back to article Forget invisible kittens, now TANKS draped in INVISIBILITY CLOAK

Boffins have come up with a way to throw up an invisibility cloak, using a bunch of small antennas to create a force field instead of using metamaterials* to build a Harry Potter-style garment. A US Army M1A1 Abrams tank heads out on a mission from Forward Operating Base MacKenzie in Iraq on October 27, 2004 Tall order ... …

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  1. Sarah Davis

    is there a photo of this invisible tank

    (coat, obv)

    1. Tom 11
      Joke

      Emporers new cloaking device

      Already up for you, but if you can see that tank in the article, then you must be unfit for your position, stupid, or incompetent.

      (Obviously I can't tell ;) )

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Emporers new cloaking device

        Of course I can see the tank in the picture - it's the invisible one just to the left I can't see. </Eccles mode>

        1. RobHib
          Angel

          @Francis Boyle - - Re: Emporers new cloaking device

          Of course I can see the tank in the picture - it's the invisible one just to the left I can't see.

          Lucky you, there's not tank in sight anywhere, only an ugly Emperor in full regalia.

          ;-)

    2. Michael 28
      Happy

      re:is there a photo of this invisible tank

      ......no need. It's the one next to the parking meter.

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      It's basically the EM equivalent of noise cancelation

      Noise cancellation does the acoustic equivalent of this. It's amazingly simple, as you can see by reading the Physical Review X article.

    4. Zot

      It's the one in front of the tank in the picture.

      They get you to focus on the second tank whilst the first one runs you over. Very clever.

  2. Christopher O'Neill

    SEP field

    'The technology involved in making something properly invisible is so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it's simpler just to take the thing away and do without it....... The "Somebody Else's Problem field" is much simpler, more effective, and "can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery."'

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody_Else's_Problem

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Back in the nineties ...

    Downward pointing aircraft radars were set to highlight missing pieces of ground. Tanks using this kit would really draw attention to themselves.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Back in the nineties ...

      I really don't think it would be good to use when cloaking a tank.

      It only cloaks it to radar.

      Thermal imaging and regular sight will still show the tank.

      Now if you could integrate this in to an aircraft's skin and it would stand up to supersonic flight? ....

      Or on the other end of the spectrum.... a slow moving airship.... at a high enough altitude w camouflage paint would make a good spy platform, especially at night.

      1. jlqzvqij

        Re: Back in the nineties ...

        Assuming they are not in use already!!

        Choppers that come silently at night, or subs running silently in the deep....

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Back in the nineties ...

      The boffins also think that retuning the system to work with light waves, rendering the object truly invisible, should work on the same principles.

      ...

      Downward pointing aircraft radars were set to highlight missing pieces of ground. Tanks using this kit would really draw attention to themselves.

      Quite right. If I understand correctly, the device essentially turns the object black, not invisibile, as it prevents a given frequency from being reflected back. Nowhere in the article does it even imply that light from the oposite side is shuttled through. For a tank, I would think the bulk of a metamaterial-based shield would not be much of a problem. Taken together, though, radar-defeating and human-eye-invisible tanks (or war ships) would be a bit more scary, especially if they could decloak at will for intimidation purposes.

  4. The First Dave

    I just love the way that the boffin claims that a light-based cloak is basically the same principle as this radio-based one. I guess he's fishing for funding, or something, 'cos I can think of a couple of significant issues.

    And surely this is no more than one level more complex than the radar jamming carried out by standard ECM pods since at least the 1960's ?

    1. kamikrazee

      if you really want funding for this...

      sell it to car companies

  5. Harry

    I refuse to believe in invisible tanks ...

    ... until I see one with my own eyes.

  6. i like crisps
    Meh

    Another problem is...

    ...the 'Heat-Bloom' from the vehicle and it's rather noisy

    Diesel engines...Infrared cameras anyone?

  7. pinkmouse

    So, you've got a tank constantly emitting RF to baffle (active sensing) radar. Passive homing missiles anyone?

  8. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Good thing, too

    Just think what the invisibility of cats would do to the internet.

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: Good thing, too

      Sorry, but you were really asking for it.

  9. jubtastic1

    is it cloaking or cancelation then?

