Though the internet can still provide a certain level of comforting anonymity (hi, trolls!), many people still long for a device that would make them actually invisible. Previous slightly false alarms aside, the latest development in the burgeoning field of invisibility cloaks has would-be invisible men and women profoundly excited:
"Great!" you might be saying aloud. "That looks like the back VHS cover of the 1995 classic Hackers, which is cool, but what does it all mean?" According to the Los Angeles Times, future-minded researchers at UC Berkeley have created a "thin metamaterial" that can successfully conform to irregularly shaped objects and ultimately render them invisible in certain light wavelengths. Compared with previous attempts at bringing Harry Potter tech into the real world, Berkeley's breakthrough provides a far more practical approach to invisibility:
Usually, when light bounces off a three-dimensional object, the light is scattered and the wavefront gets distorted, which is what allows us to see the object’s angles and curves. The new and improved cloak is covered with nanoantennas made of tiny gold blocks of different sizes that can counteract that distortion, making it seem to an observer like the light is coming from a flat surface.
While the current cloak is described as "exceedingly small," the Berkeley research provides the necessary proof of concept to ensure future developments aimed at increasing the cloak's size. Military use of the cloak is reportedly being discussed, though the most exciting prospect for everyday people is its proposed use in clothing and person-specific masks. "This cloak may work with your face, but it doesn’t work with my face because our facial features are very different,” says study author Xiang Zhang. "That is the next question: can you make this cloak adaptive?"