Posted on October 9, 2014 by Xavier Toby

DIY invisibility is now an actual real thing

Wonder Woman's invisible plane. So why can we see it?

If Wonder Woman’s plane is so invisible, why can we see it?

Scientists at the University of Rochester in the USA recently revealed how to make stuff invisible.

Kinda.

Most other articles and even the press release from the University of Rochester itself compared this discovery to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, and nothing else. Which was a bit dumb for two main reasons.

Firstly, this invention has nothing to do with Harry Potter as one is real, and the other is not.

Also, one works really well because it’s not real, while the other has taken a few good photos but that’s about all.

It’s an optical illusion which disappears immediately once you shift your perspective, similar to holiday snaps of someone holding the Eiffel Tower between their fingers, looking down on the leaning tower of Pisa, or stepping over a seemingly tiny Sydney Harbour Bridge.

holding-eiffel-tower

This picture isn’t clever, it’s annoying. Pretty sky though.

Secondly, the concept of invisibility did not start with Harry Potter, although it’s the only reference ever used. There’s the invisible man, Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, the way I was made to feel invisible at my high school formal, along with countless other previous incarnations.

Invisible Man

The Invisible Man from 1933. Imagine how old he looks now?

Magicians also have a right to feel miffed. They’ve been using mirrors, dodgy jokes and sleight of hand for centuries to make stuff ‘disappear’, and the ‘disappearing act’ is a trick several of my ex-girlfriends seem to have perfected, but still it’s all been about Harry’s cloak.

disappearing-magic

Here’s a picture from right back when magicians could only make stuff disappear in black and white.

According to doctoral student Joseph Choi some possible uses of this invention include, ‘surgery, in the military, interior design, art, and possibly cloaking a trailer on the back of a semi so the driver can see directly behind him.’

More useful might be hiding all you can eat buffets from the overweight, drugs from addicts and rubbish tips from everyone. Which is the problem with invisibility. You’re never making anything actually disappear, you’re just hiding it.

The addict hasn’t learnt to deal with their addiction, and although you can’t see it, they’ll still be the same environmental ramifications for the rubbish dump.

It’s an old conversation starter, ‘What would you choose? Invisibility or the ability to fly?’

bed-fly

I’d take the ability to fly and sleep. Like this winner.

If you choose invisibility, it’s always with nefarious objectives. Stealing, eavesdropping, secretly seeing people naked. Surely that’s what the inventors were really thinking?

So are there any significant, world-changing applications for invisibility? I can’t think of one. If you can, be a champion and leave a comment? Cheers.

Really, these scientists should be focussing on something far more meaningful, and that’s working out how we can all fly. It’d seriously cut down your commute to work, eliminate cars and airport security checkpoints, and it’d be fun.

This invisibility experiment can apparently be repeated with minimal cost or know-how. 

I’m not going to bother, I severely struggle with a set of instructions and an allen key, but if you want to have a crack, here’s how:

http://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/watch-rochester-cloak-uses-ordinary-lenses-to-hide-objects-across-continuous-range-of-angles-70592/

This article first appeared (ha!) in the Brisbane Courier Mail:

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-cloaking-is-the-real-art-of-disappearing/story-fnihsr9v-1227090460462

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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