Invisibility Soon Available to Muggles?

Now you see it, now you don't.

By , Columnist


Puppy and sailboat behind Calcite crystal.

If I could have any super power, I would probably choose invisibility. Not just for the occasional sneak into a bank vault or the power to go unnoticed in the boys' locker room, but also for occasional philanthropy. I'd still break into a bank vault, but I'd give half the money to orphanages and animal shelters. Or possibly build a combined orphan and animal shelter so each group could have solid companionship. I would also buy a sailboat. Not for me, for the orphans and puppies.

Until recently, only Harry Potter was lucky enough to have an invisibility cloak as scientists could only conceal objects at the microscopic scale, which, in my opinion, isn't really concealing anything if no one could see it in the first place. Since February, two separate teams have created devices capable of concealing larger objects, bringing a practical invisibility cloak within reach for muggles everywhere.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in England hid a paper clip and MIT engineers disguised a rolled-up piece of paper in a carved-out piece of calcite mineral crystal. Calcite possesses an optical property called anisotropy, which splits up light rays and reflects them in such a way that renders the hidden chamber invisible. A full cloak will require a bit more trial and error though as concealment is dependent on light waves oscillating in the same direction, an effect that isn't easy to reproduce in the wild.

Physicist Shuang Zhang who led the paperclip experiment at the University of Birmingham is hopeful that the technology will be capable of hiding humans in the near future; but until then, orphaned children and puppies will have to go without sailboats.

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Holly is a freelance writer and copy editor with a background in journalism and publishing. Like a grandmother's purse, she is about three decades old, worn around the edges and mostly full of crap.

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