Star Trek's cloaking power could soon be less invisible in the real worldStar Trek celebrates 50 years of exploring space this year, but some of the tech in the series is inching closer to becoming a reality even today.
In the episode : a ballance of terror, the enterprise finds itself in Star Treck's version of a cold war stand off. [Unknown] No identification, sir. Just as the west distrusted the soviet union, at the far end of the galaxy The Romulans were acting suspiciously. All the villains in Star Trek were proxies for our villains, the real enemies of the time. The Romulans were sort of sneaking around and did everything undercover, were duplicitous and untrustworthy and all that was a reflection of how they were feeling about communism at the time. [MUSIC] The Blackbird SR71 is one example of that distrust. Today, it's on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. In the 1960s, it was one of the United States' top secret black project And one of the first military aircraft designed using stealth technology to avoid detection by enemy radar. [NOISE] But the Romulan bird of prey went one better. It wasn't just stealthy. It could disappear altogether using an invisibility cloak. It was something that was used by the enemy and maybe because it was a little underhand. Inspired by Star Trek, scientists have been trying to make an invisibility cloak ever since. Obviously Star Trek is fiction. So we don't it didn't actually specify how their cloak operated otherwise we would have built one a long time ago. So professor John Howell and his team at the University of Rochester have made their own version. They call it the Rochester cloak. Is there a simple way to achieve cloaking without Going into great expense or great difficulty in making the setup. The answer turns out to be, yes. And it all comes down to classic physics. Invisibility is taking a light ray and bending it around an object. So that it gets to the observer as if the object weren't there. According to Einstein, one way of doing this is to warp space using something like a black hole. [SOUND] John doesn't have a black hole in his lab but he does have quite a lot of these. [MUSIC] We have the Rochester cloak, which is four lenses. And they're set apart so that the light that comes in focuses, diverges, comes through, focuses, diverges and comes through. The Rochester cloak can hide an object, but also make it look transparent, so that. The whole thing appears as if it's not there. [MUSIC] Physics is not magic. And only magic if you don't understand what's going on. It would be absolutely incredible to an 18th century person to see an iPhone. It would be totally magical. the math required to get the position of a lenses just right, is complex but, it's not new. [MUSIC] These technique is using old physics to do a simple imaging problem That maybe hadn't really been thought of. [MUSIC] Old sci fi plus classic physics equals invisibility. [MUSIC]