Small-Scale Invisibility Cloaks
Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
For generations, the topic of invisibility has been of great interest. Although it was once dismissed as science fiction, it has now become reality on a small scale. Physics textbooks around the world must be rewritten and scientists must admit that they were wrong.
For the first time, scientists in Germany announced that they have been able to create a cloaking device that can render a three-dimensional object invisible (at near optical frequencies). Previously in 2006, scientists at Duke University created a substance called metamaterials which could render an object invisible by absorbing all the light that hits it, but only in two-dimensions and only at microwave frequencies.
This time, scientists were able to make a cloaking device that could make a tiny three-dimensional object disappear under infrared light, which is almost in the visible range. Infrared by definition has a longer wavelength at a lower frequency than that of visible light. These scientists in fact made a small invisibility carpet, and if you place an object under this carpet (made of gold), then the bump made by this carpet disappears. Light hits the bump, which modifies the path of the beam so that the beam bounces off just as if the bump weren't even there. This process can be scaled up and in principle you could put one of these carpets over a person, a car, or even a house and make it disappear. This technology of course raises many moral concerns, as discussed in Plato's Republic, which argues that a person with such a power (a ring that makes you invisible) would use it for unjust means if given the opportunity.
There are many hurdles to overcome before we have something similar to and as technologically advanced as Harry Potter's cloak.
a) First, scientists have to make a cloak that works in the visible range, which might come very soon.
b) The object under the bump is very tiny (a few microns wide), smaller than a human hair, so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye. But, in principle, in the future it can be scaled up to cover a person or any object for that matter. The process of building such a cloak would be very expensive and time-consuming, since it's done via nanotechnology.
c) From a distance, the carpet/cloak looks like a mirror. The bump in this carpet/mirror disappears if we use metamaterials. Scientists have to demonstrate this effect without the object looking like a mirror, which may take a bit of time.
This type of research in general is both fast-paced and competitive, and other groups working on invisibility include both UC Berkeley and Cornell. An invisibility cloak (or carpet) similar to the one worn by Harry Potter is certainly a distinct possibility but will take many years of hard work to perfect. Still, it may be here sooner than you think, and as I've stated before, "The more we know, the faster we can know more."
How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.
While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.
A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.
We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.
Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.
Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.