You've read a lot about 'invisibility' over the last few years. Mathematicians and scientists have been working on various devices that enable invisibility cloaks which shield small objects from detection by microwaves or sound waves.
An international team has devised an amplifier that can boost light, sound or other waves while hiding them inside an invisible container. As a first application, the researchers propose manipulating matter waves, which are the mathematical description of particles in quantum mechanics. The researchers envision building a quantum microscope that could capture quantum waves, the waves of the nano-world. A quantum microscope could, for example, be used to monitor electronic processes on computer chips.
The authors dubbed their system "Schrödinger's hat," referring to the famed Schrödinger's cat in quantum mechanics. The name is also a nod to the ability to create something from what appears to be nothing. A magic rabbit by a stage magician, for example.
"You can isolate and magnify what you want to see, and make the rest invisible," said corresponding author Gunther Uhlmann, a University of Washington mathematics professor. "You can amplify the waves tremendously. And although the wave has been magnified a lot, you still cannot see what is happening inside the container. In some sense you are doing something magical, because it looks like a particle is being created. It's like pulling something out of your hat."
A matter wave hitting Schrödinger's hat. The wave inside the container is magnified. Outside, the waves wrap as if they had never encountered any obstacle. Credit: G. Uhlmann, U. of Washington
Matter waves inside the hat can also be shrunk, though Uhlmann notes that concealing very small objects "is not so interesting."
The team helped develop the original mathematics to formulate cloaks, which must be realized using a class of engineered materials, dubbed metamaterials, that bend waves so that it appears as if there was no object in their path. The international team in 2007 devised wormholes in which waves disappear in one place and pop up somewhere else.
Uhlmann has been working on invisibility with fellow mathematicians Allan Greenleaf at the University of Rochester, Yaroslav Kurylev at University College London in the U.K., and Matti Lassas at the University of Helsinki in Finland. For this paper, they teamed up with co-author Ulf Leonhardt, a physicist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and author on one of the first papers on invisibility.
Recent progress suggests that a Schrodinger's hat could, in fact, be built for some types of waves.
"From the experimental point of view, I think the most exciting thing is how easy it seems to be to build materials for acoustic cloaking," Uhlmann said. Wavelengths for microwave, sound and quantum matter waves are longer than light or electromagnetic waves, making it easier to build the materials to cloak objects from observation using these phenomena. "We hope that it's feasible, but in science you don't know until you do it." Now that the paper is published, they hope to find collaborators to build a prototype.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Thou Shalt Have One Higgs - $100 Bet Won !
- FDA Stiffs Go Soft On Pink Viagra
- Kashi GoLean Non-GMO Project Cereal Has Traces Of Glyphosate
- Sustainability Won’t Make The World More Fair
- The Spread Of Life Among The Stars
- Reduced Vitamin D And Multiple Sclerosis Risk Linked
- There's No Wild Bee Colony Collapse Either
- "Bottom line is any drug with fluoride in it should be black boxed and restricted to life and death..."
- "I agree. No need to bet to enjoy the race, whatever time it takes. I do hope that the LHC experimenters..."
- "LOL! I laughed so hard at this article! This was before its time- love it. I am the Celiac who..."
- "Hi Tony,let me just say that I do hope your model is correct!!!And after all we don't need to go..."
- "The primary and first blood glucose test is the HbA1C test, as you surely must knowI surely know..."
- Goth teens more vulnerable to depression and self-harm
- 15 percent of cigarettes sold in NYC have illegal tax stamps
- Humans may be harmed by endocrine disrupting chemicals released during fracking, according to review
- Infliximab biosimilar approved in Australia - lower cost is great, but questions about safety remain
- The radiationless revolution in electromagnetics