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Rochester Scientists Invent a Functional Cloaking Device

It’s a great time to wish you were invisible. Well, no, I’ve been a teenager—I suppose it’s never a great time to wish you were invisible. But it’s certainly an exciting time to work on invisibility technology, because for the first time in human history we’re really, really close to making invisibility happen. We’re close with nanomaterials. We’re close with chromatophoric pigment. And now, scientists at the University of Rochester—following the example set by centuries of stage magicians—are getting there using a network of four ordinary lenses:

“To test their device, they placed the cloaked object in front of a grid background. As they looked through the lenses and changed their viewing angle by moving from side to side, the grid shifted accordingly as if the cloaking device was not there. There was no discontinuity in the grid lines behind the cloaked object, compared to the background, and the grid sizes (magnification) matched. The Rochester Cloak can be scaled up as large as the size of the lenses, allowing fairly large objects to be cloaked.”

The Rochester cloak is really about creating invisible spaces in which people and objects can be hidden; it’s not likely to help us sneak around from place to place without being seen. This is probably for the best—we don’t want birds flying into us all the time—but it does leave room for other, more ambitious invisibility proposals to pick up the slack.

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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