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Plan For Cloaking Device Unveiled 342

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the thanks-to-the-romulans dept.
Robotron23 writes "The BBC is reporting that a plan for a cloaking device has been unveiled. The design is pioneered by Professor Sir John Pendry's team of scientists from the US and Britain. Proof of the ability of his invention could be ready in just 18 months time using radar testing. The method revolves around certain materials making light "flow" around the given object like water."
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Plan For Cloaking Device Unveiled

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by HeXetic (627740) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:15PM (#15406561) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new invisible overlords.
  • Tenuous at best (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rethcir (680121)
    Granted I didn't RTFM, but proof of my ability to turn, say, a brick into 20 pounds of diamonds could also be ready within 18 months.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:20PM (#15406576)
    will be pissed. :D
  • by SoVeryTired (967875) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:20PM (#15406577)
    I long for a month where slashdot doesn't announce a new design for a cloaking device...
    • I long for a month where slashdot doesn't announce a new design for a cloaking device...
      Come on.. We have the transparent aluminum. We just need the cloaking device. I'll be dammed though as to why Science keeps on publishing these design though.
      • I don't know why everybody's so excited about cloaking devices. We clearly won't use them because you can't fire weapons when they're engaged and a clever chief engineer or science officer can always figure out a way to detect the ship anyway. On the rare occasion when we actually NEED a cloaked ship, like when we need to go back in time and pick up some whales, we'll just lift a Klingon ship.
  • Ooops! (Score:5, Funny)

    by udoschuermann (158146) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:24PM (#15406601) Homepage
    AP Wire (2019): In the news today, once again the military claims to have "lost" an F-22 somewhere on the grounds of Andrews Airforce Base (AFB). Said Captain J. Andrews (no relation): "I could have sworn I parked the thing right over there. Last night's storm must have blown the locator-ribbon off the nose or something."
  • Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by owlman17 (871857) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:24PM (#15406604)
    This is good if the enemy doesn't have a Comsat or a Science Vessel.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:30PM (#15406647)
    There is a Japanese research group which has a cloaking system (well, technically its more of a very adaptive camoflague -- significant drawbacks, such as the requirement to have a camera focused on the object you want to cloak, make it less than useful for military applications). Its essentially useless currently, but it makes for very fun tech demos.

    http://projects.star.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/projects/MEDI A/xv/oc.html [u-tokyo.ac.jp]

    My favorite one is the breakdancing guy in the bottom video.
    • Is that it's a fraud. There's nothing in those videos that can't be done with traditional "green screen" effects.
    • such as the requirement to have a camera focused on the object you want to cloak, make it less than useful for military applications).

      The US is used to enjoying air superiority, but other militaries might be interested in having an "instant camouflage screen" based on this idea over parked vehicles instead of messing around with nets and paint.

      Maybe the Dutch/German Fennek [army-technology.com] vehicle can be adapted to sort of cloak itself from planes using its periscope.
  • Doesn't this vialate our treaty with the Klingons?
  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:33PM (#15406657)
    In the pr0n business
  • by AlexanderDitto (972695) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:35PM (#15406666)
    I'd like to point out that this is brilliantly advanced... in theory. It's completely possible and will likely be buildable... in theory.

    I RTFA, and frankly, it sounds like confirmation of the idea that mathamatics in general is WAY ahead of the other sciences. Things that are perfectly possible in theory are out of our grasp in the real world... right now, at least.

    Even as a mathmatician, the fact that there's so much theory and so little actual DOING has me worried. There's a tiny flaw in the use of 'metamaterials' to make objects invisible... we don't HAVE metamaterials.

    Though, it beats sticking my head in the sand by a long shot.

    The split ends are horrible.
    • Well, I think that idea is that instead of just blindling pursuing random, poke-in-the-dark type science (Radioactivity & Marie Curie, anyone?), we theorize a possibility first, and then pursue long term, expensive projects to try and acheive it.

      Even if the project merely proves that implementation is practically impossible, the spinoffs can be valuable.

      Given that mankind is not (at this moment) capable of vast scientific leaps into the future, evolutionary improvements via theorizing seems like a valid
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:41PM (#15406990) Homepage

      I RTFA, and frankly, it sounds like confirmation of the idea that mathamatics in general is WAY ahead of the other sciences.

