Archive for the 'Theory and practice' Category
Coach Daddy asked: “If you could be invisible for a week, what would you do?” Difficulty: you have to describe it in six words.
Fifty-one answers were singled out for the article, and I think this was my favorite:
32. Enjoy not being asked for anything.
Passive rather than active, but attractive just the same.1 comment
Hopes are not yet dashed, but they clearly have taken a body blow:
A pair of researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and the University of Otago have carried out theoretical modelling in an attempt to understand how an invisibility cloak might actually work in real life. There are different ways to make invisibility cloaks, all of which have to contend with the fact that diverting light around something introduces time delay problems — because the light can’t pass straight through the object that’s being cloaked.
The most realistic way to do it using an “amplitude cloak.” This approach discards information about the phase of light, instead recreating its color and attempting to introduce a time delay to make up for the differences in path length along which the light travels. The good news is that the cloaks create a compelling representation of reality. In fact, labs have already been able to show off amplitude cloaks that kind of work.
But the new research brings some bad news, too. Sadly, it seems this kind of cloak would only work when the hidden object and its observer are stationary. The reason is to do with something known as Fresnel-Fizeau drag. When light propagates through a moving medium — like, say, a raindrop — it is dragged along with the medium. So a moving invisibility cloak — or a moving observer — would drag light with it.
I can absolutely assure you that if I ever have a chance to test this out, I will:
First, Arvid Guterstam made himself invisible. When he looked down at his body, there was nothing there.
He could feel he was solid; he hadn’t vanished into thin air. He even felt a paint brush tickle his transparent belly, while the brush appeared to be stroking nothing but air.
Being invisible is “great fun,” Guterstam reports, “but it’s an eerie sensation. It’s hard to describe.”
Then he took off his virtual reality headset and was back in the laboratory, fully visible. Guterstam is a medical doctor and PhD student, and he had just pulled off the first fully convincing illusion of complete invisibility. He went on to test 125 other people, and reports Thursday in Scientific Reports that seven out of ten also felt the illusion, and it was realistic enough to make them feel and respond physically as if a group of people could not see them.
A few steps below, say, the Star Trek holodeck, but possibly affordable by mere mortals not so far in the future.
Philip Ball’s Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen, due mid-April, is an analysis of the dynamic:
If offered the chance by cloak, spell, or superpower to be invisible, who wouldn’t want to give it a try? We are drawn to the idea of stealthy voyeurism and the ability to conceal our own acts, but as desirable as it may seem, invisibility is also dangerous. It is not just an optical phenomenon, but a condition full of ethical questions. As esteemed science writer Philip Ball reveals in this book, the story of invisibility is not so much a matter of how it might be achieved but of why we want it and what we would do with it.
In this lively look at a timeless idea, Ball provides the first comprehensive history of our fascination with the unseen. This sweeping narrative moves from medieval spell books to the latest nanotechnology, from fairy tales to telecommunications, from camouflage to ghosts to the dawn of nuclear physics and the discovery of dark energy.
Ball’s book is going on my wish list.
Author Rodd Thunderheart has finally completed his novel See Through Love (Friesen Press, 2014), which is listed as Coming Soon at the publisher’s site. Part of the blurb:
High school teacher Carolina Dominguez has the unique ability to turn invisible at will. While she usually has control over her supernatural ability, Carolina becomes invisible every time she is attracted to a man.
This will, of course, be added to my To Read list.
A couple of additions while you weren’t looking:
- 13 black sends along Pearl Andrews, vintage beauty from the Web series The True Heroines;
- Paul Cwick points to Jo McCormick, tween member of the Big Bad Beetleborgs, one of those 1990s series that combines Pacific Rim mecha footage with new stuff shot in Southern California.
Thanks to them, and to all the contributors over the years.
If you liked Natalie Whipple’s Transparent, as I did, be prepared for the second verse: Blindsided (which, you have to admit, is a great title) is due out in mid-January from Hot Key Books.
HarperTeen, which published Transparent, apparently passed on this one, but will pick up Whipple’s House of Ivy & Sorrow (April), a tale of a high-school-age witch and a Curse that affects her family.
