Illusion device promises camouflage and deception

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Illusion device promises camouflage and deception

Now you see it, now you don't. Hong Kong researchers are one step closer to creating a cloak of illusion that will have the ability to make one object look like another via "metameterials" and light bending.

Throughout history, magicians have honed their greatest trick; turning an audience's attention to believe that one thing is actually another.

Now, the illusion of cloaking objects without the need to resort to sleight of hand tactics is being studied by scientists in the lab, using mathematical models to exactly determine how to bend light and change this light, in order to represent something that isn't quite what it first seems.

In a Discovery News report, Hong Kong scientists have created a theoretical model of an illusion cloak, the type of object bound firmly by the traditions of fantasy and science fiction stories. Scientists are confident that someday they could potentially turn apples into oranges.

Even more so, cloaking on a larger scale could offer huge military advantages; the cloaking of weapons would be a welcome advantage by any side - especially without the need to rely on radar alone.

The physicists studying the device have turned much of their attention to metameterials, those types of materials that best allow for the direct manipulation of light around objects and contain special properties beyond those of normal occuring materials - perfect for this kind of light work.

In a nutshell, when light is wrapped around objects, scientists can achieve invisibility of objects - research that was made popular a couple of years ago by excited Duke researchers who thought they had found the scientific Harry Potter equivalent.

But when that light is reflected back, using different patterns and multiple layers, it has the ability to reflect an image (from a mirror) that isn't of the original, thereby cloaking the object and rendering it to look different than it actually is.

Researchers say they are happy with the speed of the research, noting that even 10 years ago, nobody really had a clue how to make this happen.  Let's hope it doesn't take another 10 years to finally see practical uses of this application happen.   

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