Any fan of Star Trek knows all about “cloaking” technology. Well, we’re one step closer as of yesterday.
Interestingly, while groundbreaking, the basic concept for cloaking has been worked out quite well in the science fiction community. This experiment seems to confirm the basic approach:
Bend light around you, and there will be no reflection of light for an observer to see. The experiment used the latest technology in metamaterial fabrication, and was limited to the microwave spectrum. It also wasn’t perfect, with some small amount of distortion & reflection.
Still, it’s an impressive demonstration, and it’s extremely likely that this technology will progress with nano-materials to true cloaking capability at a variety of wavelengths, including visible light.
Most of the coverage I’m reading argues that this will be of limited use, largely because unlike Harry Potter, when you bend light around you, none of it is captured resulting in an inability to “see” outside of the cloak. You are invisible to others, but others are invisible to you.
It seems to me that there is an easy solution to this: the device in the cloak needs to be able to capture a percentage of light hitting it so it can “see”, but then have an energy source to duplicate the signal with sufficient fidelity to make it appear that the light was never captured at all.
I love seeing metamaterials play a strong role here. As a trivia point, I originally planned to major in Molecular Biology at Stanford. But my freshman year, I took an introductory course in Material Science & Engineering, and I fell in love with the science. I ended up majoring in Computer Science, but Material Science was my “first love” in the Engineering School.
The advances in materials are every bit as breathtaking as the advances in software these days. There is something magical about creating these materials with almost magical properties.