Maybe Helium should start a "What will they think of next?" category. Really, it would make sense. The 21st Century is shaping up to be an era that's bringing everything that was once exclusively in the realm of science fiction into the world of reality.
The latest mind-boggling technology is a new device that will eventually permit people and objects to physically disappear. No, it's not a trick that Criss Angel just brainstormed or something David Copperfield dreamed up.
How it works
A team of UK scientists have created a flexible film-like material made of tiny cells called nanostructures that becomes what is called a "metamaterial." The new material created by the team is called "metaflex."
Although metamaterials are not a new technology, the ones in the past worked only in the infrared light spectrum. This new metamaterial can manipulate visible light and effectively make them invisible to the human eye. It's a huge step forward towards feasible human "cloaking" devises.
Stealth aircraft, stealth ships, and now…stealth humans?
Calling it a huge step forward, physicists say they have been able to bend light. The hard science behind the breakthrough appears in a paper published in the "New Journal of Physics."
Dr. Andrea Di Falco of St Andrews University, the author of the paper, is quoted as saying, "The first step is imagining first of all that this could be done."
The revolutionary material has broken the "light barrier" in a way because until now achieving visibility was limited to the length of the light waves themselves.
Di Falco explains how he and his team worked around that barrier. "All the typical results have been reached in flat and rigid surfaces because this is the legacy of the procedures used to create nanostructures."
Instead of the previous approach towards manipulation of light waves—stacking a "fishnet" structure on unyielding silicon, Di Falco substituted layers of thin polymer film.
"What I've done here is fabricate a single layer," he explains. "I lift it off so that at the end I am left with a self-standing membrane—and show that it has the properties required to create a 3D flexible metamaterial."
The right step
In an interview with BBC News, Ortwin Hess, an optical physicist who recently took up the Leverhulme Chair in Metamaterials at Imperial College London shared his thoughts about the monumental step towards total invisibility. Calling it a huge step forward in many ways, the scientist added, "It clearly isn't an invisibility cloak yet—but it's the right step toward that."
The next step
With greater flexibility the invisibility cloak moves closer to a fully functional device. It's simple a matter of creating the materials to accommodate the science that's already known. Of course, that's what technology is all about.
So will a pilot someday don his invisibility cloak before climbing into his strealth aircraft?
Or maybe more important question, perhaps, is how the heck we're going to keep this out of the hands of bank robbers?
"Flexible metamaterials at visible wavelengths," Andrea Di Falco1, Martin Ploschner and Thomas F Krauss. New Journal of Physics