By James Dacey
If you checked physicsworld.com this morning you may have been alarmed to read about the theft of the world’s first flexible invisibility cloak. Well, you will be relieved to hear that the cloak’s designer, physicist “Randy Katz”, has managed to relocate his precious garment, which he will now be wearing for the rest of his days. Yes folks, Randy nor his cloak really exist – it was a little joke for April Fools day.
Outlandish new technologies seem to have featured heavily among this year’s April Fools pranks. Here are my picks from the rest of the web.
Swedish furniture maestro Ikea hit the mark with its HUNDSTOL, a highchair for dogs to bring man’s best friend closer to the family at dinnertime.
Continuing the animal theme, The Sun newspaper (not known for its subtlety) ran with the story that gorillas were given iPads at a wild animal park in southern England. The head zookeeper was surprised when the gorillas started using the devices rather than “bang them on the rocks”.
British free daily newspaper, The Metro brought a chuckle with its edible newspaper, which came with the delicious headline: “Have we got chews for you”. Apparently pages were being printed on a corn starch mix that had a lovely light vanilla scent.
Eco-friendly fitness fanatics may have got excited when they read about the Re-Cycle Cardboard Bike. Designed by German engineers, the technology was said to fold down into a small package that could be popped conveniently into a carrier bag.
And finally, fans of 3D cinema will be gutted to learn that one-eye 3D TV will not be coming their way after all, as Toshiba’s new 3D monocle was indeed another joke.
For the record, here is our attempt at April Fool’s humour written by our prairie correspondent Minot Moorehead…
Invisibility cloak stolen from lab
Police in the US have launched an investigation after the world’s first flexible invisibility cloak was stolen early this morning. Physicist Randy Katz reported the carbon-based device missing from his lab at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.
Invisibility cloaks use materials with negative indices of refraction to bend light around an object much like water flowing past a stone in a gentle stream. Previous cloaks, however, were made of rigid materials that could not be made into wearable garments.
In 2008 Johan Pendergast of University College Limerick calculated that flexible metamaterials woven from carbon could have a negative index of refraction for visible light. After two years of experimental work, Katz and colleagues say they were about to unveil the first such flexible cloak.
Rings and rods
The design is based on the conventional “rings and rods” metamaterial. Carbon nanotubes function as rod-shaped capacitors and fullerene buckyballs act as inductors. The nanotubes are woven into in a lattice with a spacing of several hundred nanometres, corresponding to the wavelength of visible light.
Katz told physicsworld.com “nanotubes are extremely strong and flexible, which makes the fabric tough yet wearable”. Indeed, Katz revealed that he was talking to a famous French fashion house about using the fabric in its Autumn 2011 collection. “They think invisible could be the new black,” he said.
A rival fashion designer is one theory being investigated by police, but some physicists fear a more sinister motive. “This device is the Holy Grail of cloaking research,” said Wulf Tigerlung of St Antony’s University. “I have real concerns that whoever stole it could use it for evil purposes”.
North Dakota State Police have launched an investigation but are struggling to find any clues. “We are reviewing tapes from the university’s security cameras to identify anyone who entered the lab but didn’t appear to leave,” said trooper Crosby Cando. “It could also be an inside job,” he said. “Local fraternities would love to get their hands on such a cloak – just think of the pranks they could pull.”