They’re making prototype cloaks of invisibility, you know.
In real life.
Oh, yes. Because light travels a certain path: and they’re developing metamaterials which can mess with the creation and travel of light waves. They can actually shield something from view.
It is still there: it has not disappeared. It’s just that the waves are guided around them without being affected but the object in question.
So far, groups of scientists in Germany and at Caltech, Academic home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have managed to divert light rays around a tiny eight inch structure of copper rings, according to eminent Science writer Micho Kaku in the New York Times.
“You shine microwave radiation on it,” he writes, “and the microwaves flow around the object and come out the other end. Just like a boulder in a river, downstream from the boulder, you don’t even know there was a boulder upstream.”
But that was just the proof of principle, done with microwaves. They’re a long way off cloaking a whole human.
Which is a shame, because can you imagine the uses to which we could put real invisibility cloaks?
Though people have been employing ingenious ways to remain invisible for a very long time. Yesterday I was talking to someone I have known for a year or so now: we play the flute together. Resembling a diminutive Disney princess with tumbling chestnut hair with an accent straight out of the top drawer of English society, she dresses impeccably. She has that special something.
And yesterday, talking to her in the green room just before the concert, I learnt something to help me see her in a new way.
She has a very English name. “It’s a new name really, though,” she confided. “My grandparents took it when they came to Canada.”
Your grandparents emigrated to Canada? What an audacious move for a family to make, I marvelled.
And then she told her forbears’ story. It was the story of thousands of aristocrats at the beginning of the twentieth century. For they were Russian, and the 1917 revolution brought only terror for them.
The canny ones managed to flee in time. Her people were among them.
The Russian aristocracy were hated with a revolutionary zeal which went beyond borders, my friend told me. Even when they were out of Russia, they needed to remain invisible.
And without invisibility cloaks they chose another way to evade the notice of anyone who might wish them harm: they would take another name.
“They might glance at a matchbox on the ship and lift the name from the makers of the matches, and take it as their surname,” she told me, “or as the ship came into port they would take the name of a factory they sighted on a hill nearby.”
So, she went on, there are whole communities where one name – a suitably Anglo-Saxon name- might be very common indeed because hordes of Russian emigrants assumed it with the desperation of one who needed an invisibility cloak.
And my friend stands as proof that that primitive form of invisibility must, in some way, have worked.
There are many other ways to stay invisible without the cutting edge technology of metamaterials: but it seems possible total invisibility might be in the offing.
I wonder, if you had one: what would you use yours for?