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Now you see me, now you don’t…

Alex Christie

14 August 2008

Its emerged this week (not that you would be able to see it) that scientists have created two new types of materials that are edging us closer to the invention of that must-have Harry Potter-accessory, the invisibility cloak.  Its been reported that new innovations by scientists at the University of California-Berkeley in the field of ‘meta-materials’ are capable of bending light the wrong way, leaving the potential for the creation of a  matter that is invisible to the human eye.

There are a couple of different approaches at work, but both have properties that are not found in nature – such as negative refractive indexes, which means that rays are refracted on the same side of the material on exposure, rather than being absorbed or permeating  the object. Whilst this is on a nano scale at the moment – and for the foreseeable future, no one is going be hiding tanks from satellites, it does raise the suggestion that some time in the future this could develop further, and there is the possibility for ‘cloaking’ an object, or a person.

And whilst my head is no where near egg-shaped enough to understand the complexities, it does raise a few questions…

Like a true superhero – would you choose to use the powers of such an innovation for good or bad? Whilst keeping it clean, because I know what a lot of peoples first reaction would be (!), I can see the benefits of an invisibility cloak. It would make getting into nightclubs easier when I’ve got trainers on, and I can’t see me paying for the tube any time soon. However, there’s a lot of people out there who might just start engaging in some undetected robberies and a whole lot of industrial espionage. Not to mention the possibilities for terrorists no longer needing to hide a sniper when a world leader walks past…

I would have liked to have put a picture up of what the cloak might look like, then I realised that would be a bit pointless. Oh, and if you are thinking of getting one, just don’t lay it down anywhere and forget where you put it..

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