    Because the article suggests it's disruptive interference for their test object but then they talk about warping radiowaves around buildings in the way of antennas and possible applications for hiding stuff in the visual spectrum.

  10. LeeE Silver badge

    Not quite invisibility

    This isn't really invisibility because whilst it may cancel reflections it doesn't substitute a replacement image. To use the Harry Potter analogy, when he put it on you'd see a pitch-black silhouette instead of what's behind him. As far as radar goes, well, it would probably be ok for above-the-horizon targets because you wouldn't get a return from the sky anyway, so the 'hole' wouldn't be apparent, but for targets below the horizon, where a discriminator is needed to pick the target out from the background returns then that 'hole' might be noticable, at least at relatively short ranges.

    Re. "bypass[ing] obstacles" yes, it could certainly act as a repeater in the radio spectrum, and by messing about with phasing it could make itself appear to be bigger or smaller, or in a different place, but then that's not making it invisbile.

    As for making it work in the visible spectrum? Well, I think they've got their work cut out there. With enough processing power you could make it work for _one_ point of view, but not for many points of view because the system would need to simultaneously project different backgrounds, not only for different directions but also for different perspectives, which isn't simply a processing issue; each single (re)emitter in the array would simultaneously need to send different signals corresponding to all the possible viewing positions. For example, if we imagine we're using an array of LEDs to display a visible spectrum replacement image then each individual LED would need to appear to be a different colour and brightness depending upon where it's being viewed from.

  11. Circle of Fifths

    Why boffins?

    I'm not familiar with the term.. but why does every article in the Register related to science (that I've seen) refer to the researchers as 'boffins'? Is this term not both demeaning to the researchers as well as the authors.. who sound like they are admitting a failure to grasp a basic understanding of technology? From a quick web search.. the definition of boffin is:

    "Boffin was a common colloquial term used in Britain during WW2 for the technical experts, the backroom boys, who were helping to win the war. An affectionate term, but with some practical fighting man’s scorn for the academic brain worker."

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Why boffins?

      "why does every article in the Register related to science (that I've seen) refer to the researchers as 'boffins'"

      Because that's our style. And rather than quote some random thing off the internet, let's look at the actual dictionary (OED):

      "a person engaged in scientific or technical research: a person with knowledge or a skill considered to be complex or arcane".

      That's it. No scorn. It is a term of endearment :-)

      C.

    2. cortland

      Re: Why boffins?

      A boffin is an aukward bird with a large beak.

      1. hamcheeseandonion
        Thumb Up

        Re: Why boffins?

        ....I saw what you did there...Auk....ward....very smooth...have an upvote.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El Reg, you got played

    Here's today's report card. The Reg just reported on a piece of pure grant-bait, PR designed to secure additional funding, or sources of funding, for the research group. (I'm sure DARPA will be knocking on this team's door pretty soon.)

    Apart from anything else, the headline "Now boffins drape TANKS in INVISIBILITY CLOAK" is a weak cousin of the truth, "they draped a much smaller object in a field that does not cover the mainline case of visible light." Even allowing for the humorous tabloidese of the Reg it seems apparent:

    You got played, suckaz.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: El Reg, you got played

      Besides, last I checked, radar tech is starting to move to multistatic installations, which can work more passively (meaning destroying the transmitter doesn't necessarily degrade the efficiency of the receivers) and actually turns current stealth tech against itself (because they normally work by deflecting radio waves--such craft would stick out like a sore thumb in a multistatic radar reading because they'll be blocking expected signals).

  13. Arachnoid

    Not quite invisibility

    You may be better off making a time differential device that combined the area in question with that before the event occurred thus masking the object from all viewpoints

    1. jubtastic1
      Trollface

      Re: Not quite invisibility

      A time displacement field? ROFL, way easier to simply spatially warp the object in all seven dimensions, true it's not technically invisible but it's as good as and there's no time shadow to give the game away.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    so it's a phased array antena that *absorbs* incoming radio waves & the object is *small*

    It's less than 2/3 of the wavelength of the radio waves.

    So it looks like you get a radar "hole" in the image.

    Not suspicious at all, right?

