Invisibility Cloaks Next Christmas?


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

”You’re a wizard, Harry.”

The ability to become invisible has been a desire of humankind for as long as there have been humans, I expect. It’s not just a recent phenomenon with rings, spells, cloaks, and technological gizmos. I’m sure if the Greeks could’ve gotten their hands on a couple invisibility cloaks, or rings of power, they wouldn’t have bothered with that big horse. Why have secret things been done in the nighttime for centuries? Because it’s a lot harder to see. Imagine, if you will, that one could sneak around in the daytime unobserved. Is that scary? Cool? Or a combination of both?

In a new article for Contemporary Physics published by Taylor & Francis, Martin McCall, Professor of Theoretical Optics at Imperial College London, describes how an “Invisibility Cloak” may actually be closer to reality than we think. In ‘Transformation optics and cloaking’, Professor McCall explains his theory about transformation optics through manipulating electromagnetic fields with properly constructed metamaterials. For those with a love of science fiction-made-real, you can read the full article online here:

More than the coolness factor of true cloaking technology possibly being realized in our lifetime, I’m interested in the practical uses or abuses of such technology. If it is possible to commercially purchase in the near future a cloak, or suit, that renders the wearer essentially invisible, I believe we should consider the full ramifications of this. As much as I’d love to believe that anyone with access to such technological magic would do nothing more than wander around their school after dark looking for information on Nicholas Flamel, hiding from Death Eaters, or even disappearing from a party of special magnificence, our current society is filled with people who are not as scrupulous. Would they be allowed to get their hands on one? Would there be background checks?

The words of warning to Harry upon the receipt of his father’s cloak, “Use it well,” would go unheeded by those of low moral character. Does that mean it shouldn’t be done? Certainly not. But can you imagine paparazzi with invisibility cloaks? Or criminals? Stalkers? The implications for military use are even more staggering. Listening in to phone calls by certain governmental agencies, which shall remain nameless, would seem like child’s play next to this.

There’s no doubt the idea of invisibility and cloaking is cool and tremendously useful. The ability to do it is phenomenal and all the rest. I’m excited to see what these physicists will be able to do. But even in the midst of my excitement, I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by Dr Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

What do you guys think? Does the coolness factor outweigh the unintended consequences? Would you buy one? If so, how would you use it?

If you want to keep up with more new, and exciting, discoveries, visit the Taylor & Francis newsroom at and follow them on Twitter: @tandfnewsroom

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