Once relegated to the daydreams of wide-eyed Aladdin fans, flying carpets might actually become a reality one day... sort of. Princeton graduate student Noah Jafferis and his team have created a miniature carpet-like model that floats using "ripple power." How does it work? Here's what you should know:
What the heck is "ripple power"?
Essentially, waves of electrical currents drive air underneath an object and propel it forward. Picture "the way a sting ray wafts through water," says Kevin Lee at PC World. Employing a device that generates electricity that creates those air waves, the team was able to make a 4-inch plastic sheet hover above a horizontal surface.
Does it work perfectly?
Not exactly. It took two years to fine-tune this experiment using a complex array of sensors. And still, Jafferis says it was difficult to control the sheet — which has to stay pretty close to the ground for the air currents to work. Plus, the prototype was only able to move at speeds of about one centimeter per second, says the International Business Times. Though with some improvements, that number could climb to "as much a meter per second."
What other improvements are on the horizon?
A solar-powered version, perhaps, which would be lighter since it wouldn't need a battery, and could theoretically travel longer distances with the sun's aid. But don't hold your breath for your very own magic carpet ride. A human-sized model would need a 50-meter wingspan, too large and cumbersome to open up a whole new world — at least anytime soon.