Problem: an ugly refinery belching smoke is blocking your bayou sunset view and the noise is pounding in tune to your headache and destroying your peace and quiet.
Solution: cloak the ugly sight and dampen the noise with your handy-dandy cloaking device.
Okay, that solution is still a bit into the future, but it is not as farfetched today as it was back in the 1960s. Listen, hear the StarTrek theme in the background? Scotty bellows from the speaker, “The Klingons just uncloaked, Keptan, I’m giving ‘er all she’s got.”
That was science fiction. This is real technology. The theory is that light would bend around the object being cloaked so that the light behind the object would appear in front of it, making the object invisible. “It’s an artificial mirage,” says David Schurig, a researcher at Duke University. The microwaves aimed at an object, in this case it was a copper cylinder about 5 inches in diameter, just pass over and around the object without detecting its presence, like water flows over and around rocks in a stream.
This cloaking thingy made those copper cylinders invisible to microwaves. But, of course, the cylinders were there and the scientists were watching and the cylinders never left their sight. So, they were invisible but not invisible. It was technology creating a space warp. No kidding, that is exactly how it was described.
Actually, this cloaking device is one of those milestones that we knew would happen way back in the ‘60s (dark ages to you youngun’s), which I wasn’t sure I’d see in my lifetime. Kids have a way of believing things that seem impossible are possible. It was a hoot to get in the closet and pretend to be transported to another planet, holding on to my hair brush as my communicator with my trusty transistor radio as my tricorder. I would conquer what ever particular planet I was transported to and still be home for lunch.
Today we enjoy lots of things that were science fiction back in the dark ages. The communicator is our hand-held device that allows communication between persons that are a world apart, only we call them mobile phones. The tricorder, a device that sees into the body and detects illnesses and cancers, we call an MRI and a PET scan. Oh, and the photon torpedo? We call that laser surgery. We have talking computers and even brainwave activated computers. Automatic sliding doors, once science fiction are now quite common.
Two things, no three, are left to be invented: the transporter, the light saber, and the reconstituter, a device that goes beyond the microwave because it delivers every thing from pot roast to apples to Earl Gray tea.
It is astounding to me that technology is catching up to man’s dreams. It’s true, there really is nothing new under the sun. Man has already thought about it, but the trick is figuring out how to make it work for real.