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The race to build the first Star Trek cloaking device

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The making of a spacetime cloak. Is it possible to make time invisible?

Scientists are trying to make things invisible - they always seem to be announcing some iteration of the Harry Potter cloak. But what if you could basically do the same for time? British researchers think its possible to cloak the fourth dimension to mask time, by manipulating the laws of physics to render actual events invisible to onlookers.

Physicists at Imperial College London call this a temporal void. In theory, a Star Trek device could allow people to disappear and then reappear in a different place without being seen.

"Our spacetime 'event' cloak works by dividing illuminating light into a leading part which is sped up and passes before an event, and a trailing part which is slowed down and passes after. Light is then stitched back together seamlessly, so as to leave observers in ignorance," Imperial College physicist Martin McCall said in a statement.

It's not like the Harry Potter cloaking devices, which try to bend light rays around objects. The spacetime cloak manipulates the light rays to create a gap for some event to take place and then closes the gap so that the observer doesn't notice anything happened. That gap acts like a blind spot for the event.

"Imagine a camera that is on a time delay watching a safe," McCall told The Telegraph. "If a thief opens the safe, steals the money and locks it again in between the pictures being taken it will appear as if nothing has happened."

But its applications go beyond fulfilling a science fiction fantasy. It could be used to advance quantum computing so information can be delivered more securely. Plus, the British scientists think their discovery might inspire others to develop the ultimate spacetime cloak.

However, the technology to make a device like this isn't really all that feasible: Just to make time vanish for a second, you'd need 200 million miles of fiber optic cables.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure