One of the most interesting inventions of recent times has been developed by a team at Cornell University with the assistance of the Pentagon’s research team from Darpa. The innovation is to distort light in order to mask an even.
The Pentagon is backing the research as they are looking at one day when they could conduct covert operations with the soldiers being invisible through the distortion of light. Researchers at the University of Texas, last year, were able to harness a mirage effect that made objects vanish.
Masking an object entails bending light around that object and if the light doesn’t actually hit the object, then that object won’t be visible to the human eye. The university team at Cornell has managed to hide an event for 40 picoseconds viz. 40 trillionths of a second.
Where events are concerned, concealment relies on changing the speed of light. Light that’s emitted from actions, as they happen, is what allows us to see those actions happen. Usually, that light comes in a constant flow. What Cornell researchers did just for a mere iota of time, in simple terms was to tweak the ongoing flow of light so that the event could transpire without being observable.
A beam of green light is passed down a fibre optic cable passing through a lens which splits the light into two different frequencies. One frequency moves faster than the other producing a ‘time hole’ in the beam to hide the occurrence of an event from the observer. Whilst this happens, the research team fired a red laser through the beams during a very small time gap making the transmission imperceptible. There is a long way to go before the team can mask 30 seconds, let alone several minutes. According to Cornell scientists it will take a machine 18600 miles long to produce a time mask that would last a single second.
The research certainly opens up new possibilities for masking super – quick events like data transmission which could conceal covert operations on computers. However there will be a considerable amount of research to enable the concealment of military personnel, so it will be many decades before we see the invisible soldier like the alien in the ‘Predator’ movies or the invisible Aston Martin in the James Bond movie.
One day soldiers could conduct covert operations in complete secrecy which is why the Pentagon is backing the physicists to find out how to mask entire events by distorting light. The results so far are a significant step towards the development of full spatio-temporal cloaking.