      The thing you need to understand is that mathematics isn't a science. You can create lots and lots of perfectly valid mathematical theories, prove them true, and they don't have one tiny bit of them relevent to the real physical world. A great example of this is being able to cut a sphere in a certain way into an infinite amount of pieces, and reassemble it into a larger volume. It works great as far as the mathematics is concerned. But obviously you can't do that in the real world because real matter can't be infintely divided.

      That's not to say that mathematics isn't usefull. Obviously it's used all the time to make models and predictions. My point is that there's no such thing as mathematics being way ahead of the other science, since mathematics doesn't really relate to the other science directly. As far as science is concerned, mathematics is just another tool in exploring science.
    • I RTFA, and frankly, it sounds like confirmation of the idea that mathamatics in general is WAY ahead of the other sciences. Things that are perfectly possible in theory are out of our grasp in the real world... right now, at least.

      I fail to see the problem. The authors calculate the exact distribution of refraction indeces (they would have to vary) the cloak would have to have in order to work. They leave it to someone else to make a material with these properties. This distribution of labor is extreme
    • We do have metamaterials for microwave wavelengths. If the air force is funding you, this is good enough, because if you can make it work, you have planes that are invisible to radar.
    • Actually, we DO have metamaterials. They even work pretty well for microwave frequencies.
    • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:14PM (#15407459)
      If you thinks mathematics is advanced, just wait until you learn about literature. Now there is a field where they are pushing the boundries. Why I once saw this sentence which described a technology beyond my wildest dreams, I am just really frustrated by how slow the physicists have been in implementing it.
      • If you thinks mathematics is advanced, just wait until you learn about literature. Now there is a field where they are pushing the boundries. Why I once saw this sentence which described a technology beyond my wildest dreams, I am just really frustrated by how slow the physicists have been in implementing it.

        Ain't Sci-Fi a bitch? ;)
  • by cinnamoninja (958754) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:36PM (#15406671)
    They claim that certain "metamolecules" have the power to make light behave like water, and flow rather than scatter. I quote:

    "A little way downstream, you'd never know that you'd put a pencil in the water - it's flowing smoothly again.

    "Light doesn't do that of course, it hits the pencil and scatters. So you want to put a coating around the pencil that allows light to flow around it like water, in a nice, curved way."


    The truth is, water scatters when hitting something, too. It just doesn't *matter*, because all particles of water look the same to us. So, if the water particle that would have been in the middle without the disruption ends up on the far right, it doesn't matter!

    However, we are very, very good at telling different pieces of light apart. At best, this will provide very good camo, where pieces of color from the environment behind you show up on you instead. At worst, the disruption from light working in unexpected ways will make this "invisibility" be a very noticeable beacon. You know how your eyes always flick to something that moves (animated ads, anyone?) This would be like that.
    • So it will look about like the cloaking device in Predator. That's sufficiently cool. They can name it the Kevin Peter Hall Effect.
    • by Salsaman (141471) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:47PM (#15406731) Homepage
      A little further down, they say:

      "What you're trying to do is guide light around an object, but the art is to bend it such that it leaves the object in precisely the same way that it initially hits it. You have the illusion that there is nothing there"

      • I get that. And I don't know enough physics say that it's definitely impossble for magic molecules to do this. However, the analogy they make is blatantly incorrect, so it doesn't lend confidence to their theory.

        We all know about the state of science reporting, though, so it's entirely possible the scientists are on the right track, and just the journalism was bad.

        I actually think something like invisibility can be done someday, but it will involve electronics and computation. Instead of letting light pa
      • #1, that is certainly not how water flows over something.
        #2, how would you possibly account for the disrupted space? Wouldn't any human with good depth perception be able to tell that the "invisible" object is there simply by noticing that a piece of light is recessed? Sure, you could use this to walk across a desert with few interuptions, but in the more likely environments (urban landscapes and jungles) simply standing under a tree would give you away. The tree would appear to be split at the height of
        • Yeah, but the idea is that at any reasonable distance, observers wouldn't notice. Indeed, this is the idea behind all camouflage. And even if the light did appear to come from a slightly different place, it would still be better than the current system of "little splotches of color that might have some hues in common with the area we are fighting in."

