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Scientists Get One Step Closer to Developing an Invisibility Cloak
Scientists get one step closer to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak by creating a material that can conceal objects, with far-reaching commercial applications.
In an instance of science bridging the gap with fantasy and science fiction, researchers took a major step in creating an invisibility cloak. They made a part of an object disappear by using a special material made of nano particles that can affect how an object’s surface looks.
In particular, researchers from QMUL (Queen Mary University of London), created a cloaking device that makes curved surfaces appear flat to electromagnetic waves.
The co-author of the study, Professor Yang Hao, explained it this way:
"The design is based upon transformation optics, a concept behind the idea of the invisibility cloak. Previous research has shown this technique working at one frequency. However, we can demonstrate that it works at a greater range of frequencies making it more useful for other engineering applications, such as nano-antennas and the aerospace industry."
As Professor Hao indicates, they are looking to find more prosaic initial applications of this device, in microwave tech, acoustics, optics or, for instance, to allow antennas of different sizes, shapes and materials to be installed in all manner of places without becoming eye sores. Will this tech eventually bring us the invisible man of H.G. Wells, Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak or the cloaking spaceships of Star Trek? Imagination can certainly run wild at such news.
This figure from the study shows the curved surface of the object the scientists made to look flat. More specifically: Cosine-shaped surface deformation: (a) top-view and (b) side-view; Schematic indicating the required permittivity values for each layer (c); 3D printed prototype of the cloak structure with cross-section inset (d); Fabricated surface wave structures: (e) plane view of the samples and (f) the three composite structures manufactured.
What they actually did is cover the curved surface with a newly-engineered 7-layer nanocomposite medium, with the electric properties of each layer differing based on position. This ended up cloaking that part by allowing electromagnetic waves to pass through the object without scattering.
The study’s another author, Dr. Luigi La Spada elaborated on the implications of their work:
"The study and manipulation of surface waves is the key to develop technological and industrial solutions in the design of real-life platforms, for different application fields. We demonstrated a practical possibility to use nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, the approach used can be applied to other physical phenomena that are described by wave equations, such as acoustics. For this reason, we believe that this work has a great industrial impact."
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.