People have been intrigued with the concept of invisibility since the Star Trek cloaking device could hide entire spaceships, since Harry Potter was stalking around Hogwarts in an invisibility cloak, and since that time I told a lame joke in front of my boss. (Why did the whale feel lonely while sitting alone during lunch? Because he felt whale-ianated. Now you have to feel the burden of the embarrassment, too.)
Well, scientists have also been looking into this phenomenon. In 2006, physicists at Duke University successfully tested the first “invisibility” cloak that bends microwaves from the background around an object and restores them on the other side. Imagine an elephant standing in a moving stream of water: the water upstream bends around the loveable creature but then reunites as one streamline, so if you were standing further downstream watching the water, you wouldn’t even know there was an elephant there. Talk about a way to hide the elephant in the room. Badum-tsh.
Back to the science. This wave-bending was a huge breakthrough because if we could discover how to bend visible-light waves (which are also electromagnetic waves but have slightly higher frequencies) instead of microwaves, then we could fabricate materials to make objects disappear in front of our eyes.
In 2015, Xiang Zhang and his team at UC Berkeley created a special metamaterial (a synthetic material with properties not observed in natural materials) to help the invisibility quest along. The metamaterial is a film decorated with itsy-bitsy gold nano-antennas; these gold bricks are more than 3,000 times smaller than the width of a piece of hair, and yes, “itsy-bitsy” is a scientific term. When they wrapped an object in the film and shined a light on it, it scattered the light, making it look like they were just shining a light on a mirror.
The huge takeaway from the 2015 results is that since they could calculate for these gold antennas to scatter the light in a specific arrangement, they could make the film look like the background behind the object – thus, making the object invisible!
The path to invisibility cloaks is still a long one. For now, some scientists are making materials that emit calculated wavelengths of visible light to literally project whatever camouflage they want to be transmitted to your eyes; however, this method would require a power source (which are always SO hard to find in coffee shops, especially during exam season).
In the meantime, you’ll just have to suffer through those awkward moments. Or, you could rock these three killer outfits inspired by invisibility tech that will make you look and feel amazing in any faux pas situation!
The Coast’s Clear
This outfit draws from the trending athleisure style and incorporates mesh features for a modern black-and-white look. This mesh shirt is breezy, giving you a now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t effect. It is awesome for the heat wave we’re in, and it would also make a cool cover-up for a beach trip (hence the title of the outfit).
The cut-out mesh in the shorts adds an element of interest to the solid-color look, and the mesh sneakers will make you feel light on your toes when you’re walking around town. The clear-rimmed sunnies will frame your face nicely, and the mirrored effect reflects the observations that Xiang and scientists saw with their cloaking metamaterial (pun kinda intended).
Reflections of You
Continuing with the reflecting effect from the invisibility film and also this amazing song, this outfit features a chic, shiny bomber jacket. The satin material and purple-silver color are refreshing twists on the ever-popular shape, making this piece perfect for throwing on while you are shopping indoors.
The crop top is decorated with a subtle lace which gives a hint of a pattern, as if you were really wearing an invisibility cloak. The mirror motif is also apparent in these thin frames, and these sateen jeans have a slight sheen to them, giving you a cool-girl vibe. Throw on a pair of suede heels with invisible block heels, and you’ll be looking like a model off-duty in no time.
All That Glitters Is Gold (Nanoparticles)
Inspired by the gold antennas used to cause the illusion of invisibility, this recipe for this outfit is 2 parts classy and 1 part flirty, perfect for a romantic summer date.
The lace is a girly take on the mesh from the first outfit, creating a pretty floral design in between the empty spaces. This look features dainty gold accessories from the sleek flap on the envelope clutch, which will hold your date essentials, to the heels of these suede lace-up flats. The blocks on the layered necklace represent the tiny gold nano-bricks on the metamaterial.
Last, but not least, the crystal earrings peppered with gold flecks will glimmer in the candle light, bringing attention to your face while you are lost in deep conversation with your date. Ooh la la.
What would you do with an invisibility cloak?
When was the last embarrassing situation that made you wish you could disappear? Would you want to research and learn more about controlling these awesome optical properties? Let me know in the comments so I know I’m not the only one feeling awkward!