Metasurfaces Open the Door to Telekinesis and Telepathy With Technology
Stranger Things fans will be familiar with this scene: Eleven, a girl with telekinetic powers, stares intently at a Coke can. Without physically touching the can, she completely crushes it using her mind alone.
Changing objects with the mind has long been a trope in science fiction. Now, thanks to metasurfaces, two studies just showed that it’s potentially possible.
Metamaterials are artificial composites with bizarre optical properties. Often arranged in tandem, they can interact with electromagnetic waves, including visible light, in ways that are impossible for natural materials. This gives them a superpower: they can readily adapt their properties—for example, bending light in different ways—rather than relying on the properties of the materials they’re made of.
Why care? Our brains generate electromagnetic waves as they process information. Depending on the brain’s state—for example, if it’s “relaxed” versus “concentrating”—different frequencies of brain waves take over. So why not use the brain as a source to trigger changes in metamaterials?
In the first study, published in eLight, the team used a brainwave extraction module that allowed volunteers to control a metasurface—a 2D version of metamaterials—with their minds alone. The whole system is wireless and relies on Bluetooth. They extracted brainwaves from the volunteer as she relaxed or concentrated, and through a controller, changed how the linked metasurface scattered light. Not as dramatic as bending a Coke can, sure—but a futuristic demonstration of using the mind to control physical material.