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United Kingdom Science

British Engineers Create Sonic Tractor Beam (bbc.co.uk) 88

An anonymous reader writes: According to the BBC, engineers in Bristol, England have created a system for remote manipulation of physical objects using sound holograms. The video shows pea-sized objects being dragged around and stacked up in mid-air with no visible means of support. "In essence, an object sitting in a 'quiet' region of space can be held there if it is surrounded by very high-intensity sound waves. As the pattern of that boundary shifts, the object can be moved around." If the Empire is making a tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it.
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British Engineers Create Sonic Tractor Beam

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  • by tgetzoya ( 827201 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @06:55PM (#50813767)
    When will they get this in screwdriver form?
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      You intend to screw with some peas, do you?

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        Here's an idea for Dice: before someone is allowed to moderate, they must prove they have a sense of humor. :)

    • Whoever modded this 'troll' needs to have their geek privledges suspended.

    • Right after they perfect the Heimlich maneuver with it I presume. I need one just to cancel out barking dogs in the neighborhood. Either way it won't work on wood.
  • Ah yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @06:55PM (#50813769)

    A tractor beam, that relies on waves propagating through matter, that will work in the nearly matterless void that is space, right?

    • Re:Ah yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @07:26PM (#50813931)

      A tractor beam, that relies on waves propagating through matter, that will work in the nearly matterless void that is space, right?

      Just turn up the volume until it works..

      • I thought you just have to reverse the polarity...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        A tractor beam, that relies on waves propagating through matter, that will work in the nearly matterless void that is space, right?

        Just turn up the volume until it works..

        Turn it up to 11!!!!!!

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Years ago, I'd visit the physics department and one of the things they were playing with (they had the coolest toys) was a speaker made of some exotic material - I think it may have been ceramic so not that exotic. Anyhow, they were pumping very low frequencies into it and using it to balance a pingpong ball in mid air. I read the summary but, being no heretic, I didn't read the article. I suspect the same thing applies.

        Oddly enough, I don't think they were studying sound or pingpong. I was probably a littl

        • Years ago, I'd visit the physics department and one of the things they were playing with (they had the coolest toys) was a speaker made of some exotic material - I think it may have been ceramic so not that exotic. Anyhow, they were pumping very low frequencies into it and using it to balance a pingpong ball in mid air. I read the summary but, being no heretic, I didn't read the article. I suspect the same thing applies.

          Oddly enough, I don't think they were studying sound or pingpong. I was probably a little drunk, or high. I seem to recall that they were actually doing something with fluid dynamics. No, no I am not a physicist and my memory is pretty fuzzy. This was way back in the early 1990s or late 1980s. I seem to recall that they were actually using a very high speed camera to look at it. I've no idea what the outcome was and I strongly suspect they were high too.

          I think you were high when you posted this. Sober up before going on-line.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Actually, a quick Google indicates it may have been using aero-acoustics to study fluid dynamics. You're free to poke around here:

            https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

            Anything published would have been post 1992. And sober up? Why, I never!

    • The word tractor was taken from Latin, being the agent noun of trahere "to pull".

      So far, they all push.

    • In Space... no one can hear your tractor beam!

    • I'm pretty sure that "space" has plenty of air in it in the Star Wars version, given the way spacecraft "fly" in it...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "If the Empire is making a tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it."

    Not even wrong.

  • It's a pressor beam. It doesn't attract anything.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @07:26PM (#50813933)

      It attracts defense $.

      You might even call it a "contractor beam."

      • I hear this is their third version.

        The first could be used to calculate angles. It was a protractor beam.

        The second was used to black out sensitive text from documents. It was a redactor beam.

      • Man I wish I could mod this up, but it's already at 5... so awesome I nearly sprayed Mt. Dew all over the screen.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @07:29PM (#50813947)

      It's a pressor beam. It doesn't attract anything.

      Not true.

      "We wanted to demonstrate that we could do it upside down. We had a discussion and we thought that everyone thinks of a tractor beam as people being sucked up into space.

      "So we mounted the array upside-down in a cardboard UFO, and the particle gets sucked up into it."

      And this is demonstrated in the video attached to the article too.,

      • by WeeBit ( 961530 )

        <quote><p>And this is demonstrated in the video attached to the article too.,</p></quote>

        and the video was too short. I wonder the size of the little pebble size balls were as in weight? Looks like they didn't even match the weight of a ping pong ball. Then I have to wonder what size their new gadget needs to be if they had a truck instead of that little pebble?
        • and the video was too short. I wonder the size of the little pebble size balls were as in weight? Looks like they didn't even match the weight of a ping pong ball. Then I have to wonder what size their new gadget needs to be if they had a truck instead of that little pebble?

