The search for the perfect invisibility cloak lumbers onward, but that lumbering is starting to pick up speed. We're hearing more and more these days about metamaterials, the possibilities of time cloaking, and other such future-stuff.
By Becky FerreiraPosted 01.13.2012 at 1:12 pm 33 Comments
The science of stealth has long been a matter of fading into already obscure environments—the night sky, say, or the deep sea. But engineers are now developing materials that could hide anything in plain sight. Instead of bending light inward, like water and glass do, these optical metamaterials bend it outward, guiding photons around an object like river water around a stone.
Staring at distant, faint objects to study the origins of the universe requires several layers of engineering skill and design trickery. The people at NASA are no strangers to this, having invented all sorts of new materials to improve telescopes and other observational tools.
BAE Systems's Adaptiv technology enables objects as big as tanks to completely vanish from view--when seen at night with an infrared sensor, admittedly, but that's still a major advantage. An Adaptiv-outfitted tank can change its thermal signature to look like anything from a big rock to a truck to nothing at all, fading into the background and becoming invisible.
A new acoustic invisibility cloak made of a plastic metamaterial makes objects invisible to sound waves, researchers say. It could be used to shield ships from sonar, or build better soundproof walls for concert halls and other spaces. We’ve seen this idea before, but now Duke University researchers have actually built it.
You didn't think the enthusiasm for hacking the Kinect to make it do variously useful and silly things was going to end after two weeks, did you? It's just going to get better, so let's recap with two of the coolest new hacks. One makes you invisible, and one gives you the power of a certain mustachioed plumber.