When life imitates art, we get technology like holograms, and Marty McFly's hoverboard (that doesn't move but hovers anyway). So what about the tractor beam? You know, the beam that is able to pull in things from space.
Scientists have followed through on testing the Bessel beam and now say a tractor beam is a very real possibility. Scientists at Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have been able to create a backward motion of particles in but separate from a forward moving beam. They did this on an extremely small scale.
That's not even the end of it. NASA and scientists in Hong Kong tested the Bessel beam in 2011 as well. What exactly is a Bessel beam?
"It's what you get when you pass a laser beam through a cone shaped lens that results in a beam that comes out ring shaped. It doesn't spread out much over long distances, and you stick something in the middle of it and the beam will reform itself slightly farther on."
In NASA's Lori Keesey's words: "According to theory, the laser beam could induce electric and magnetic fields in the path of an object. The spray of light scattered forward by these fields could pull the object backward, against the movement of the beam itself."
"These beams are not very likely to pull a human or a car, as this would require a huge laser intensity that may damage the object," said Heifeng Wang, a project member. "However, they could manipulate biological cells because the force needed for these doesn't have to be large."
So perhaps, no more robotic Canadian arm for the ISS in the future. Use tractor beam instead!