back to article Chinese boffins crack cloaking tech for camouflage

Chinese boffins have invented new cloaking technology which distorts light in a way that could be used to disguise soldiers, or even aircraft, during combat. Transformation optics scientists have made great leaps in recent years towards bending light in such a way as to make objects invisible, however, thus far they’ve been …

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  1. Drakkenson
    Black Helicopters

    Let me be the first to welcome our pink invisible Chinese overlords.

    1. LarsG

      If they are invisible how can they be pink?

      1. Oliver Mayes

        @LarsG

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: @LarsG

          I've seen it.

          Stare at the image behind this link for 20 seconds, then look away at a white area of screen.

          Then google Kanizsa illusions and read up on it. The brain can construct all manner of realities that have no physical correlate. Invisible Pink Unicorn is an exercise in semantics that falls at the first fence, so to speak, when used as an anti-theological argument. FSM is far more effective as a tool for debating religious fervour.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @TRT.

            If the posted example of a trick in the operation of the retina is a physical thing, how can it be an imagined reality? It's defiantly a failure in description, the trick with the visual system is the visual system we are referring to, not the "unicorn". But the workings of the visual system are defiantly real. So is the logo of a pink unicorn. Which suggests the name "invisible" is the failure of those naming it, not the reality.

            To draw attention to the unicorn fails to note that it's the people who need correcting, not the object they worship. Call it the "Anti Cognitive Dissonance group" or something. Stop getting people worried about invisibilities, and get them to think about themselves. :)

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: @TRT.

              "how can it be an imagined reality?" In the case of an after image, then, yes, there is something physical going on. But what about the Kanisza illusions?

              This becomes an exercise in semantics. It's not "real" because there is no pink unicorn there, or even a picture of a pink unicorn (c'eci n'est pa une pipe), but it IS real, because it is a physiological difference in firing patterns across certain retinal ganglion cells and other neurones in the visual pathway up to, including and beyond the visual cortex. "Teach it phenomenology, Dave".

              It's invisible because no-one else can see what you can see, at least those who haven't seen the green unicorn first in the same way you did. As my ex-boss and professor of neuroscience who spent a 50+ year career studying the visual system always said "If you perceive it, then there's something to be explained."

              So "real" has as vague a definition as "God". I agree with your point about people thinking about themselves.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @TRT.

                Thanks. But "real" and "God" are no more vague than 1 and 2. They are only vague if we let them be. But we do learn maths, I wish more would learn reasoning and definition in their observations too. :)

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: @TRT.

                  Really? It took Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead 378 pages of exquisitely painful maths to prove that 1+1=2. At least they got there in the end, though.

              2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                WTF?

                Re: @TRT.

                > So "real" has as vague a definition as "God".

                BULLSHIT.

                God can't hit you as well in the eye as a real bullet

                There is some difference in quality.

                1. sisk Silver badge

                  Good grief

                  How do you people take a story about an invisibility cloak, or near invisibility cloak as the case may be, and turn it into an opportunity to take a poke at religion?

                  Honestly, what difference does it make to you if someone else believes in God or invisible pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters or honest politicians?

                  1. Euripides Pants Silver badge
                    Coat

                    Re: Good grief

                    It seems the invisibility cloak works on stories about invisibility cloaks...

                    Mine's the invisible one.

                  2. Vic

                    Re: Good grief

                    > what difference does it make to you if someone else believes in ... honest politicians?

                    Some people really do need saving from themselves...

                    Vic.

                2. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: @TRT.

                  *sigh* I think you, unlike your real bullet, have missed the point.

                  I did not equate "God" with "real", merely pointed out that both terms are open to interpretation. There is a common, broad understanding of the words which suffice for day to day use, but as with just about anything there are occasions where the commonality of that understanding will break down and exceptions can be found. Is the afterimage produced by looking at a green unicorn real? It doesn't exist, you can't touch it, it can't hit you in the eye, yet I perceive it, so it is real. What is reality, man?

                  EDIT @ SISK. Sorry, I got sucked in. By the pink unicorn of all things.

            2. NumptyScrub
              Headmaster

              Re: @TRT.

              There's a lot of defiance in your post, where I was actually expecting a definite article instead... ;)

              I'm assuming that "invisible pink unicorn" is intentionally oxymoronic, however for most definitions of invisible it relates to a physical object that is currently not visible; it is entirely possible to take a pink unicorn, apply the invisibility to it, and thus produce an invisible unicorn which would otherwise be pink. This would be to differentiate it from, for instance, a blue unicorn which has been made invisible (everyone knows that the blue ones are male, and the pink female). Since there are therefore obvious physiological differences between invisible blue, and invisible pink, unicorns, I would argue that the oxymoronic full appelation is in fact warranted in a variety of situations, to aid in clear and concise identification of the invisible intruder in question.

              The term "invisible red army" would certainly have a similar use on a potential future batlefield. ;)

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: @NumptyScrub

                Agreed! Now, where did I put my copy of Command and Conquer?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chinese "defence security"?

    How dare they! Doesn't the United States have the exclusive right to say who can speak of "defence security", and who must instead refer to the same work as "terrorism technology" (vis *.gov)?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pink?

    The pure white of American Christian Capitalism mixed with the blood red of Chinese Communism?

    1. Drakkenson

      Re: Pink?

      Actually, I was going to make some lame pun alluding to invisible pink unicorns and failed to delete 'pink', but your explanation works better. BTW, what do you call a mixture of red and black (as in Communist and Evil, as it were)? I'm not a native English speaker, you see.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pink?

        That'd be brown

        ...somehow seems surprisingly fitting. ;o)

      2. nuked
        Coat

        Re: Pink?

