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Invisibility Possible With Superlenses

Professor Graeme Milton (Utah University) and Nicolae-Alexandru Nicorovici (Sydney University of Technology) claim that small objects could be rendered invisible by superlenses. They make their claim in a paper to appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society today.

According to The Guardian, the two professors have calculated that invisibility could be achieved for certain wavelengths of light, under particular circumstances.

The cloaking device relies on recently discovered materials used to make superlenses that make light behave in a highly unusual way. Instead of having a positive refractive index - the property which makes light bend as it passes through a prism or water - the materials have a negative refractive index, which effectively makes light travel backwards.

Prof Milton's team calculated that when certain objects are placed next to superlenses, the light bouncing off them is essentially erased by light reflecting off the superlens, making the object invisible.
(From Now you see it, now you don't...)

Russian physicist Victor Veselago first theorized in 1967 that materials with a negative index of refraction were possible. It wasn't until last year that such substances were actually created. The real use of thes materials is that they can be used to create "superlenses" able to view images that are up to ten times smaller than previousl possible with conventional lenses.

Nicorovici and Milton both state that their work is theoretical at this point; the mathematics seems to work for tiny objects like a speck of dust, and for only one frequency of light.

Everyone remembers the invisibility shield or "cloaking device" from the original Star Trek television show from the 1960's. However, invisibility cloak sf pseudoscience has been around for much longer than that.

In his excellent 1931 novel Brigands of the Moon, author Ray Cummings writes about an invisible cloak:

The invisible cloak. We laid it on my grid, and I adjusted its mechanism. I donned it and drew its hood, and threw on its current.

"All right, Anita?"

"Yes"

"Can you see me?"

"No." (Read more about Ray Cummings' invisible cloak)

See related articles here and here. Thanks to reader Winchell Chung for contributing the tip and the references for this article.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/3/2006)

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