How to Become Invisible
The US Army wants invisibility cloaks. And it wants to test the best ones within the next 18 months. Or at least it did. A request for proposals came out in late April, with a deadline set for June 24. But after the idea got some media attention, the Army quietly deleted that part of its request. Nevertheless, other Army documents demonstrate that such a plan is still active. “Future Modular Force Soldiers will need a light, non-bulky ‘smart’ uniform/suit that will provide a ‘chameleon-like’ camouflage capability,” says one.
The Army already has some invisibility efforts in the works, technically complex and involving “retro-reflective material” and LEDs. But that kind of tech requires a lot of both computing power and electricity. (Despite their limitations, these approaches are pretty cool—see, for example, Susumu Tachi’s “optical camouflage,” the 2012 Mercedes “invisible car” ad campaign, and the planned “invisible” Tower Infinity outside Seoul.)
What the Army was interested in more recently “involves the use of metamaterials to manipulate the paths of light around objects,” it said. Metamaterials, first created in 1999, are structures that do not exist in nature, with the result that they can be used to manipulate laws of physics. Headlines announce their imminent arrival as invisibility cloaks every few months.
But for now, each works with only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.
So you can cloak a single-celled organism, and if you have something a few millimeters in size, you can use calcite to hide it from very specific visible light frequencies.
There are other options. A Chinese team ...
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- Editors’ Note
Issue 25: The hopes and fears of invisibility, Hudson Taylor’s mission at 150, and the mystery of the world. /
- ‘Prayed for 24 Willing, Skillful Laborers’
150 years ago this week, Hudson Taylor launched one of the greatest missionary endeavors in church history amid despair and euphoric faith. /
- The Beginning of All Serious Thought
One’s every encounter with the world has always been an encounter with an enigma that no merely physical explanation can resolve. /
- Forty Years
‘That summer sojourn, / forty years gone’ /
- Wonder on the Web
Issue 25: Links to amazing stuff. /
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