        Dennis the Menace?

        1. wowfood

          Re: Pink?

          A darker shade of red?

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Pink?

            Burgundy? Maroon?

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Pink?

            Fifty shades of gray.

  4. phear46

    pics...

    Or it didn't happen.

    1. Ted Treen
      Facepalm

      Re: pics...

      The pics were posted: it's just that being invisible pics of invisible objects, they're easy to overlook...

    2. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      @phear 46 Re: "pics.......Or it didn't happen."

      Highly entertaining!

  5. Dave Wray
    Coat

    In aircraft combat how useful is this?

    Surely thermal imaging and heat sinking missiles, as fitted to fighters for donkeys, would be totally unafected by this pimp my light bend bendy shizzle?

    I'll get my coat, as you're bound to tell e that we don't all have FLIR goggles.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

      Sir, we have 3 birds on radar... they're flying at mach 2...

      1. Ian Yates
        Megaphone

        Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

        They would be the fastest, loudest birds ever witnessed.

        1. Arctic fox
          Joke

          Re: "They would be the fastest, loudest birds ever witnessed."

          Would we be talking about a "sonic squawk" when they broke the sound-barrier?

        2. Wize

          Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

          The green pigs will be shitting themselves now.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

            Hogs of War?

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

        Sir, we have 3 birds on radar... they're flying at mach 2...

        Meep!Meep!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In aircraft combat how useful is this?

      Umm, maybe because IR is light too? If you can change one heat signature into two that's not going to make you invisible, but you'd have a problem targeting..

  6. fixit_f
    Go

    More R+D in China

    So to those who think research and development is going to stay in the West while the East slavishly manufactures our goods cheaply - care to rethink your position?

    1. b166er

      Re: More R+D in China

      Not sure I know anyone who thinks like that. I just hope the Chinese become the next superpower using economy, rather than war. Presumably this research is for their own protection in case the USA won't go down without a fight.

      For the record, I'm a global citizen with interstellar potential, so have no allegiance to any particular form of governance.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: More R+D in China

        Yeah, the Chinese are really good at this. I remember four and a half years ago when they create the illusion that they could make footprint shaped aerial fireworks over Beijing...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More R+D in China

          Meanwhile they still succeed in persisting the illusion that they are Communists.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: More R+D in China

            >History shows every superpower rise starts with economy which provides the means to build a large military then the muscle flexing begins, which results in wars.

            Creating wealth through trade (and and raining taxes for courts so that traders resolve disputes rather than stab each other) makes your fledgling city city state an attractive target for the hordes outside the gates. So the second thing taxes pay for is defence.

            But yeah, China isn't daft and is investing in R&D and the mechanisms to support it.

      2. That Steve Guy
        Black Helicopters

        Re: More R+D in China

        "Not sure I know anyone who thinks like that. I just hope the Chinese become the next superpower using economy, rather than war. Presumably this research is for their own protection in case the USA won't go down without a fight."

        History shows every superpower rise starts with economy which provides the means to build a large military then the muscle flexing begins, which results in wars.

        China is no different and they are already muscle flexing on weaker nations in their region. Just look at their territorial disputes going on right now.

  7. RichD

    cloaking flaw

    I've always wondered, if you're fully cloaked, so all EM radiation is bent around you, how do you see where you're going?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cloaking flaw

      You use BS (Bruise Sensing). The only problem there is that after a couple of heavy impact either sensitivity changes or speed goes down..

  8. James 51 Silver badge

    Would this be a useful defense against energy weapons like lasers? If so flak might make a come back.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      flak not needed

      just drone swarms - should be able to make some pretty impressive drone domes with mass produced drones that would detect anything passing through - or take them out if they hit.

  9. John G Imrie Silver badge
    Pint

    I can make 2 ghost immages ...

    Just give me enough alcohol.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I can make 2 ghost immages ...

      Well, intoxicating your enemy has been considered by various forces. There was that CIA video of soldiers falling around an obstacle course whilst on LSD, and the Afghans giving the occupying Soviet troops cannabis (probably not great for fighting morale if they have seen the remains of their comrades left at the roadside bundled in their own skins)...

  10. Frankee Llonnygog

    Should be hugely successful for the huge

    "These effectively scatter the incoming light to distort the object – making it appear smaller – and create two “ghost images” on either side of it"

    Can I be first to patent its use as a fabric for fashionable clothes?

    "Does my bum look big in this?"

    "Nope. All 6 of your buttocks look remarkably pert, but the 4 outside cheeks look a bit fuzzy"

  11. Werner McGoole

    Um, yeah, but...

    The point about invisibility cloaking is that you can't disappear by hiding behind a picture of nothing, so you need to do some fancy light bending instead. But you can look like a tree just by hiding behind a picture of a tree - or even a real tree.

    So how is this any better than a picture of a tree, or conventional camouflage?

    1. Jess--

      Re: Um, yeah, but...

      light bending (in its perfect form) you could hide while standing in front of the tree (or anything else) anyone looking at you would see what is behind you.

      if done perfectly you should appear to be 100% transparent and non distorting from any angle, if the tech ever reaches that level I would think that the only way of detecting it would be laser range finders (since bending the light around an object or person would affect the length of the beam as they moved giving a useful doppler shift)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Um, yeah, but...

        >So how is this any better than a picture of a tree, or conventional camouflage?

        Because you don't need a tree. The human eye is well trained to pick out the human form... anything that breaks up your shape will help hide you. If a soldier using this kit were stood against a bare skyline (something they are trained not to do, obviously) then it might make them look like three small bushes- each too slim to hide a human, so not a threat.

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