Harry Potter and the Invisible Man can take a seat … apparently it’s Marvel’s Invisible Woman who represents the “most plausible example” of how invisibility will work in the future:
… Ulf Leonhardt, a theoretical physicist at St. Andrews University in Scotland, believes the most plausible example is the Invisible Woman, one of the Marvel Comics superheroes in the “Fantastic Four.”
“She guides light around her using a force field in this cartoon. This is what could be done in practice,” Leonhardt told Reuters in an interview. “That comes closest to what engineers will probably be able to do in the future.”
Invisibility is an optical illusion that the object or person is not there. Leonhardt uses the example of water circling around a stone. The water flows in, swirls around the stone and then leaves as if nothing was there.
Leonhardt’s article on theoretical invisibility devices was published in the New Journal of Physics, where the author said scientists are making advances in “metamaterials,” i.e. artificial materials with properties that could be used to create invisibility devices.
The article links to an earlier one from last May, where MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle talked about metamaterials and the potential military applications:
Theoretically at least, the metamaterial could work like the helmet of invisibility celebrated in Greek myth, or the cloaking device that hid Romulan and Klingon vessels in the “Star Trek” series, or the invisibility cloak that came in so handy for Harry Potter in J.K. Rowlings’ novels.
“Fiction has predicted the course of science for some time. … Maybe these Harry Potter novels were ahead of their time,” Pendry said, half-jokingly.