Shrouded at Sea: Scientists Give Ships Invisibility Cloaks

Posted: March 8, 2012  |  By: Katie Drummond [Danger Room]

Someone tell the U.S. Navy that rough waters might become a thing of the past. Scientists think they’ve figured out how to fool the stormy seas.

The breakthrough, courtesy of researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, is the latest in a series of developments in invisibility research — many of them Pentagon-funded. Too bad this one won’t actually address what’s arguably the military’s biggest on-the-water worry: Hiding ships from the watchful eyes of potentially dangerous foes. Instead, these scientists think they’ve figured out how to trick the water itself.

The goal is to make ships immune to the up-and-down motion of waves, an objective that could help the military avoid the kinds of delays or rerouting that, for now, are inevitable during bad weather.

If that sounds different than previous breakthroughs in invisibility, it most definitely is. Before this, scientists focused on shrouding objects from the human eye. They’ve tried harnessing the mirage effect to play tricks on vision, and tried using meta-materials that bend light, in the hope of rendering something impossible to see. But despite some pretty amazing progress (cloaking 3D objects or entire events, for example) invisibility is still largely relegated to the low-frequency realm — not the optical wavelengths visible to us.

This time, instead of cloaking an object from light, scientists are cloaking it from water.

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