If you watched Back to the Future over the holiday weekend and wished the flux capacitor was a real thing so you could travel through time, we have sorta good news. Scientists from Australia and Switzerland have proposed a real-life flux capacitor -- but you won't be able to travel back to a high school dance in the '50s with it.
The device is a new type of electronic circulator, which can control the directional movement of microwave signals. The scientists, who published their research in Physical Review Letters, have proposed two different potential circuits -- one of them borrows the design of the three-pointed flux capacitor Doc Brown and Marty McFly used to travel to 1955 and 2015 in their DeLorean.
The circulator, according to the Center for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (which was involved in the study), "uses the quantum tunneling of magnetic flux around a capacitor, breaking time-reversal symmetry." This means "signals circulate around the circuit in only one direction, much like cars on a roundabout," Professor Tom Stace of the University of Queensland said. As such, the proposed device will be a boon for quantum computing, where researchers need to direct signals with precision.
What, you might ask, is really the point if you can't go make a bunch of bets on sporting events that have already happened? In addition to paving the way for quantum computing, this technology can lead to better radar as well as improved WiFi and mobile antennas. Maybe that's not quite as exciting as time travel or even power-lacing shoes. However, it sure beats getting your dad to beat you up while you make a move on your mom. (It's such a weird, perfect movie.)
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