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Twisted Physics

Things That Go Bang

26 Aug 2009, 21:49 UTC
Things That Go Bang
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There's an intriguing new paper on the arXiv this week that claims to have found a mathematical link between exotic "metamaterials" and the fabric of spacetime -- specifically, how both interact with light. This is more interesting than it might seem at first glance, because whenever you have two systems that are basically identical in terms of equations, you can measure the properties of one and deduce similar properties about the other -- even if that other thing is, well, the Big Bang itself.Take the physics of superfluid helium and the theory of general relativity, for example. Scientists often use this as an analog to map general relativity into a condensed matter system; they solve the problems in the more accessible superfluid system and then extrapolate that to general relativity. And I wrote a few weeks ago about creating analogs of black holes and event horizons.Now a physicist at the University of Maryland named Igor Smolyaninov has found a similar analogy between general relativity and metamaterials. These are an exotic class of materials first discovered about 10 years ago that have extraordinary capabilities to bend light in new ways (eg, they can be engineered to have a negative index of ...

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