January 29, 2012

Engage Cloaking Device

It's not quite Star Trek, but hot new invisibility research, published this week in the New Journal of Physics, uses “plasmonic meta-materials” to make an 18-inch cylindrical tube invisible. Basically, objects are visible because light rays bounce off of them, hitting our eyes and allowing our brains to process the visual information. Cloaking techniques take different approaches to messing with those light rays. The following is a summary from Wired Magazine:

After five years of steady progress, scientists are now edging closer and closer to mastering real-world invisibility. Sure, researchers have already made marked strides toward making objects unseeable. But much of the work was more like mimicry: Meta-materials that bent light around an object to conceal it, but only worked in two dimensions. Or a device that played tricks on the eye, by harnessing the mirage effect to make objects behind it “disappear.” Now, a team of researchers have taken an incredible leap forward. They’ve successfully made a 3-D object disappear. 
A group of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have figured out how to “cloak a three-dimensional object standing in free space.” That means the object is invisible, from any angle of observation. “This object’s invisibility is independent of where the observer is,” Professor Andrea Alu, the study’s co-author, tells Danger Room. “So you’d walk right around it, and never see it.” 
Already, scientists have taken impressive steps forward, and at a freakily fast pace. Researchers in the U.K. have harnessed the mirage effect to mask objects placed behind a device, and Army-backed research is making impressive strides using meta-materials to bend light around objects. Just a few weeks ago, the world’s mind was collectively blown when Pentagon-funded scientists managed to cloak an actual event.

January 15, 2012

The Tobogganing Crow

The video, taken in Russia and posted to YouTube on January 11, 2012, rapidly attracted millions of viewers. It shows a crow apparently using the lid of a can as a toboggan to slide down a snow-covered roof. Many people have speculated about the crows motivation for this behavior-- Is is playing? Is it just pecking the lid? Whatever the reason, it's fun to watch.