This is what the end of time looks like

It's not very likely that you'll be around to witness the end of time for yourself, but physicists have helpfully devised an experiment to simulate it using metamaterials.

What you're looking at here is a sheet of metamaterial, made up of a special kind of plastic embedded in a grid on top of a gold film. The gold film has two space dimensions and one time dimension, like any surface that's effectively two-dimensional. The plastic metamaterial grid, on the other hand, has been engineered so that as far as photons and electrons are concerned, there are two time dimensions and one space dimension.

With this setup, all you have to do to simulate the end of time is to place the plastic perpendicular to the gold, as in the grid form in the picture. This creates a structure in which one of the time dimensions in the plastic runs into one of the space dimensions in the gold, effectively ending time at that spot. Then you simply fire photons and electrons into the mix, and observe.

So what happened? Uh, well, nothing particularly spectacular, unfortunately. There was "plasmon divergence" at the boundary and photons underwent a "higher harmonic generation." In other words, some photons heated up. Yeah, bit of a letdown there. I'm honestly not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't just a few sweaty photons. A space-time anomaly of some sort would have been much more appropriate, or at least a moderately-sized explosion.

Still, it's pretty sweet that it's possible to simulate (to some extent, at least) things like this in a lab now thanks to the magical mystery of metamaterials. Up next, this same research group (at the University of Maryland) is going to try to simulate the center of a black hole.

Via Wired and Technology Review

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