Thursday, October 19, 2006

Invisibility cloak a possible reality?

If it becomes a reality, I want one of these:
A cloaking device.

I posted about this several months ago and am excited to see that scientists are seriously pursuing this! Of course, it could be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on who has one, and what it is used for. In the Star Trek television series fans can see what the good guys do with it, and what the bad guys like the Klingon's use it for. Too bad we have to worry about that shit in light of something truly remarkable. Edit: Tommy reminded me that the cloaking devices were first introduced and used by the Romulans (in the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".) The device was next seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock being used by Klingons.

Cloaking device works, sort of, scientists say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British scientists said on Thursday they had found a way to hide an object from microwave radiation in a first step towards making a what they hope will be an invisibility cloak.

Such a device could be used to elude radar, but the researchers, like many scientists, are not working with any particular goal in mind but hope its uses will become apparent later."It's not quite Harry Potter, ," said David Smith of Duke University in North Carolina, referring to the child's fictional character who can conceal himself in a magical cloak.

"It's not exactly perfect -- we can do better -- but it demonstrates the mechanism, the way the waves swirl around the centre region where you want to conceal things," he said.

The cloaking device relies on new, laboratory-made materials called metamaterials, which can decrease both the scattering caused by a solid object and the shadow it casts.

Every solid object scatters radiation that hits it, from microwaves through to visible light. It is this scattering that allows objects to be seen, whether with the eye or using radar or ultrasound.

In this case the cloak is quite thick, Smith said -- twice as big as the 6-inch (15 cm) copper tube it obscures. The materials are arranged in concentric rings.

In May the same team of researchers reported on their theory, and it took them just a few months to demonstrate it. The key is the metamaterials, which resemble a circuit board, Smith said.

"The material ends up being very complicated and not something you can make using materials that are lying around, like plastics or ceramics," Smith said in a telephone interview.

Their device is small, with an outer diameter of about 12 inches (30 cm).

The first cloak was a two-dimensional version and researchers have already started work on a three-dimensional version. They also want to broaden the range of wavelengths that it can block, although making something invisible to the human eye would present a much greater challenge.

"It is very unlikely that we could do it with this technology in the visible (spectrum)," Smith said. It would have to be scaled down to nanotechnology levels, but the metals involved behave differently on that scale, he said.

Microwave cloaks might be useful for eluding radar, said Costas Soukoulis, a theorist the U.S Department of Energy 's Ames Laboratory in Iowa. "This is very, very important that experiments have produced what theorists had predicted," Soukoulis told Science, which published the findings.

The researchers are funded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA and the design is based on a theory proposed by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London. The metamaterials bend the electromagnetic waves, in this case microwaves.

"The waves' movement is similar to river water flowing around a smooth rock," said David Schurig, also of Duke.


Tommy said...

Darnit Stardust! It was the Romulans who had the cloaking device. You need to brush up on your Star Trek knowledge girl! :-)

Stardust said...

tommy - You are right...the Romulans had it first, the Klingons got it later. ooops...I will make an edit. Thanks!

Tommy said...

I'm only knowledgeable about the original Trek. I never followed the later incarnations all that much, except for some of TNG. Never got into Deep Space 9, Voyager, and I only watched a couple of episodes of Enterprise because I had the hotties for the cute Asian lady.

Tommy said...

Actually, what the article makes me think of is the alien in the Predator movies. The Predator's camoflauge (hope I spelled that right!) was designed to bend light or something like that.

Stardust said...

tommy - Deep Space Nine was ok, but I just could not get into Voyager. For one thing, and I know it is a trivial thing, I could NOT stand Janeway's voice...when she shouted "Battlestations" it just grated like nails on a chalkboard. I can't stand that Neelix character, either. He was like Janeway's annoying little chef-pet.

The old series is the best. I didn't like Next Generation at first because of a prejudice thing...but grew to like it as I watched each episode. My favorite character is Q.
Of the old series, Spock was always my fav.

Stardust said...

The old series is the best. I didn't like Next Generation at first because of a prejudice thing.

meaning I was prejudice against it because it wasn't Captain Kirk and the was new stuff.

Stardust said...

Actually, what the article makes me think of is the alien in the Predator movies. The Predator's camoflauge (hope I spelled that right!) was designed to bend light or something like that.

tommy - yeah, it does kind of like that, isn't it.

Tommy said...

Speaking of prejudice, my dad was a NYC police officer and something of an Archie Bunker type. He would often use the n-word and other derogatory terms when talking about black people. My two older brothers were also racist towards blacks and other non-white peoples, but for some reason their racism did not rub off on me. I like to think that a big reason for it was because I had a big crush on Lieutenant Uhura. ;-)

Stardust said...

tommy - I admired the character of Lieutenant Uhura while growing up. I thought how cool it was that a woman could play a character that had such an important rank in a star fleet.
Star Trek was great the way it promoted ethnic diversity and was one of the first to promote multi-culturalism.