The Physics of Invisibility

In the past few years, Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins (hidden at left) have repeatedly demonstrated the value of magical cloaking materials, but proving whether these things are actually possible, sans movie magic, has been more difficult. In a recent issue of the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters, scientists from Zhejiang University and MIT look at the science behind these movie mainstays in attempt to determine whether or not one could ever be made. The cloak would likely be composed of metamaterials, man-made matrices that re-direct electromagnetic waves around an object, instead of scattering them in different directions. Scientists have had some luck deflecting microwave-range radiation using metamaterials, but bending visible light won't be that simple. Still, while it does look like North Face won't be offering invisible ski jackets for another few decades, the good news is that researchers still seem to think these materials can be made.—Gregory Mone