With simple wave generators, researchers can now create a “tractor beam” in water to draw in floating objects, an Australian team reports this week in Nature Physics. The researchers plunged various shapes in water and recorded the resulting flow patterns with a high-speed video camera. Based on the observations, they worked out the size and frequency of waves required to move a floating pingpong ball around a water tank at will. No mathematical theory can explain the experiments as yet, but the researchers believe their technique can be used to confine oil spills and manipulate small boats.
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