Addendum: Here’s the cover art:
Transparent’s Fiona McClean could be a superhero. She has a mutation that allows her to become invisible. But her father, a Las Vegas crime lord, forces her to use her power for evil. Since she was five, she’s been stealing cars, robbing banks, and spying on people.
Fiona’s had enough, so she escapes to a small town far from her father’s reach. Happiness is hard to find surrounded by a mother she hates, a brother she can’t trust, and a guy at school she can’t stand, but Fiona manages to make some friends. And when her father finally tracks her down, Fiona discovers how far she’ll go to protect everyone she’s come to love.
I’ve got my preorder in already.
Everybody tells you to stay in your seat when the movie’s over, because something might happen after the credits, and of late it happens often enough to justify the extra five minutes before hitting the streets, so you’ve come to see it as the rule rather than the exception.
Now this cultural artifact wouldn’t seem to apply to books, but here’s an example where it did: Jeanne Ray’s 2011 novel Calling Invisible Women, in its original hardback version from Crown, bears the usual flyleaf photograph of the author except that she’s invisible. It says something, though I’m not sure what, that I’d read it twice before I ever noticed.
Here’s Phil Noto’s cover art for the new Scarlet O’Neil graphic novel:
More of the scoop right here.
This is a mercenary who did a one-shot in the series Alphas: apparently it’s just the one name so far.
Her technique, unlike most of the rest of the Griffins vanishing out there, requires no chemicals. From the Alphas wiki:
Griffin is able to take advantage of the human “blind spot.” Because human beings have two eyes, the optic nerve has to translate two sets of data into a single, three-dimension image. The spacing of our eyes allows for a gap in this data. Griffin’s Alpha ability effects other people’s optic nerves, expanding the blind spot to accommodate her size. To supplement this, she disables local security systems and has developed a style of movement which keeps her in the blind spot.
Ingenious. I wonder if Lamont Cranston knew about this?
Our very own Unseen Model gets her own music video, a mere seven decades after the fact:
With thanks to John, Ringo, George, and especially Paul.
Mars Will Send No More (now that’s a name to be reckoned with) has a couple of Scarlet O’Neil four-pagers from the old Famous Funnies. There’s even the obligatory Blind Guy.1 comment
Well, okay, not tomorrow, as in “the day after today,” but apparently they’ve made a heck of a start:
In the past, researchers have only been able to “cloak” microscopic objects using extremely complicated physics and so-called meta-materials made on a tiny scale.
But a new study at the University of Birmingham in the UK has taken a major step forward by making a paper clip invisible an object thousands of times bigger than in previous experiments.
Invisible paper clips! How do they work?
The research works by using a naturally forming crystal called calcite which has extraordinary light-bending abilities.
By placing the crystals over an object it “bounces” light around it rendering it invisible to the naked eye.
And apparently calcite has been found in crystals up to 21 feet long, about the length of the current Rolls-Royce Phantom.1 comment
There has been much talk of metamaterials and their application, but not so much about who’s going to do the actual research.
My guess is that we would see the lead in this project being taken by high school science whizzes who would never never never never never never never use a working invisibility cloak to camp inside the girls’ locker room with the highest megapixel resolution video camera they could get their hands on.
Five will get you 22.7 there turns out to be a girl on the team.
Bill B. recommends My Invisible Sister by Beatrice Colin and Sara Pinto (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), the tale of a nine-year-old boy named Frank who is, as nine-year-old boys often are, tormented by an older sister. Elizabeth is thirteen, which is bad enough, but she’s also invisible, which means that, as the cover says, “trouble is so much harder to handle when you can’t see it coming.” It doesn’t help that he thinks the parental units always take her side.
Unusually for a book dealing with this subject, My Invisible Sister does not relegate the young lady to the shadows: she goes to school every day, and apart from her lack of appearance, she is regarded as a fairly normal person. It helps that the genetic anomaly that caused her condition is merely rare, not unique. It’s a charming little book with something of a twist at the end, and if you’re about Frank’s age, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot.