If I’m right about the following thought experiment, this could have a huge impact on humanities technological advancement.
As usual, I have no way of knowing if the following is original. I’ve placed links to whatever I can find that’s relevant.
A metamaterial is a man-made material that has attributes that aren’t normally found in naturally occuring minerals. Some of these materials have made the headlines in recent years (think “real” invisibility cloaks). Harry Potter aside, they’re pretty useful in a wide variety of areas, including telecommunications.
Now for the thought experiment:
Picture a metamaterial that creates (at some focal point) the simulated effect of a different metamaterial. In other words, we’re simulating a metamaterial using a different one. I’m not sure what to call this. Maybe a meta-metamaterial. Or a meta^2 material.
Building something like this is probably going to be difficult, but I don’t think it is impossible (See edit #1 below).
Why this is useful is that potentially we could use this approach to simulate metamaterials that cannot currently be built.
At the moment, the state of the art appears to be metamaterials that resonate at optical or near-infrared frequencies. That’s on the order of magnitude of Terahertz (or THz), or 10^11 Hz, or looking at it from the perspective of wavelength, 0.1 millimeters.
Using a meta^2 material, we might be able to simulate something that resonates instead at a wavelength that approaches the Planck length.
What I think – and I have no way of proving that I’m correct right now – is that such materials will give us the ability to directly manipulate the fundamental forces of the universe. I’m not the first person to think along these lines. See this article which quotes a paper on ARXIV.
Some examples of what could be possible if we can do this:
- Use the Strong Nuclear Force to build SF-style force-fields. Or industrial drill-bits that make diamonds look as soft as talc.
- Create resonance with gravitational forces. This could allow us to make artificial gravity, or gravity cancellation devices.
- Create extended areas of negative energy density. If Alcubierre is right, that could mean FTL.
- Obviates the need to develop nanotechnology. Why bother building something at nanometer scale, when you can simulate the effect with much less effort, and make it any size necessary?
Edit #1: To clarify (based on some readers comments): what we’re talking about is using either optical or EM interference from a metamaterial to form a waveguide that produces the effect of the second-order metamaterial. In other words, creating a waveguide that doesn’t have solid walls, and then working backwards to create a metamaterial that generates such a condition.
Edit #2: Another relevant link.
Edit #3: I found one paper (horrible translation from Russian) that appears to cover the math behind virtual waveguides. There’s also a lot of work that has been done on plasma-based waveguides (a step in the right direction – not using solids!) over the past decade.
Edit #4: If it is possible to build virtual waveguides, then it probably follows that it is possible to use them to build something like a transistor – only at a sub-atomic scale.