Cloaking in an inexpensive way

Scientists at the University of Rochester have discovered a way to hide large objects from sight using inexpensive and readily available lenses, a technology that seems to have sprung from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series.

Cloaking is the process by which an object becomes hidden from view, while everything else around the object appears undisturbed.

“A lot of people have worked on a lot of different aspects of optical cloaking for years,” John Howell, a professor of physics at the upstate New York school, said on Friday.

The so-called Rochester Cloak is not really a cloak. Instead, the device looks like equipment used by an optometrist. When an object is placed behind the layered lenses, it seems to disappear.

Previous cloaking methods have been complicated, expensive and not able to hide objects in three dimensions when viewed at varying angles, they say.

“From what we know this is the first cloaking device that provides three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking,” said Joseph Choi, a graduate student who helped develop the method at Rochester, which is renowned for its optical research.

In their tests, the researchers have made a hand, a face and a ruler disappear. The implications for the discovery are endless, they say.

“I imagine this could be used to cloak a trailer on the back of a semi-truck so the driver can see directly behind him,” Choi said. “It can be used for surgery, in the military, in interior design, art.”

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