Cornell Scientists Create Invisible Pocket of Time

What if you could throw Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak over time? In effect, that’s what scientists at Cornell University have done, though on a really tiny scale.

The military-funded research created a hidden pocket in time — 40 trillionths of a second — that could one day be used in computer espionage, Bloomberg reports. That’s less than the blink of an eye.

It says of the research, published in the journal Nature:

The scientists took a stream of light and shifted it through a lens, causing some beams to travel faster and others slower. That created a so-called temporal void, where events — in this case, a fast pulse of light — can happen without being observed. When the stream passed through a second lens, no one watching it would know that the light pulse had taken place, the paper said.

The article quotes Martin McCall, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, as saying:

The cartoon version is a robber coming in, opening a safe, stealing and running out, while a closed-circuit television just sees the safe as closed.

Previous research on so-called invisibility cloaks has focused on where light hits in three dimensions; this work deals with the speed at which light moves, The Washington Post points out. This discovery could be used in espionage to allow snooping at data by the U.S. National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency without being detected.

In other cyber protection news, the Federal Cybersecurity Training Event program, kicked off last year by Homeland Security and the State Department, will add virtual worlds to its online training beginning this month, giving participants avatars that operate in a 3D world, according to Federal Computer Week. The Army and Navy also have been experimenting with virtual worlds in their training programs.