          Of course, if the light, like the article claims, would appear to come from the same angle and position as if no object had interferred, then there would be no
    • Bear in mind that the sky is rather drab. Therefore it may be possible to effectively cloak an aircraft in the sky, but not necessarily a ground vehicle in front of a complex background.
    • I think they'd settle for making a radar beam go around an airplane instead of bouncing off it. One photon in a radar reflection is pretty much like any other.
    • Re: My God! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Maxo-Texas (864189)
      All they have to do is cover the planes with animated ads and most of us would never be able to see them!

      My eyes instinctively ignore them these days if the browser doesn't block them to begin with.
    • I don't think you've RTFA. You certainly haven't read the paper.

      At best, this would provide almost perfect camouflage. Bits of colour from the background would not show up on you; from whatever direction you look at it, you would see right through it. The light goes around the cloaked object, but there is no way for you to know that.

      Of course, this only works over a restricted frequency range. In addition, since these metamaterials are usually based on resonant systems and are consequently strongly disp

  • From TFA: These metamaterials can be designed to induce a desired change in the direction of electromagnetic waves, such as light.

    Kinda like, say, glass changes the direction of light?
  • by Timbotronic (717458) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:45PM (#15406723)
    Here's a picture of the prototype...
  • Research abstracts (Score:3, Informative)

    by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:13PM (#15406846) Journal
    The BBC article mentions a couple of articles in the current issue of Science. Here's the text from their research abstracts:

    Controlling Electromagnetic Fields [sciencemag.org]
    J. B. Pendry, D. Schurig, D. R. Smith

    Using the freedom of design that metamaterials provide, we show how electromagnetic fields can be redirected at will and propose a design strategy. The conserved fields--electric displacement field D, magnetic induction field B, and Poynting vector S--are all displaced in a consistent manner. A simple illustration is given of the cloaking of a proscribed volume of space to exclude completely all electromagnetic fields. Our work has relevance to exotic lens design and to the cloaking of objects from electromagnetic fields.

    Optical Conformal Mapping [sciencemag.org]
    Ulf Leonhardt

    An invisibility device should guide light around an object as if nothing were there, regardless of where the light comes from. Ideal invisibility devices are impossible due to the wave nature of light. This paper develops a general recipe for the design of media that create perfect invisibility within the accuracy of geometrical optics. The imperfections of invisibility can be made arbitrarily small to hide objects that are much larger than the wavelength. Using modern metamaterials, practical demonstrations of such devices may be possible. The method developed here can be also applied to escape detection by other electromagnetic waves or sound.


    Unfortunately, I don't seem to have access to the full papers.
    • Okay, I'm a dumb-butt bumpkin, so please excuse this if it's an idiotic question. But do these little blurbs hint at the idea that we could one day generate Voyager'esque holograms this way? I.e. using electro-magnetic fields to guide light and form an image?
  • I have one of those. Now if only I could find it ...
  • this device is going to create smudges and blurs everywhere. As water flows around an object it is also stired, imagine a suspension in the water as it flows, the particles in the suspension will not come back in the same order and place. I imagine the cloaked object will be the right basic color - perhaps with a bit of a shift or blend, possibly with some resemblance to what's behind it, but overall I forsee a blur. Predators cloak is excelent in comparison to this tech and you can see that bastard. I
  • You'd have to cover every part of the spectrum that isn't absorbed by air for this to work.
  • useful for what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:50PM (#15407357)
    Reading TFA, it strikes me as being similar to something posted on /. a month or two ago promising the same thing. TFA is light on details, but if I remember the previous article correctly and they're a similar principle (that's a lot of ifs), then this is only useful for objects about the size of the wavelength of light being used. In other words, objects smaller than 3cm for microwaves, objects about a meter for radio, and about 500 nanometers for visible. That being said, it's useless for military applications since most military vehicles are larger than 1 meter. It's also useless for people since you'd have to be about a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair in order to hide.
  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:31PM (#15407536) Homepage
    I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Romulan, Klingon, Dominion or the Federation cloak?

    If it's the Federation cloak, I want nothing to do with it.

    LK
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Friday May 26, 2006 @06:40AM (#15408559)
    Dang laws of Physics! Getting in the way again.

    It's very unlikely this development will 'cloak" anything.

    Small matter of "index of refraction".

    You'll note the picture in the article shows light rays hitting the object "head-on". What happens to rays that hit at an angle? Even if they exit at the same angle, are they exiting along the same axis, or displaced? The article doesnt say.

    Also most substances have significant reflection at each air-substance boundary-- how will this device handle that issue?

    Nice try, but still quite a long way from making an object "invisible".

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