          I think you are missing the point. The size or weight does not matter. It just demonstrates that tractor beam can be used in such the way. In the future, they may be able to use it to move bigger/heavier objects. Trying to imagine the size of gadget now has nothing to do with the demonstration because it will go under a lot more research in order to achieve something more useful.

      • "We wanted to demonstrate that we could do it upside down. We had a discussion and we thought that everyone thinks of a tractor beam as people being sucked up into space.

        "So we mounted the array upside-down in a cardboard UFO, and the particle gets sucked up into it."

        And this is demonstrated in the video attached to the article too.,

        Got me to go RTFA. I cannot believe how much the web has changed since I last saw it, circa 1998 or so!

    • I was thinking it was more of a pusher beam.... Which would be more efficiently constructed out of nozzles using compressed air... But I suppose the point is not about being practical, but doing something new and unique in a different way. Kind of like teenaged boys saying "Watch this!"
    • Is this something like a pusher robot?

  • In essence, an object sitting in a 'quiet' region of space can be held there if it is surrounded by very high-intensity sound waves.

    In Space, no one can hear you tractor beam.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 )

      In essence, an object sitting in a 'quiet' region of space can be held there if it is surrounded by very high-intensity sound waves.

      In Space, no one can hear you tractor beam.

      Ah, just turn up the volume until somebody does.... My volume knob thing goes to 11! So there....

    • Everyone in space can hear a Disaster Area concert.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In Space, no one can hear you tractor beam.

      That's so right!

      Its because of all those other galaxies. Andromeda, Cartwheel Galaxy, NGC 4676. They are ripping us off. They make a fortune with our air. If Trump becomes president, he will bring back the oxygen, he will bring back the nitrogen, and make this galaxy GREAT AGAIN. He loves the Cartwheelians. He loves the Cartwheel people. He has thousands and thousands working for them. Their leaders are too smart for us. Imagine Rubio negotiating with the Andromeda

      • In Space, no one can hear you tractor beam.

        That's so right!

        Its because of all those other galaxies. Andromeda, Cartwheel Galaxy, NGC 4676. They are ripping us off. They make a fortune with our air. If Trump becomes president, he will bring back the oxygen, he will bring back the nitrogen, and make this galaxy GREAT AGAIN.

        He can also built a transparent wall around the earth to keep out those illegal aliens and protect our air supply. Of course, it will need to have a combination. I wonder if he'll use the same combination as the one he has on his luggage?

        • I feel like Futurama had the right idea with Nixon's head being president... just the wrong crazy old president.

  • but not as we know it.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @07:35PM (#50813973)
    "If the Empire is making a tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it."

    Well, that and an atmosphere.
  • I might start with a sound positioning beam until the subject is worn out a little, then transfer to using a light positioning beam to move the subject until the subject is worn out a little bit more than before, then transfer to using a magnetic field to move the subject until the subject is even more worn out, and so on,.. until death.
  • Montgomery "Scotty" Scott invent tractor beam, hmmmm....
  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @08:00PM (#50814139)
    The reference should obviously had been either Dr. Who or Star Trek. Fuck Star Wars, it's the Wizard of Oz in space.
  • In Soviet Russia, you drive tractor!
  • Can it be developed so that it can reduce the speed of incoming projectiles? Like some kind of point defence.....speaker system.....
  • Now we don't need ants to sort tiny screws in space!

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    "If the Empire is making a (sonic) tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it."

    Wouldnâ(TM)t work in space now would it...

  • The crucial element here is the use of waves (in this case sound).

    The basic physics likely points to the possibility of using modulated light waves (or x-ray, gamma ray waves). Those propagate quite well in a vacuum. The question will be how much energy is needed to achieve the necessary wave density to manipulate objects.

    This is a pretty cool, imho.
  • There's an ongoing trend with technologies that are somewhat similar to sci-fi tropes but do not do what those devices do that is worrying these days, recent examples: 1. Hoverboards that require metal surfaces instead of floating over anything (you know, hover?) 2. Tractor beams that are actually high intensity wave generators, need a medium to travel through and do not have anywhere near the level of power and flexibility an actual tractor beam has (it's not even a beam!) This is not to diminish the achi
  • Where is my radio tractor beam? I need to know.

  • If the Empire is making a tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it.

    Darned kids. In my day, sound didn't travel through space

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley

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