Sue Storm, the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman
I always just assumed an invisibility cloak was something relegated to Marvel Comic’s The Hood, the Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman or some Tony Stark Iron Man development. Apparently the technology of comic books is not so far from scientific developments in today’s real world.
Anil Ananthaswamy posted a piece on the New Scientist website this week about advancements in what innovators term “optical camouflage technology”. Researchers at Duke, UC Berkeley and University of St. Andrews are hard at work are using “metamaterials”, or materials with strong electromagnetic properties with a negative refraction index. From what I’ve read in the linked reports on the New Scientist piece, light does not reflect or refract but instead bends around these materials rendering them “invisible” to our visible spectrum. Wait a second, this sound like something from TV’s Lost!
However, we are still far from Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. Today’s cloaking technology works primarily on 2D objects. As Ananthaswamy explains, “[the] first cloak could only hide two-dimensional objects viewed from specific directions – and only if they were ‘viewed using one particular microwave frequency. Producing a cloak to hide objects from visible light, which has a wavelength several orders of magnitude smaller than microwaves – let alone cloaking objects when viewed from any direction – seemed a more remote possibility”.
As New Scientist reports, 3D cloaking is currently the project that scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany are working on. If comic books are any indication of scientific advancements of the future, I expect Pym Particles that allow humans to radically alter their size to be developed by 2020.