that effect.

        As someone else pointed out above, the /. article title, which uncritically apes the title of the linked article, is false. A correct title would be "Toy Model Analog of Big Bang Could Be Created Inside Metameterials." As it stands the title is as correct as "Supertanker can float in bathtu

  • http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/w/donald-a-wollheim/edge-of-time.htm [fantasticfiction.co.uk]

    Ok, i know its sci-fi, but its a great book, and you know what they say about sci-fi... todays sci-fi is tomorrows tech.

  • you'd have a flashlight...

  • it's been in my fridge for an unknown period of time.

    "Could be meat, could be cake.... It looks like... meatcake!"

    Someone must be saving it for something. Who would have known that ./ers fridges could be of real scientific value? ;)

  • OK, so scientists....who get their truths by NOT KNOWING WHAT WILL HAPPEN...are going to start an unproven singularity. HOW CAN THAT GO WRONG?!?!?!?

    I always wondered how the world would end. If it's by starting out the same way 90% of the lame, one-named titles running on "SyFy" do, I'll be quite disappointed.

    Does everyone here have such blind faith in these over-educated dorks? Ya know they're not gonna do this in deep space- it'll probably be done in France. Isn't that, too, an unsafe distance from the

  • We don't "move through time" at all in our 3+1 spacetime. Our sensation of motion through time is an artifact of a certain property of systems like our brains: at time t0, we have memories of events at times t < t0, and no memories of events at times t > t0.

    I don't know whether it's possible for a conscious mind to exist in a spacetime with more than one macroscopic time dimension. If it is possible at all, such a mind certainly would not experience consciousness in the same way we do.
  • Somehow I always labored under the idea there were 3 dimensions of space. The Big Bang only creates 2 dimensions?

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.

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