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Math Science

Big Bang Could Be Recreated Inside a Metamaterial 113

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

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:21PM (#29157009)

    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 understanding of how the big bang might of worked may cast doubt on how predictive or valid relativity was.

    So if the result is extreme and unsurprising what gets doubted first? Well, the complex metamaterial...

  • by Landak ( 798221 ) <> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:21PM (#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 modrzej ( 1450687 ) <> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:27PM (#29157051)
    Graphene [] (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.
  • by kjllmn ( 1337665 ) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:41PM (#29157141)

    Imagine being on a spot in spacewise 2-dimensional universe. One kind of time could be like moving within this area, time passing, the other like not moving spacewise but only timewise, so that you'd walk through the "absolutely" same spot, but through time, not space. Imagine popping from frame to frame in the Game of Life-simulation, not moving sideways but only to the next frame, and the next. I dunno if this was clear though...?

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @03:07PM (#29157283)

    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.

  • by beguyld ( 732494 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:42AM (#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 Karma Bandit ( 1305259 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:18AM (#29162723)

    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 refraction that isn't "made up of small stuff."

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp