Invisibility for me ... and for you?

Reply Sat 23 Feb, 2008 06:15 pm
So the WaPo has this story up:

Their Deepest, Darkest Discovery
Scientists Create a Black That Erases Virtually All Light

Researchers in New York reported this month that they have created a paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it, making it by far the darkest substance ever made -- about 30 times as dark as the government's current standard for blackest black.

The material, made of hollow fibers, is a Roach Motel for photons -- light checks in, but it never checks out. By voraciously sucking up all surrounding illumination, it can give those who gaze on it a dizzying sensation of nothingness.

"It's very deep, like in a forest on the darkest night," said Shawn-Yu Lin, a scientist who helped create the material at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "Nothing comes back to you. It's very, very, very dark."

"Very, very, very dark". You gotta love the expert quotes you can get, as reporter, if you go to the very most qualified researchers in the field. :wink:

But why is this so very cool? Cause it can make you.. invisible! Well, maybe:

But scientists are not satisfied. Using other new materials, some are trying to manufacture rudimentary Harry Potter-like cloaks that make objects inside of them literally invisible under the right conditions -- the pinnacle of stealthy technology.

Both advances reflect researchers' growing ability to manipulate light, the fleetest and most evanescent of nature's offerings. The nascent invisibility cloak now being tested, for example, is made of a material that bends light rays "backward," a weird phenomenon thought to be impossible just a few years ago.

Known as transformation optics, the phenomenon compels some wavelengths of light to flow around an object like water around a stone. As a result, things behind the object become visible while the object itself disappears from view.

"Cloaking is just the tip of the iceberg," said Vladimir Shalaev, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University and an expert in the fledgling field. "With transformation optics you can do many other tricks," perhaps including making things appear to be located where they are not and focusing massive amounts of energy on microscopic spots.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies have funded the cloaking research "for obvious reasons," said David Schurig, a physicist and electrical engineer at North Carolina State University who recently designed and helped test a cloaking device. In that experiment, a shielded object a little smaller than a hockey puck was made invisible to a detector that uses microwaves to "see."

The first working cloaks will be limited that way, he said -- able to steer just a limited part of the light spectrum around objects -- and it could be years before scientists make cloaks that work for all wavelengths, including the visible spectrum used by the human eye.

But even cloaks that work on just a few key wavelengths could offer huge benefits, making objects invisible to laser beams used for weapons targeting, for example, or rendering an enemy's night goggles useless because objects would be invisible to the infrared rays those devices use.

Well, read on for the full story..

It even comes with a neat graphic and everything:


But is this really very cool? Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly has his doubts:

When I first read this I thought it sounded very cool [..]. But then I thought twice about it. After all, there are two sides to this (no pun intended): the coolness of invisibility for me vs. the extreme annoyance of invisibility for all the rest of you. How does this balance out?

In my case, pretty clearly on the non-invisibility side. After all, I don't really have much use for being invisible, do I? I work at home, I'm not excited by the prospect of risk-free shoplifting, and it would probably scare the hell out of the cats. On the downside, other people being invisible could become a very serious pain very quickly. Just imagine what Michelle Malkin could do with it.

So here's today's question for you. Not "Would you like the power of invisibility?" Rather, "Would you like other people to have the power of invisibility?" Well, would you?

Well, A2Kers, would you? :wink:
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,146 • Replies: 7
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Reply Sat 23 Feb, 2008 06:42 pm
I'd just get the feeling that there would always be someone snooping. I admit that it would be fun to play with but... not so much fun wondering if someone is in the corner watching without me knowing.
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Reply Sat 23 Feb, 2008 06:56 pm
Yeah, that'd be creepy.

Drum's take is hilarious. :-D
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Reply Thu 13 Mar, 2008 10:35 pm
Do you want me to now give you all a reporting on what I have been observing you doing?
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2008 04:54 am
That might explain Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Imagine a police car painted with that stuff.
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2008 05:57 am
As it happens, i once read a pulp science fiction story about a crook who was using such an "invisibility cloak," which absorbed light and "bent" light so that it would appear that objects were in their normal place, much as shown in the example above. People can conceive of things even when they haven't the technology to accomplish them.

The "hero" of the story was a kid who had figured out that someone must be using an "invisibility cloak" to commit the crimes, because the crimes were always committed at night, indoors (no shadow). So he managed to "unmask" the criminal by setting up a sting. I don't recall, it was probably famously valuable jewels or something of that sort. He had a tripwire set up, which, when it was triggered, sprayed paint in the direction of the tripwire, and thereby revealing the culprit.

There's a problem for every solution.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 07:36 am
An episode of The Shadow, that aired when automatically opening doors were new, presented a fresh challenge for the hero. The criminal figured out that if the invisble Shadow crossed the electronic beam, causing the door to move, that would be the spot to fire upon. I don't recall how the scheme was thwarted.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:27 am
Sounds kind of like the Philadelphia Experiment but less dangerous.

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