Scientists Sucessfully Hide Moment in Time

Posted January 20th, 2012 at 11:30 pm (UTC-4)

(Photo: Kate Ter Haar via Flickr)

(Photo: Kate Ter Haar via Flickr)

Scientists have managed to create a hole in time, making it appear as if an event never happened at all.

It’s not quite Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, but researchers at Cornell University demonstrated time cloaking was possible, if only for a fraction of a second.

They managed the feat by creating what they call a temporal – or time related – cloak.

Now, before you surmise science has finally uncovered the secrets of the space-time continuum – and that we may one day edit or eliminate bits and pieces of time – I should tell you this accomplishment was made with a sort-of “trick of the light.”  The experiment dealt with the transport of information by a beam of light.

Dr. Alexander Gaeta, a physics and engineering professor, and his colleagues, developed this temporal cloak by creating a gap in the movement of a beam of light.

The object or event they wanted to hide occurred during that gap. The scientists then put the beam back together again without the gap, effectively hiding the object or event.

Gaeta and his team developed  a time lens, which controls and focuses signals in time, similar to the way a typical optical lens focuses light in space.

With this time lens, the researchers first split the light in time into two parts. Then, by manipulating the wavelength of each beam of light,  they sped up one part while slowing down the other. That created the gap in the beam of light.

Anything that took place during that gap – which the light beam would normally interact with –  was hidden or masked.

Afterward, the two beams of light were reassembled back into one.  This was done by speeding up the part that was slowed to create the gap and slowing down the part that was sped up.

The reassembled beam of light doesn’t show any trace of the gap, and no evidence of the hidden object or that the event took place.

So far, the amount of time Gaeta and his team can mask is incredibly small, clocking in at just 40 trillionths of a second.

As far as future practical applications, Gaeta sees it being quite useful in data transmission.  For example, if you needed to put in an emergency message within the data stream of a modern telephone transmission, you could create this gap, put in your emergency message, transmit it, take it back out and then put the data stream back together without ever interrupting or disturbing it.

Meanwhile Gaeta and his team continue their experiments, hoping to expand the amount of cloaking time and finding new practical ways in which this technology can be applied.

The research was partly funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military.

This weekend on the radio edition of “Science World,” Dr. Gaeta tells us more about his latest efforts to mask time. Tune in (see right column for scheduled times) or check out the interview below.

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include:

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

9 responses to “Scientists Sucessfully Hide Moment in Time”

  1. Ronald Baró says:

    Why are you all still trying to temptiing God in dabbling with this by not asking hisbpermission placing us in further danger of extinction. First it’s that Dangerous Hadron Collider in Switzerland a that can possibly mistakenly open up a black hole that would sswallow us up and now this??!! that can erase moments of time???!!!

  2. Ronald Baró says:

    As much as I have always loved physics and time travel? gentlemen please let’s leave these things alone and let God things to God. He’ll exlpain it and have us experience it anyway.

  3. James Kulacz says:

    @Ronald, please put down the holy books and back away from the science table slowly. The same thing was said about locomotives. I understand this and edit Romance novels. When you have read a science text, then you too will understand. No, the LHC will not bring about a black hole, and bending light does not create time travel. Did God also explain to us mirrors (which also bend light)? We’ve been waiting 6,000 years already . . .

  4. James Kulacz says:

    Think of the experiment this way: two cars are traveling on the same road. One speeds up, the other is slowed. After the first car passes, a family holds a picnic on the road and leaves. The back car then speeds up and the front car slows down until they are together again. There is no trace either of the gap in the cars or the picnic held between them in the information you can gather about the cars.

  5. Ronald Baró says:

    Surely like you said ” bending ligbt doesn’t produce time travel? “That bending”? might to explain the time warp or the suspension of time they have succeeded to do. I would love to see thus done. About waiting 6,000 Years for God to tell us about mirrors? He told only one of his selecr few King Solomon,son of King David about mirrors who used many mirrors in a military campaign to fool and blind enemy troops.

    • James Kulacz says:

      As I explained above as depicted in the article, the “time travel experiment” was done using light bending. It is not difficult to understand. The “scientific claims of the Bible” though have been proved patently false, and using the Bible as a guide to science is no more sensible than using a map of Kansas as a guide to Georgia. As the article notes, light is simply bent around an object, then recombined, thus the object does not appear in any of the information contained in the light. Another experiment of similar nature would be to put a cat in a box, then carry it into the next room and ask a person there what is in the box. Take the cat back to the first room and release it. The person in the other room has no knowledge of the cat because no information was contained in viewing the box.

  6. Phred says:


    I thought God was omniscient and omnipotent. How could humans have gotten knowlege that God did not know precisely what they/we would do with it? Do you really think it is possible for a mere human to “tempt” God – a being who literally has everything? What are you going to use to tempt Him with?

    This (apparent) masking of an instant of time was done with light and how it bends. The moment in time is no more “gone” than you literally having a “blind spot” in the midst of your (mormal) field of vision. You can see the whole thing, but due to how we look at things, there are spots that at any given moment we cannot see. There’s no need to see an eye surgeon.

    If an omnipotent, omnisient, omnipresent God meant that scientific advancement were to stop at the level it was at 2000-3000 years ago, humans could not possibly have learned anything or developed any technology beyond that. We have. So, if there is such an omnipotent, omniscient God, He does not wish to stop it.

    Yet, we are risking our own extinction. Still, even that is within God’s permission and knowledge. Rather than bleeping ourselves out of the time/space continum or creating a black hole that will swallow us up, I would be far more concerned about creating an environmental collapse, or a pandemic, or problems created by an ever-expanding human population,or a nuclear or other WMD-based World War 3 (we’re a little closer to it with both the Turkey/Syria incidents and with the Israel/Iran situation). I’d bet on decaf coffee putting everyone to sleep before I’ll believe that such an apparent warp of time caused by the frequency of light will cause it.

  7. Paul W says:

    Next we will be told that we should not use aeroplanes because god never intended man to fly. Or that using suntan lotion is an abomination. Or that we must not use oil because it is interfering with “god’s plan” in someway or other. And no doubt this hocus pocus can all be backed up with some obscur reference from the book Luditeronomy chapter 38, verses 1 to a million. Claptrap, utter delusional claptrap.

  8. Gary Mueller says:

    How very sad it is to read the pleads of the superstitious who wish to protect us from the wrath of their mountain gods and flying zombie demi gods.
    At this time in mans evolution when light can be bent to fit our needs we are reminded of the man who still sees light as a creation made before the stars.