Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas have hijacked one of nature’s most intriguing phenomena — the mirage — to make an invisibility cloak. It can hide objects from view, works best underwater and even has a near-instant on/off switch.
To understand how it works, you need to first grasp the basics of the mirage effect. This unusual experience, sometimes seen in the desert or on hot roads during the summer, can trick your brain into seeing objects that aren’t really there.
It happens when a big change in temperature over a small distance bends light rays so they’re sent towards the eye rather than bouncing off the surface. So if you see a pool of blue water in the middle of the desert it’s just the blue sky being redirected from the warm ground and sent directly into your eye. Your brain, being the clever little computer that it is, swaps this mad image out for something more sensible: a pool of water.
With that in mind, the researchers wanted to find a material that has an exceptional ability to conduct heat and quickly transfer it to surrounding areas to mimic the light-distorting temperature gradients of the desert. That material, they found, was sheets of carbon nanotubes.
The nanotubes — one-molecule-thick sheets of carbon wrapped up into cylindrical tube — have the density of air but the strength of steel. They’re also excellent conductors, making them an ideal material to exploit the “mirage effect.”
Through electrical stimulation, the transparent sheet of highly aligned nanotubes can be quickly heated to high temperatures. By transferring that heat to its surrounding areas, a steep temperature gradient is generated, which causes the light rays to bend away from the object concealed behind the device. Therefore, the object appears invisible.
Therefore, HOLY SHIT CLOAKING DEVICES EXIST NOW. KIND OF. There’s just insanely hot. Still, all we need to do is to make it wearable, then apply this tech to buxom women in lingerie and we’ll officially have created Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. Truly, it is a glorious time to be alive. (Via WWTDD)
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.