Can 'Invisibility Cloaks' Protect Buildings From Earthquakes?

By Meera Dolasia on February 17, 2012

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Scientists have been intrigued with the concept of making objects and even events disappear ever since J.K. Rowling planted the seed with Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. They have had limited success in both so far, by manipulating light waves - bending them to make objects invisible, and making events disappear by changing their speed. Now, some mathematicians are proposing the same principle to protect buildings from earthquake damage.

The bold idea is the brainchild of a team of researchers led by Dr. William Parnell from the University of Manchester. Their proposal, which so far is largely theoretical, is based on changing the course elastic or seismic waves, similar to what scientists have done with light waves.

The researchers believe that if large buildings in earthquake-prone regions are padded with pressurized rubber at their bases, it could keep specific types of elastic waves from traveling through the ground, which in theory would result in the waves traveling around the building, rather than through it.

While it may sound like science fiction, the idea behind it is not too far-fetched, because of the way seismic waves travel through the ground. While there is no stopping them when they are rippling through dense rock and soil, the waves get deflected when they encounter any pressurized object and end up going around them instead of through them, similar to how light waves behave through a prism or water.

So, if we placed a giant rubber padding filled with air or some pressurized fluid around the foundation of any structure, it should in theory, be able to deflect the seismic waves, making the building invisible and therefore, invincible, when faced with even the largest shakers!

While it would be impractical to cloak every building with rubber, it would certainly help to protect important ones like nuclear power plants, thus averting the recent Japan-like crises. Though scientists have a long way to go before this becomes a reality, the fact that it is even a possibility, is quite exciting.


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  • darren commonWednesday, January 7, 2015 at 7:56 am
    this is cool
    • 12jm
      12jmTuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:39 am
      • 10jk
        10jkWednesday, April 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm
        Cool beans!
        • 12jm
          12jmTuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:40 am
          I want one now. cool beans indeed.
        • hannaFriday, March 7, 2014 at 11:36 am
          • sidou
            sidouThursday, September 12, 2013 at 10:39 am
            Wow! i learned a lot .First i learned that something from Harry Potter could protect a building from an earthquake , that is also one of my questions and interests.I also learned that pacific places have more earthquakes than other places. I think this artical was very interesting.
            • mystrous manMonday, September 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm
              i want a cloak, or else...
              • little lemonTuesday, August 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm
                what does theoretical mean
                • tiernan7681
                  tiernan7681Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm
                  i never knew about this it is so amazing just a really really really wow!!!!!!!!!
                  • ElyasTuesday, August 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm
                    i thought invisible things were not real
                    • ruaryWednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm



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