Romulans Watch Out!


The Federation (OK, 21st century Earthling scientists) have found to a way to make objects invisible, thus creating their own cloaking devices. Admittedly, the new invisibility shield will hide only very small objects right now, but human ingenuity should never be underestimated.

NEXT: Defining Middle Eastern Success

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  1. I found this to be moderately amazing —
    Not the Nature article about an electronic technique to make an object invisible,
    but that anyone would spend so much time setting up a multi-page website for a fictional race from an old, mediocre TV show.

    Now, if someone were to develop a TARDIS, well that would be truly amazing.

  2. Maybe they can use it to make the national debt vanish!

  3. Question from a universal nerd to a physics nerd:

    Wouldn’t something that doesn’t reflect light simply appear black? How would it be truly “invisible”?

  4. Just to add a bit more information, that isn’t in any of the blurbs clearly.

    What the system actually does is to make the signature of an object at some particular wavelength small. So for example an object can be made to not show up in red, but you would still see it as blue/green. Also the size of the object hidden needs to be close to the wavelength of the light, since visible light has a small wavelength only very small objects can be made invisible to red (or green or blue) light. The proposed technique would prove much more useful for hiding objects from radio imaging.

    For actually making things disappear from human vision the chameleon approach is much more promising.

  5. Invisibility to the human eye is pretty cool, but stuff like thermal imaging, motion detection, and radar/sonar sorta makes it moot.

    Now, if they could develop some way to cast shadows over the minds of men, particularly the evil-hearted..

  6. Next stop: Girl’s Locker Room!!!!

  7. Mr. NG, the real obstacle in that next breakthrough is the evil-heart detector. Note that the US government claims to have such a device, but its claims are disputed.

  8. Now, if I remember correctly, The Enterprise defeated General Chang’s cloaking device by locking photon torpedoes onto the Klingon ship’s gaseous emissions. So this whole experiment is moot unless we can reduce gas emissions from cloaked spacecraft.

    When, oh when will the Klingons learn to adopt fuel-cell technology?

  9. Cloaking devices? BAH! Give me a Black Globe Generator any day.

    (Obscure reference.)

  10. Akira – I got it, I got it!

    We had a years-long running Traveller game, I had a super-cool character who prolonged his life with anagathics, and we finally got a black globe generator from a cache of ancient’s tech. We were some ass-kicking sob’s in that game!

    And yes I’m a geek, but prefer to simply be called a freak!

  11. I would say that beyond whatever military or commercial applications this might have, it also has interesting personal privacy implications.

  12. My initial take is that this has zero application to macroscopic objects.

    My other initial impression is that this might be another tool in the arsenal of ways to defeat the diffraction limit in lithography.

  13. Thoreau,

    In the visible spectrum, the application to macroscopic objects is close to nil. Radar wavelengths might be another story, though. Non shape specific stealth, perhaps? Satellites you can’t find? More scarily, untrackable ballistic missiles?

  14. If I walked around in one of those blue suits, people would see me as Gollum, right?

  15. Gary got me thinking … for making things invisible in the “visible light” spectrum, it sounds like it can only work for very small objects.

    Cameras can be made very small.

    No, wait — they say the object would have to be about the same size as the wavelength of the radiation from which it’s being cloaked. I looked up the wavelength of visible light, and that’s “between 400 and 800 nanometers.” A nanometer is 1-billionth of a meter, which is way effing small. To be made invisible in that range of light, an object would have to be so tiny it’s pretty darn near invisible already.

    Looks like it’s more applicable as a kind of radar cloak. Radar uses radio waves, and those would be from a few meters to a few hundred meters in size, I think.

    Moving on … the fact that the process essentially makes objects “look” even smaller, to the point where they are difficult to detect, also sets me thinking.

    Least popular application for this technique: condoms.

  16. Jason-

    I don’t know how well it would work for macroscopic objects at longer wavelengths. My initial understanding (which could easily be wrong) is that this is only useful above the plasma frequency of the electrons in the shell material. I don’t know of any materials that have plasma frequencies in the RF or even microwave.

    Then again, I could easily be wrong on that.

  17. The Romulans are going to be so pissed. Don’t those misguided scientists know a Fed cloaking device is a treaty violation?

  18. Oops, looks like they might be able to do this with longer wavelengths after all, using “metamaterials.” Or so says Pendry. And Pendry usually seems to know what he’s talking about when it comes to optics in complex media, so I’d be inclined to believe him.

  19. Don’r worry, MJ. After Braga finishes up Enterprise, the Treaty of Algeron will be suitably retconned. 🙂


  20. Mr. NG, the real obstacle in that next breakthrough is the evil-heart detector. Note that the US government claims to have such a device, but its claims are disputed.

    Actually, when GW Bush stopped at the Cleveland Clinic a few weeks ago to “promote medical technology”, he was actually screened with the evil-heart detector. Indeed, his results were positive.
    No word is out yet on when the device will be made available to we, “the little people”.

  21. This thread has really opened my eyes to what huge dorks some of you really are.

  22. I guess I meant to say “us, the little people”….correct case agreement…paranoid that Pedant might catch me in a grammatical error….[nervous laughter]

  23. This thread has really opened my eyes to what huge dorks some of you really are.

    LOL — guilty as charged, cool girl… I mean, yikes, a girl!

    (Hey, the LP’s presidential candidate last year was a computer programmer. What did you expect?)

  24. (Hey, the LP’s presidential candidate last year was a computer programmer. What did you expect?)

    That candidate has strangely more in common with me than I suddenly feel comfortable with. Jinkies!
    (or is Zoinks more appropriate in this context?)
    (Pedant! I have a question for you….)

  25. smacky (cool girl),

    Well, I guess you haven’t read this thread, where kwais made a similar observation. Yes, some of us are pretty dorky / nerdy / geeky (I consider myself one of the dorky / nerdy / geeky ones, so I don’t see it as an insult.)

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