Editor’s note: WRAL Local Tech Wire is adding sources for news, including stories, photos and graphics produced by the news services of various universities. Such stories will be labeled as UniversityTech and with the appropriate source. By adding stories and information from collegiate news services, LTW will enhance significantly its coverage of scientific and research efforts at regional universities where many of tomorrow’s discoveries are being made and the foundations of new companies are in the process of being created.

Duke University News & Communications

DURHAM, N.C. – Sometimes there is a link between science fiction and science. That’s what The History Channel wanted to explore this month in a documentary on "Star Trek Tech." The show brought the channel to Duke University, where they found research that parallels the cloaking and holodeck technology featured on the popular show.

The show came to the lab of David Smith, whose work with novel electromagnetic materials led to a working cloaking device. Although currently limited to a narrow range of the light spectrum, the device successfully rendered objects invisible to microwaves. Smith, who has written about the similarities and differences between science fiction and fact, says the work represents the most comprehensive approach to invisibility yet realized. While it’s not clear that any device could cloak objects in the visible light, as is used in "Star Trek," the principle behind the work in the Smith lab is the same as in the show.

The cameras also showcased work lead by Rachael Brady in the Duke DIVE (Duke Immersive Virtual Environment). Brady, who heads the Visualization Technology Group, is using futuristic optical technology to create a three-dimensional artificial world, just as in the Star Trek holodeck. DIVE provides a fully enclosed six-sided virtual reality environment. Once again, the research is years away from Star Trek’s holodeck, but it is providing new ways for researchers to interact with 3-D data.

To view the video clip, click on the Duke University link posted with this story.