Having the ability to cloak an object is equal parts exciting and terrifying. Exciting because of the pure awesomeness of the concept. Terrifying when thinking about how this technology could be used by the military or other nefarious organizations. So far the awesomeness seems to be winning out because every few weeks or so we hear about a new development that pushes this staple of science fiction fantasy closer towards becoming a reality.
However, in spite of our best efforts there hasn’t really been a major breakthrough that completely cloaks an object from all angles. That may be about to change though thanks to a new breakthrough that uses, get this, four standard lenses to get the job done. No high tech wizardry. No fancy new super materials. Nothing special at all. Just ordinary, readily available, run of the mill lenses.
As Phys.org explains:
“Many cloaking designs work fine when you look at an object straight on, but if you move your viewpoint even a little, the object becomes visible…previous cloaking devices can also cause the background to shift drastically, making it obvious that the cloaking device is present. In order to both cloak an object and leave the background undisturbed, the researchers determined the lens type and power needed, as well as the precise distance to separate the four lenses. To test their device, they placed the cloaked object in front of a grid background. As they looked through the lenses and changed their viewing angle by moving from side to side, the grid shifted accordingly as if the cloaking device was not there. There was no discontinuity in the grid lines behind the cloaked object, compared to the background, and the grid sizes (magnification) matched.”
What’s really interesting about this breakthrough though is the potential it has for what I will call reverse cloaking. This is when rather than hiding an object from view you instead use the device to see around something that is actually there. The Phys.org article for example suggests that the device could be used to let a surgeon look through his hands to see what he was operating on or to remove blind spots when driving.
If that is indeed what this cloaking device is going to be used for then I need to change my answer. Cloaking is now officially more exciting than terrifying.
Is a cloaking device made from four standard lenses the Greatest Idea Ever?