As excited as I am personally that scientists are closing on creating a real, honest-to-goodness invisibility cloak like we all saw in Harry Potter, I think there might be a problem.
But first, the details…
According to Huffington Post, scientists “have successfully tested an ultra-thin invisibility cloak made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable with visible light.”
Pretty cool, huh?
They note that it may take five to 10 years for this new technology to become practical, but they’re closing in on it, says Xiang Zhang, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
“We do not see fundamental roadblocks. But much more work needs to be done,” said Zhang, whose research was published in the journal Science.
The technology involves so-called metamaterials, which possess properties not present in nature. Their surfaces bear features much smaller than the size of a wavelength of light. They redirect incoming light waves, shifting them away from the object being cloaked.
The cloaking “skin” boasts microscopic light-scattering antennae that make light bouncing off an object look as if it were reflected by a flat mirror, rendering the object invisible.
“The fact that we can make a curved surface appear flat also means that we can make it look like anything else. We also can make a flat surface appear curved,” said Penn State University electrical engineering professor Xingjie Ni, the study’s lead author.
Here’s a very short video of it in action. You might have to watch it more than once to get the full effect.
Again, pretty cool, right?
Now back to my original concern. If and when this invisibility technology does become practical our whole world is going to have to change. I mean, who gets to use this technology? Who is in charge of doling it out? Will ne’er-do-wells be able to get their hands on it and go around robbing banks and shit? Will perverts then be able to just hang out undetected in women’s bathrooms? These are the kinds of things that need to be addressed before we get much further along here on this whole invisibility thing.
And finally, the real important question: can I get one of these invisibility cloaks when they become available? Because imagine the pranks I could pull off!
See what I mean? I’d just be part of the problem too.
Invisible man image by Shutterstock