Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Science Fiction Pushes the Boundaries of Science

By contributing writer: Beatrice Owen.

There are times when you read science fiction books or watch movies that are born out of the imagination of their creators and wonder if there could be a smidgen of reality in the fantasy world they spin. I guess sci-fi works as a genre and draws fans and fanatics alike because people are fascinated by the possibility of technology and the magic it can weave. So how great would it be if it were possible to make fact out of fiction? History has taught us that this has happened before, so there’s every reason to believe it could happen again.

Take the Harry Potter series – call it magic or science fiction, whatever the name, you must admit that JK Rowling threw a spell on the entire world with her creative thinking and innovative style of writing. Now it looks as if at least one part of the book could become reality; no, it’s not Hogwarts or even magic flying brooms, it’s Harry’s (in)famous invisibility cloak, the one that was left to him by his dad and passed on to him by Albus Dumbledore. You would think invisibility is outside the realms of modern science, no matter how advanced it is, but research at the Imperial College of London has demonstrated otherwise.

Metamaterials, whose properties vary in both time and space, are a new class of materials which can be artificially engineered to distort light and sound waves. Using the properties of light and deflecting certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, researchers have proved that images can be altered or made to look as if they have disappeared. While the actual mechanics of this technique is beyond the grasp of the average layperson, let’s just say that this is exactly the principle that the invisibility cloak works on – the object is there, yet it seems to have disappeared when the cloak is thrown on.

While the modern day invisibility cloak is just theoretical at this stage, there’s no telling what will happen as time passes and technology becomes more advanced, because the idea is definitely not a mirage, and it’s definitely going to be worked on until it becomes a reality. For now however, even though scientists have to first work on metamaterials before they can think of making an invisibility cloak out of one, we can rest assured that as long as science fiction is alive and kicking, it will continue to push the boundaries of science.

contributed by Beatrice Owen. Mz Owen writes on the topic of bachelors of science . She welcomes your comments at her email id: owen1.beatrice(@)gmail(.)com.

Cloak of invisibility in Winipedia

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