Finally, An Invisibility "Cloak" That Can Be Available To All!
When J. K. Rowling conjured up the invisibility cloak to help her star wizard Harry Potter escape from sticky situations, she would have never guessed that scientists all over the world, would start scrambling to create a real one. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts. However, they all entail the use of super expensive materials and involve complicated methods, which means they are of no practical use.
That is the reason this latest version that was unveiled on September 25th, by University of Rochester physics professor John Howell and graduate student Joseph Choi, is causing so much excitement. The "Rochester Cloak" has been created using readily available lenses making it affordable and fairly easy to build, However, before you get ideas of draping yourself in one like the young wizard did, the invisibility device is not a "cloak" in the conventional sense.
Rather, it is a cleverly arranged array of four lenses that bend light such that any object placed in-between, becomes "invisible". The researchers say that this simple device is superior to any that is currently on the market. That's because most of them work only when the viewer is watching the object directly. Any shift in angle, and the object becomes apparent. Another common problem is that the background shifts along with the viewer's perspective making the presence of a cloaking device very obvious.
None of this happens with the Rochester Cloak. By determining the most effective lens type, appropriate power requirements and calculating the optimal distance between the four lenses, the researchers have been able to create a device that will make an object "invisible" from all angles, whilst leaving the background undisturbed. The best part is that the size of the Rochester cloak is only limited by the size of the lens. This means that it can be used to cloak large objects.
While this cloak may not be suitable for making humans disappear, Howell believes that it has a variety of practical applications. Surgeons could use it to "look through their hands" and see what they are operating on, while drivers of heavy load trucks would be able to peer through the blind spots on their vehicles.
The researcher says he first became interested in invisibility devices, whilst teaching his kids simple cloaking tricks with mirrors (similar to what magicians use), in the summer of 2013. (see videos below)
While Howell and Choi have a patent pending on a sophisticated version of the Rochester cloaking device, the team has been generous enough to share the secret of how to build a working version for school or home, which they estimate will cost less than $100 USD. Be sure to check it out by clicking here: www.rochester.edu.
Resources: news.yahoo.com, ign.com, rochester.edu, endgadget.com
Reading Comprehension (3 questions)
- What is the problem with the invisibility cloaks that have been created in the past? What makes the Rochester cloak different?
- What are the two ways in which the Rochester cloak is superior to prior versions?
Critical Thinking Challenge
Can you think of another situation where the Rochester cloak would be...