    1. jubtastic1

      Re: so it's a phased array antena that *absorbs* incoming radio waves & the object is *small*

      Not if they were expecting a hole, the sky for instance, and if you can destructively interfere with the incoming radar and cancel it out then presumably you could adjust that interference to appear to be something other than a tank, like a bus, perhaps if you had access to a sample of the radar stations sweep you might even alter the reflection to recreate what would have bounced back if your tank wasn't there.

  15. Gazman
    Coat

    Stop, STOP

    The last time they tried this, people got fused to deck plates.

  16. Nanners

    This works both ways

    Imagine a computer bathed in electromagnetic fields. I would fry the electronics. Renders the object "cloaked" useless.

  17. Sokolik
    WTF?

    Ummmm...ECM, anyone?

    Probably-- and quite rightly-- my generation-old "knowledge" will be jumped like a June bug by hens...but...sincerely...can anyone tell me how this is "something new under the sun"? Is this not decades-old aviation Electronic Counter Measures? Put another way, how is this not, "Move along, move along, nothing to see here"?

    1. Stuart Van Onselen

      Re: Ummmm...ECM, anyone?

      "Move along, move along, nothing to see here"

      I see what you did there...

      1. Sokolik
        Facepalm

        Re: Ummmm...ECM, anyone?

        Oh, my! I wish I could take credit but I can't. It was just the phrase that came to mind. Thank you!

  18. Johan Bastiaansen
    Angel

    An imperial tank?

    Only invisible to very smart people.

  19. James Loughner
    Thumb Up

    great for speeders

    I want one for my car so I can drive as fast as I want. Just null out the radar guns

  20. Wzrd1

    Welcome to the news of two fucking years ago!

    Dusted off, reworded, same shit, different year.

    BUY ME, I HAVE NEW/OLD NEWS THAT INSISTS I SHOULD BE INVESTED UPON!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hopeless effort:

    The yanks will still find a way to shoot at it, forcing it to wear the equivalent of an electromagnetic red tablecloth...

  22. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    What we really need

    is an invisibility cloak to bring new bits of kit into the house under the missus' radar. Very difficult as the missus' radar is sensitive to non-electromagnetic guilt waves given off by any man who has just bought yet another tech toy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What we really need

      My neighbour used the "SHGIC" field to pass the financial controllers gaze.

      He'd drop off the new boxes and bits at my house and sprinkle some dust and fingerprints over the main device then leave it on the passenger seat of his car until later. That evening he would remember to bring in the SecondHandGotItCheap device from the car to see if he could fix it in his shed.

      He had a high success rate getting that stuff going.

      I guess the scam worked for a while.

      Can't remember where he is buried.

  23. Stuart Van Onselen

    Multi-frequency?

    And what about spread-spectrum radars that vary their frequency rapidly, in a pseudo-random basis? How will they cancel that out?

    Of course, the problem with visible light is orders of magnitude harder. There you have an infinite range of frequencies simultaneously impinging on your device, coming from every angle at once.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attack Kittens

    I'm genuinely worried... stealth kittens could be a serious game changer!

    http://www.genkigear.com/.media/594834826704.png

    Those ninjas had better watch out... http://www.genkigear.com/.media/258427408129.png

  25. Frogmelon

    Has anyone looked at animal rights issues concerned with covering tanks with hundreds and hundreds of invisible kittens, and the usage of said kittens in a live combat environment?

    Yes, the kittens may make the tank invisible. However, I don't think enough research has been carried out into the difference in protective capabilities between invisible kittens and other forms of ablative armour.

  26. Dave Rickmers
    Linux

    All the high tech of a Radar Range

    Everybody knows an open quarter wave stub shorts the design frequency to earth. This is probably just the principle realized with fractal antennas on a flexible backing. I designed a similar system to keep UHF TV out of open air stadia.

  27. mfritz0

    Sounds just like the Philadelphia experiment.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    waste of money.....

    Why not stick a cardboard cut-out around the tank of a small boy on a bicycle or of a break-dancing hyena ? SOLVED.

    Equally, getting Cher to straddle the gun barrel should suitably distract....

  29. jbelkin

    Mayor Rob Ford wants one.

  30. SteveCarr
    Big Brother

    This one has me thinking...

    ....perhaps it could also be used on the National Debt?

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