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Fast Draw: Cloaking

3 minutes

(male narrator) Some things you don't want to see.

(Describer) In animation...

Like big, ugly power lines, sprawling waste treatment plants, or your unwashed laundry. You can't help but look at them. Down the road, there could be another option. What if these objects could disappear? Hiding things in plain sight isn't exactly new. The military has been doing it for years with camouflage. Nature does it better. Animals like chameleons can change to match whatever color they need. Both principles work to hide something by matching the background. If the background changes, the effect is lost. Cloaking research aims to get a cloaked object to appear invisible with a changing background. We see this rock because waves of light bounce off and travel to our eyes and to our brains, and we see the rock. Imagine if that rock were in a stream. The water would be flowing by and hitting it, but immediately afterwards, the water would curve around the rock and combine on the other side. If you were downstream, you'd see water

(Describer) Downstream.

that came from the rock's other side. Researchers want to make visible light behave kind of like that water, to flow around the object that's cloaked.

How? With metamaterials. Metamaterials are a type of nanotechnology. This material would control the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see. When light streams past the object to be hidden, it goes around it. Theoretically, observers would never know it's there. Scientists have done this with small objects, smaller than the width of a human hair. When these metamaterials get better, they'll be able to hide bigger things. Cloaking is cool, but what would we do with this technology? Remember, the military likes hiding things. Cloaking would be like camouflage on steroids. Police could hide out and catch bad guys, or hide anything you don't want to see. One day it could even hide power lines or piles of laundry. For now, if you don't want to look at dirty laundry, you probably shouldn't leave it on the floor.

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Josh Landis and Mitch Butler discuss metamaterials, a type of nanotechnology. These materials can theoretically make objects disappear from plain sight. This cloaking technology has a wide range of applications and could forever change the view of the world. Part of the Fast Draw Series.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Fast Draw
Episode 1
6 minutes
Grade Level: 6 - 12
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Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
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Episode 3
3 minutes
Grade Level: 6 - 12
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Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12