The superhero with superpowers is the stuff of legends and folklores dating as far back as ever since humans developed the art of storing information and passing of stories from generation to generation. Oftentimes we all wish to get a huge green version of ourselves that can obliterate the noisy neighbour's house who appear to have a never-ending noisy party and refuses us to sleep a wink.
Scientists, in their usual ways, have already identified some key elements towards getting us humans with superpowers ever since the isolation of the two proteins responsible for suppressing the growth of muscles in your body- myostatin and activin A. So, the possibility of a super strong human is there if we manipulate the genetic makeup.
A muscular cow that underwent a myostatin gene deletion. Image credits: By Betty Wills CC BY-SA 4.0 from Wikimedia Commons, Link]
The scientists and engineers are all out to ensure the comic book fictional characters are replicated in real life. Apart from superhuman strength, I bet there are times you wished you have the superpowers to go invisible. Think of the possibilities that exist for the technology in the hands of soldiers during warfare. The camouflage will become a thing of the past. Armed robbers would love one too. Imagine walking into the bank and straight to the vault unnoticed. Or just for fun, like sneaking into your friend's hostel, locating the kitchen house, and drinking all their milk while they are busy watching some interesting movies in the sitting room.
But can you handle the consequences that come with invisibility?
First, we have to realise for us to be invisible, means we are willing to literally bend the laws of physics, the way objects interacts with light to give us vision.
The ability to see is dependent on the interaction between the eye and the basic composite of light- the photons.
The eye detects an object due to it either emitting light or as a result of the object reflecting away (bouncing off) light. If an object neither emits or bounces off photons, that object is well on its way to invisibility. Therefore an invisible object will create no reflection, but instead, make light bend around it without leaving any shadow. Or in the very least, you can make light pass through you; 100% transparency like an immaculately cleaned glass door.
But if you can, on a large scale, make light bend around you, naturally, so that people looking at you will see an empty space, there is the Catch 22, a damn-if-you-do and a damn-if-you-don't scenario, that will play out. You will go blind.
Yes, you will be blind to everything around you and the reason for that is simple. For you to see you require to either have an object emit light or get the light to bounce off an object to enter your eye. But if somewhat your facial area bends light away, how then can you see an object when the light goes around your eye? Simple, for you to see, means light gets to your eye and if that happens, others around will be able to perceive you, or at in the very least, view your eyes :)
The physics principle of reciprocity is also there to ensure that when an object is totally covered by an invisibility cloak, that the form will encounter total darkness too.
The present cloaking schemes hide an object by redirecting the flow of light smoothly around it without reflection and scattering, much like water flowing around a rock in a stream, rendering the object invisible to the downstream observer.
.To realize the magic Harry Potter cloak,
However, one has to break the reciprocity of light — a seemingly impossible task. Recently, manipulating parity-time symmetry in a synthetic photonic medium with a judicious arrangement of the dielectric constants of the constituent materials has led to intriguing optical phenomena, including the one-way reflectionless propagation of light and the ‘unidirectional invisibility’. But can it cast new light on accomplishing the fictional garment worn by Harry? Berkeley University: Unidirectional light propagation
at exceptional points
The transparent/ fake mirror or two-way mirror, popular in the police station for suspect IDs, useful in both interrogation and execution rooms makes use of the fact that the hidden room is usually not as brightly lit as the one on the observer side.
Cloaking device active. Image credits: By Purdue University; Shalaev, V. Reusing Content from Wikipedia Commons, Link]
Cloaking device inactive. Image credits: By Purdue University; Shalaev, V. Reusing Content from Wikipedia Commons, Link]
The figure above shows how the cloak invisibility device work. The long perfect electric conductor (PEC) cylinder is subject to a light, which while passing, scatters the light (image on the left) when cloaking is inactive. On the right, when the cloak is on, the light scattering is unavailable which renders the PEC cylinder invisible.
The design works only in a specific single wavelength of the electromagnetic visible spectrum. So far so good.
But you may wonder how the Marvel's Invisible Woman/Girl, Susan "Sue" Richards see without being seen. If you did, wonder no more, she has some secret supernatural powers, apparently, that helps her reroute the bunch of photons (about 90% of photons that make it to the eye do not make it to the retina) to her eyes which enables her to see while invisible. I guess she may suppress the glow in her eyes through the use of some of her supernatural powers which we are not privy to.
But if somehow you were able to beat the glowing disembodied eye effect, bend light successfully around you, there is another hurdle to jump. That hurdle is the ability to just make the light only flow around your skin and not distort objects in the background. You wouldn't want the fridge in the kitchen to have some missing part, like the missing door handle, while you are standing near it. That will be a dead giveaway that something is not so right with the fridge while you are enjoying the cold milk.
Also, you cannot walk through things like rain for the obvious facts that people will see rain bouncing off the shape of you. That will be weird, and your invisibility will not be that invisible or would it?
- The Man of Steel, Myostatin, and Super Strength
- The Trouble with Invisibility (hint: nature says it can't work)
- MIT Technology Review: How to Make an Object Invisible
- The Problem With Invisibility Is The Blindness
- Purdue University:Engineers see progress in creating 'invisibility cloak'
- Squinting to See a Single Photon
- Reciprocal invisibility cloak based on complementary media
- Unidirectional light propagation
at exceptional points
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