Spaceships can't pull in foreign objects with a almost-magical tractor beam yet, but researchers have been making progress towards that goal. Scientists have now shown that tractor beams are possible, and can actually work. For microscopic objects over microscopic distances at least.
Researchers from the Czech Republic's Institute of Scientific Instruments and Scotland's University of St. Andrews have pulled together an optical field that can pull microscopic objects toward light. Showcased in a recent paper published in Nature, the beam can drag particles around so long as they're small enough and made of the right materials. Obviously applications like pulling ships into some sort of Death Star are out of the question right now, but the tech could have some terrestrial, medical applications when it comes to sorting out and organizing cells based on what they're made of.
NASA threw its hat into this same ring a while ago with an investment to develop similar tech, so maybe these two can put their heads together and start getting a macro version in the works. Then hopefully, we can start wrangling asteroids in short order. Or at least be ready to subdue escaping rebels, when the time comes. [Nature via Engadget]