Science Channel - InSCIder

19 Dec

Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak Is Real And Ridiculously Cool

"What if we lived in a world where the human species had changed? Where technology made us all-seeing, invincible, fearless? In short: superhumans."

What James Woods described in Tuesday's Futurescape finale may sound like something out of Tom Cruise's sci-fi thriller Minority Report but it's anything but a fantasy view of the future.

In "How To Be A Superhuman," Woods explores the scientific advancements that could eliminate human fear, pain and weaknesses -- but is this a good thing or not?

One human 'weakness' that seems set in stone in invisibility. It's the stuff of fantasy films, right? But, Woods asks, "What happens in a world where indivisibility is a reality?"

"Invisibility may seem like a childhood dream," says Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, "but with something called metamaterials invisibility cloaks may become a reality in the near future."

Harry Potter's invisibility cloak may have been magic but a team of Muggles at Duke University is creating their own invisibility device, no wands required.

Duke's scientists are working on "the ultimate illusion": a cloaking device that manipulates electromagnetic waves

Lead researcher David Smith breaks it down:

"If you actually want to mold the flow of electromagnetic waves amd make things invisible, you can really engineer point by point the properites of materials right down to our artificial atoms in order to make light do and behave the way we want it to."

But while visions of Harry and Ron sneaking around Hogwarts may immediately spring to mind, the actual cloak has more practical purposes. Some teams are looking into ways to shield buildings from earthquake damage, while others see the potential to detect or cloak landmines. And what if a soldier in the battlefield could make himself invisible to the enemy, as PopSci's Future Of explored:

Will there come a time when, as invisibility becomes more common, we can't trust our own eyes? Will this make the world less safe -- or will humans adapt along with technology? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Watch more clips from Futurescape on ScienceChannel.com

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