May
07
2007

Look out, Arnold, I know your weakness.

Ever since I first saw the action/horror film Predator I have had two objectives in life – one, to challenge Arnold Schwarzenegger in a battle of wits and physical strength, and two, to have my own invisibility suit*. Humble goals, I know, but I like to think that makes them more realistic.

While Governor Schwarzenegger has yet to return my calls, the recent work of some European scientists and mathematicians has brought my second dream one step closer to reality.Invisilibilty Cloak: A conceptual rendering of me wearing an invisibility cloak.
Invisilibilty Cloak: A conceptual rendering of me wearing an invisibility cloak.

Mathematical models and small-scale laboratory tests have shown that by surrounding objects with certain types of “metamaterials,” they could be rendered invisible.

Metamaterials are non-natural materials that gain properties through their structure instead of their composition. So, think of a metamaterial as something like a screen door, which you can see though because it was made with thousands of tiny holes in it, compared to something like plastic sandwich wrap (our “natural material”), which you can see through because the plastic itself is transparent. Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but it helps me get a grip on things.

Anyway, the idea with the invisibility cloak is that the metamaterial would bend electromagnetic radiation (like radar, microwaves, or visible light) around the object, sort of like, as one scientist put it, “river water flowing around a smooth rock.”

Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for Governor Schwarzenegger), the metamaterials required for this are a little more complex than a screen door, and the computer models that much of this research is based on use spherical, stationary objects as ideal candidates for invisibility cloaks. This could change as we are able to produce increasingly complex metamaterials, allowing things like submarines and airplanes** to be rendered invisible, but the days of something as oddly shaped and as mobile as I am having a personal invisibility suit are a long ways off. Shucks.

What do you think about the possibility of objects, vehicles, and maybe someday people being able to turn invisible? Awesome? Scary? Both?

*If you’re over seventeen, and not getting the Predator references, I highly recommend it. For younger invisibility fans, I suggest Harry Potter. For those of you who aren’t into invisibility, maybe Die Hard or Forest Gump would be more your speed – I don’t think there’s anything invisible in those movies.

**For more on invisible airplanes, see Wonder Woman .

Links to more info:
Invisibility at ScienceDaily
Invisibility Cloak Demonstration
Metamaterials

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Invisibility cloaks are popular among Buzz bloggers, it seems. :)

(I admit it--I'd love to be invisible. Although, if I could have any one super power, I think I'd like the ability to change traffic lights in my favor.)

Here are some other cloaking stories from Buzz:

posted on Tue, 05/08/2007 - 10:46am
bryan kennedy's picture

While invisibility sounds rather cool, I'd be pretty creeped out by a military or a police force that actually has this capability.

posted on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 9:30am

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