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."
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Journaling can help you materialize your ambitions.
- Organizing your thoughts can help you plan and achieve goals that might otherwise seen unobtainable.
- The Bullet Journal method, in particular, can reduce clutter in your life by helping you visualize your future.
- One way to view your journal might be less of a narrative and more of a timeline of decisions.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.