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What Would You Do if You Were Invisible?
The question is intriguing, but so is the research being done to make it a reality
Jason Hahn (woowhee)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-29 15:44 (KST)   
What would you do if you were invisible? To many people this is a fun question to throw around in the presence of friends. For some, the answer might be related to satisfying a lusty dream; for others the answer might steer more towards getting sweet and covert retribution; while still for others the answer might lead to sly plans for imperceptible financial gain.

What if this question were to suddenly gain some significance and feasibility? With recent talks of actually making invisibility a reality, this fun question could actually become a real issue for people and their governments to consider.

It has recently been reported that researchers in the United States and England are confident that they understand, in theory, how to create an invisibility cloak, similar to the one that Harry Potter received from his father. They have already begun to work out the basics of the concept, and are asking for help in developing the actual components that would be used to create this invisible cloak.

The materials required would, of course, be man-made. Essentially, the materials would drive light and other types of electromagnetic radiation around the person or object that the cloak is wrapped around. The idea is similar to a river's water flowing around a smooth rock. Light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation would hit the invisibility cloak and be diverted around it, making the person or object quite literally invisible.

"Is it science fiction? Well, it's a theory and that already is not science fiction," said Professor Sir John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London. "It's theoretically possible to do all these Harry Potter things, but what's standing in the way is our engineering capabilities."

Pendry was the first person to think of the idea of metamaterials, which are objects that gain their material properties from its structure instead of the materials that they are made of. He and some of his associates proposed using metamaterials to create an invisibility cloak since they can be tuned and tweaked to shift electromagnetic radiation in any direction. Metamaterials would not reflect light or cast a shadow.

Nader Engheta, a professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, has worked on invisibility using metamaterials. "This is a very interesting science and a very interesting idea and it is supported on a great mathematical and physical basis," Engheta said.

No invisibility cloak has been made yet, but early testing of invisibility technology that can hide microwaves and other types of electromagnetic radiation could be just 18 months away, according to Pendry. "We will have a cloak after not too long."

Pendry also pointed out that "cloak" could be a misleading moniker for the concept. "To be realistic, it's going to be fairly thick. Cloak is a misnomer. 'Shield' might be more appropriate," he said.

Though the idea is appealing to almost any human being, whether they have thought of the possibility or not, it is unlikely that everyday people would be the first to adopt and make use of the technology, or if they ever will at all. The most obvious application for an invisibility cloak would be the use of the technology by military agencies, making the proposed project an enterprise that should receive the support and financial aid of governments around the globe. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (or DARPA) has already voiced their support for the research.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Jason Hahn

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