To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series premiere, physics professor (and sci-fi fan) David Grier offers a look into his New York University lab—the birthplace of the real-life tractor beam.
In this video, Grier explains how the technology works and how it could find practical use in everything from environmental science to space exploration.
“When we were first making the tractor beams in the lab, at first all we could do is move really tiny things very, very small distances—just over a micrometer, a millionth of a meter,” says Grier.
“We’re not lifting up an entire battle cruiser and hauling it across space but then once you’ve got centimeters, then to meters, the next step really is kilometers. And that’s what we’re working towards now.”
Grier’s work also appears in a Smithsonian documentary premiering September 4, 2016 at 7 pm.
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