This is a piece that I used to do on the forum. Since the news has moved to the blog here I haven’t done any until now. It’s mainly about real science that I’ve projected out for The Artifact and progress either for or against what I’ve predicted. It’s called “Points of Disinterest” because I figured I was the only person that was actually interested so it’s a comment that yes I realize I could be talking to myself here.
In today’s episode, I’d like to talk about something I’ve been watching for a while. Cloaking technologies. Star Trek has ’em, so they’re well known in a science fiction setting but I never thought they’d come anywhere near a real technology. Recently however there have been a number of advances in a technology called Metamaterials that have made progress toward a cloaking device.
So what is a Metamaterial? Well I’m not an expert but from what I understand, they are a structured material that gets an unusual property because of the material used and the shapes in that material. What can these materials do? Well the first time I heard about Metamaterials was when scientists first made one that had a negative refractive index. A refractive index is how much a material can refract or bend energy like light or sound. The thing is that refraction usually only happens in one direction, and this Metamaterial bends it in the opposite direction. This means that electromagnetic energy can be bent in ways not previously possible, like bending light around an object making it invisible. (There are other uses of Metamaterials that I won’t get into here.)
So far Metamaterial cloaking has been accomplished on a small scale in a lab. The big question is, how far will this technology go? Will it be like lasers? At first people were expecting ray guns but we eventually got optical communication, Blu-ray discs and cheap laser pointers. Did lasers change things? Yes they did but in clever low power ways. I wonder what will happen with these cloaking devices? will they eventually make the dream of invisibility possible or will they find applications in bizarre new technologies.
By far the strangest cloaking device so far is one that cloaks a moment of time (up to 120 nanoseconds so far). I’ve read about how this is supposed to work and seriously, I’m stumped. This is one I don’t understand. I’m having a hard time just conceiving of what the effect is. From the description, it hides a moment of time so that it appears like an event never happened. But it does, and I’m confused. I can’t wrap my head around it. If someone could explain that to me I’d be grateful.
A Different Cloaking Device
Here’s a different kind of cloaking device. It uses refraction of hot air to make something disappear. I have the strong feeling that an infrared camera would make this device stand out like a sore thumb but it’s cool to see it happen.
An electric current heats the air around a sheet of nanotubes. The hot air bends light and creates a switchable mirror of sorts. At a steep angle, and with a simple enough background the object vanishes from sight. I can imagine a shield that could be hidden behind with a sight glass to point at who you wanted to hide from and get the angle right.
These are technologies that I did not imagine and I see a big future for, but I can’t imagine where they’re going to go. Do you know? Fill us in by commenting.