Scientists desperate to tear the universe apart with backward-bending light

Pax Arcana

The New York Times reports that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have discovered a way to bend light backward — a finding that could lead to, among other things, upside down rainbows.

Also, it might make us invisible:

This technology could lead to microscopes able to peer more deeply and clearly into living cells. And the same kind of structures might one day be adapted to bend light in other unnatural ways, creating a Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak. “This is definitely a big step toward that idea,” said Jason Valentine, a graduate student and a lead author of a paper to be published online Wednesday by the journal Nature. But scientists are still far from designing and manufacturing such a cloak.


“It’s called a rainbow, Tommy, and it may be the last one ever.”

The technology is based on so-called negative refractive materials that skirt the normal rules of physics by reducing the index of refraction to 1 or even negative. Light striking such an object would take an upredictable turn, and could be directed to behave in strange ways:

In the Nature paper, the Berkeley researchers created a fishnet structure with 21 layers, alternating between a metal and magnesium fluoride, resulting in a metamaterial with a negative index of refraction for infrared light. The researchers said by making the fishnet structure even smaller, they should be able to do the same with visible light.

Thanks to these brave scientists, we can now outmaneuver all manner of sea creatures with our invisible fishnets. Between that and the Harry Potter cloaks, we’ll be unstoppable when the Kraken comes.

Surpassing Nature, Scientists Bend Light Backward [NYT]

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