Hello Superhero nerds! Another week has arrived again and so has my promise. It's time to join our intellectual adults selves with the child in us once more by putting the “science” in “science fiction” to our beloved superheroes.
Note: If you are new to this blog-series of mine called "Superheroes Through a Microscope", click these links to view my preceding posts.
- Captain America
For the past decade, superhero films have been dominating our screens both at home and in cinemas. While some did really well in modernizing our childhood, there are some that fell short of the list. One of the notable blunders in the superhero cinematic universe, according to multiple critics, is “Fantastic Four(2015)”. With that said, in order to give credit to such a wondrous comic book series despite the movie flop, I’ve decided that the hero I’m going to feature for this week is…
Disclaimer: Though the science mentioned in the “Superheroes Through a Microscope” are genuine, its application to the superheroes is mainly hypothetical and is based on the facts and knowledge that I gathered through research. The connections are just mere speculation for entertainment purposes
Susan "Sue" Storm-Richards A.K.A the Invisible Woman, is one of the founding members of the Fantastic Four and is the first female superhero created by Marvel during the Silver Age of Comics. She got her powers after being exposed to a cosmic storm. Her main ability is the manipulation of light waves which allows her to render herself and others invisible. This ability protects her from enemies and enables her to infiltrate enemy territory while remaining undetected.
With Invisibility, one can achieve awesome feats, especially in espionage. Nowadays, believe it or not, a lot of scientists are working on how to be “undetectable” in more ways than one, which begs the question
Is invisibility really achievable?
Scientifically speaking, yes it is. But before we proceed, we must first define invisibility and understand why we see things in different colors.
Invisibility is the state of a matter that cannot be seen. An object in this state is said to be "not visible". This word is mostly used in fantasy/science fiction, where things can't be seen by magical or advanced technological means; however, in reality, its effects can also be demonstrated in physics. When people talk about invisibility, they are actually referring to a variety of means to achieve the same goal-- to not be seen.
WHY WE SEE COLORS
when we see objects with different colors, what we actually see is the light from a source(mostly the sun) that is reflected by that object which bounces to our eyes while the rest of the colors are absorbed by the object. The light that comes from the sun actually contains a number of colors with different wavelengths, but only a few colors can be perceived by a human eye. The light that we do perceive are what we call the visible spectrum. Basically, the colors in the visible spectrum are those that are in our crayons. When people see red, its because the color that is reflected to our eyes is red.
With that said, since humans only see what is reflected, one of the ways we can achieve invisibility is by absorbing all the light. That is what the color black does, it absorbs almost all the light and reflects only a fraction of it. Unfortunately, because of evolution, our brain has already figured that out so hiding behind something black won't make you invisible. So instead of trying to absorb light, scientist ventured on other ways of rendering invisibility; thus, the birth of metamaterial. In 2006, researchers from Duke University in North Carolina introduced these metamaterials that direct light around an object allowing the light to flow smoothly around the object like water flowing past a rock in a creek. The metamaterial would then bypass any reflection nor rays entering your eye.
A metamaterial sends rays of light cascading around a ball, rendering it invisible, in this schematic.
Metamaterials are called as such because these are materials that don't occur naturally. They are made by humans to affect light in specific ways that normal materials cant. Some are made with silver and silica, and silk. The best part about metamaterials is that they use no power, machinery, or programming. Its mere presence is enough to produce their unique effect of bending light to render invisibility. Such as the way light is bent(as shown below) when it passes through the pyrex and oil making the pyrex in the middle disappear.
Invisible Woman’s power of bending light to make herself and other objects invisible is VERY possible indeed. There are numerous studies out there about invisibility and other ways of being somewhat invisible such as camouflage or using mirrors(as seen in the picture above) but the most promising are the metamaterials. Researchers have already found a way of disguising larger objects with metamaterial and claims that they are almost close to making cloaks that would work with visible light. Unfortunately, I just could not find any legit scientific explanation/connection as to how Mrs. Richards can control light. Metamaterials still has a long way ahead before actually producing a real life “Sue Storm” but remember, with an open-mind and a continuous pursuit of knowledge, Science and Fiction aren’t that far away from each other.
GIF and Image Sources