Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pentagon and DARPA Perfecting the Cloak of Invisibility

Pentagon creates invisibility cloak that may lead to more effective spying

Scientists working in conjunction with the Pentagon have announced the creation of a “time hole.”

A team at Cornell University, working with the support of DARPA, announced Wednesday that they have managed to hide an event for 40 picoseconds. The team published the results of the experiment in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.

“It may be desirable to cloak the occurrence of an event over a finite time period, and the idea of temporal cloaking has been proposed in which the dispersion of the material is manipulated in time, producing a ‘time hole’ in the probe beam to hide the occurrence of the event from the observer,” the team noted in the published piece.

Scientists said the experiment has yielded results consistent with a phenomenon known as “temporal cloaking,” The experiment is thought to be the first time that scientists have succeeded in masking an event, though research teams have in recent years made remarkable strides in cloaking objects.

Scientists said they were able to achieve temporal cloaking by altering the speed of light beams, similar to those used for data transmission. The scientists said that through the use of various lenses, they shifted the speed of light, causing some beams to travel faster and others slower.

By passing the light through the lenses and then through a medium that dispersed it, the team was able to create a gap in the light — essentially a time when no wavelength was visible. The entire experiment occurred inside a fiber optics cable.

Temporal cloaking, like spatial cloaking, follows all the laws of physics. Cloaking things, either in space or in time, requires the manipulation of light. Light carries information; it bounces off objects, defining their shape and sending those details to detectors such as our eyes. If an object can prevent light from doing that, it will become invisible.

The system, which is the first physical demonstration of a phenomenon originally described theoretically a year ago by Martin McCall and his colleagues at Imperial College London in the Journal of Optics, relies on the ability to use short intense pulses of light to alter the speed of light as it travels through optical materials, in this case an optical fiber.

“We think of time in the way that other people think of space. What other people are doing in space, we can do it in time,” said Moti Fridman, a researcher at the School of Applied and Engineering Physics at Cornell University.

It remains unclear how the experiment’s results will be applied to the surrounding world. DARPA, which receives its funding from the Pentagon, has used the results of a number of experiments in recent years to progress military technology, such as that seen in military drones flying over the skies of Afghanistan.

The team of scientists suggested that the cloaking device could be used for increasing the amount of data transmitted by computers, adding that the device may also be employed for more nefarious activities. While Cornell’s researchers are able to create gaps of about 50 picoseconds – or five-trillionths of a second – hackers and military intelligences software would need at least a nanosecond to swipe sensitive information.

While the experiment did not yield results anywhere near reliable, the team noted that additional experiments could results in a much longer gap being created, which could allow for an increased effectiveness for computer hackers.

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