Science keeps catching up with science fiction.
Researchers in New York reported this month that they have created a paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it, making it by far the darkest substance ever made — about 30 times as dark as the government’s current standard for blackest black.
The material, made of hollow fibers, is a Roach Motel for photons — light checks in, but it never checks out. By voraciously sucking up all surrounding illumination, it can give those who gaze on it a dizzying sensation of nothingness.
But scientists are not satisfied. Using other new materials, some are trying to manufacture rudimentary Harry Potter-like cloaks that make objects inside of them literally invisible under the right conditions — the pinnacle of stealthy technology.
Both advances reflect researchers’ growing ability to manipulate light, the fleetest and most evanescent of nature’s offerings. The nascent invisibility cloak now being tested, for example, is made of a material that bends light rays “backward,” a weird phenomenon thought to be impossible just a few years ago.
Known as transformation optics, the phenomenon compels some wavelengths of light to flow around an object like water around a stone. As a result, things behind the object become visible while the object itself disappears from view.
Shades of Harry Potter? Maybe there is nothing that you can imagine that science can’t duplicate – eventually. However I am still waiting for science to come up with controlled nuclear fusion technology.