Real life imitating Harry Potter?
The first steps toward creating an invisibility cloak, a la Harry Potter, have been made at the University of Rochester. The “Rochester Cloak” is cheap, easy to make, and comes with instructions from the inventors about how to make your own. The applications are endless, and most are ethically troubling: disappearing while attending a boring party, eavesdropping at a business meeting, conducting true, anonymous research. I suggest we get out in front of this now and begin discussing what will soon become a real issue: When (not if) we can become invisible, what will we do this super power? And for educators- Is it ever okay to be invisible at school?
Posted By Sherwen Mohan
Hats off to scientists at the University of Rochester in New York, who have managed to produce a cheap ‘invisibility cloak’ effect using readily available materials and a lot of clever thinking. Through a combination of optical lenses, any object that passes behind a certain line of sight can be made to disappear from view.
‘The Rochester Cloak’, as it’s being dubbed, uses a simplified four-lens system that essentially bends light around any objects you put into the middle of the chain — you’re able to see the area in the background as normal, but not the item in the foreground. According to its inventors, it can be scaled up using any size of lens, and the team responsible for the setup has used standard, off-the-shelf hardware.
Related: Duke University researchers have created the world’s first acoustic invisibility cloak
“People have been fascinated with cloaking for a very long time,” said John Howell, a Professor of Physics at the University. “It’s recently been a really popular thing in science fiction and Harry Potter… I think people are really excited about the prospect of just being invisible.”
“From what we know this is the first cloaking device that provides three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking,” said doctoral student Joseph Choi, one of the team who worked on the project, when speaking to Reuters. “I imagine this could be used to cloak a trailer on the back of a semi-truck so the driver can see directly behind him. It can be used for surgery, in the military, in interior design, art.”
What makes this system so interesting is that it’s simple, inexpensive and capable of working at multiple angles, as long as the object remains inside the series of lenses. Howell and Choi say it cost them $1,000 to get all of the necessary equipment together, but it can be done more cheaply. A patent is pending for their invention but the pair have put together instructions on making your own Rochester Cloak at home for less than $100.
[Header image courtesy of the University of Rochester]