The gift of invisibility has been the dream of master thieves, special-forces’ operatives, peeping Toms and mischievous pranksters since the dawn of time.
For a long the invisibility cloak has been just a fantasy, dream or a part of science fiction, with Harry Potter famously using one in his wizard adventures.
Many scientists tried to create something similar to the invisibility cloak all of us have seen in movies, but all their attempts failed until now.
Finally one brainiac, Baile Zhang, an assistant professor of physics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, showed off his “invisibility cloak” on Monday at the TED2013 talks in Long Beach, Calif.
As one of the most prominent physicists in the world, the Nanyang Technological University assistant professor was last year named in MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” list
However, the 31-year-old said that his latest creation, first dreamed up in 2010, was developed “more as a hobby than a serious breakthrough.”
Despite being labeled a cloak, it’s actually a box: two pieces of calcite, a natural carbonate mineral that can bend light and suppress shadows around objects, pieced together.
But it shares the same principles as the robe donned by the famous movie wizard, said Zhang.
As inventors generally have a purpose in mind for the innovations they conjure up, it’s logical to assume that Zhang’s extreme camouflage machine is being developed for the military or some other high-end application, but no.
When asked what his plans were, he said that it had no purpose; he “just created it for fun.”
“I just think the idea is cool,” he said. “Plus, I hope this work will demonstrate that simple tools can sometimes fulfill important functions that previously required complicated methods.”
In a video posted to YouTube, Dr Zhang demonstrates it by passing a rolled-up Post-It note by the box.
Whenever the note is behind the cloak, it cannot be seen.
The demonstration in the video is not the same as the one presented at TED2013.
Professor Zhang admitted that his research was in its early stages, and said that his team was still working out how to make larger and more useful prototypes of the invisibility cloak.
“There are still many limitations here and I don’t have the answers for how to solve them,” he said. “At this stage, this is already the best we can do.”
Professor continued: “There will be quite a long way to go before it can be applied on a practical level. But all researchers in this field, including myself, are making progress, albeit slowly.”
Dr Zhang explained that he developed the box by attaching two pieces of calcite – a carbonate mineral that can bend light – together.
Actually this isn’t the first time the idea of an invisibility cloak has been tackled. In 2010, an earlier version was considered one of Physics World’s Top 10 Breakthroughs.
Other variations have been under development at London’s Imperial College, Duke University and the University of Texas.
Way back at the turn of the millennium, Tachi Labs wowed the Internet community with its optic camouflage that worked using a real-time projection system, although the system was too cumbersome and one-sided for practical use, says Wall Street Insanity.