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Out-of-sight invention



Published: Mon, October 23, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Out-of-sight invention

Scripps Howard News Service: Probably every youngster, and maybe even those well into adulthood, fantasizes about having the power to become invisible, not always for the worthiest possible ends.

Writers who have pondered invisibility most often see those who have that power coming to a bad end. In the landmark of that genre, H.G. Wells' 1897 "The Invisible Man," the protagonist goes crazy and gets beaten to death.

In the 1950s, there was an amusing TV sitcom called "Topper" that featured an invisible couple, but they got that way by dying in a skiing accident.

The Romulans in "Star Trek" had their signature "cloaking" technology, but as with others who dabbled in invisibility, their plans often came to grief.

New from Duke

Now last week, scientists at Duke University announced that they developed a non-fictional cloaking technology -- an artificial mirage, one researcher described it -- that uses artificial materials to route microwaves around an object rather than bouncing them back to the observer. Without the reflected waves, the object is effectively invisible.

The researchers are confident they can quickly improve their cloak of silence, said to look like a circuit board, which also has applications for diverting sound waves and vibrations.

Once adapters of cloaking technology realize they won't go crazy, get beaten to death or grow weird Romulan eyebrows, it should find plenty of applications. Curiously, we have people already versed in its use. The parents of adolescents have extensive experience in being both invisible and inaudible.




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