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Cloak of invisibility

  A cloak of invisibility is a theme that has occurred in fiction, and more recently, reality.


Cloaks of invisibility in fiction

Cloaks of invisibility are relatively rare in folklore; although they do occur in some fairy tales, such as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a commoner trope is the cap of invisibility.[1] The cap of invisibility has appeared in Greek myth: Pluto was ascribed possession of a cap or helmet that made the wearer invisible.[2] In some versions of the Perseus myth, Perseus borrows this cap from the goddess Athena and uses it to sneak up on the sleeping Medusa when he kills her. A similar helmet, the Tarnhelm, is found in Norse mythology. In the Second Branch of the Mabinogi, one of the important texts of Welsh mythology, Caswallawn (the historical Cassivellaunus) murders Caradog ap Bran and other chieftains left in charge of Britain while wearing a cloak of invisibility.[3]

Edgar Rice Burroughs uses the idea of an invisibility cloakin his 1931 novel A Fighting Man of Mars. A scene in the movie, Erik the Viking rather humorously depicts the title character using a borrowed cloak of invisibility, which he does not realize works only on the foolish father of the princess to whom it belongs. His foes are so baffled by his bizzare behavior and false proclamations of his invisibility that they are too stunned to actually fight him, thus allowing him to easily defeat them.

More recently, a Cloak of Invisibility is presented as a key plot element in the Harry Potter series of novels by J.K. Rowling.

The cloaking devices appearing in Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate, presents a similar notion in a science fiction form, but is generally used to hide larger scale objects, such as space ships. In science fiction cloaking, there is generally presented an assumed quasi-scientific, in-universe basis for the concept of achieving invisibility. Conversely, invisiblity and cloaking is commonly presented in the science fantasy genre as a magical phenomenon, rather than in forms that rely on pure science.[4]

Cloaks of invisibility in science

On October 19, 2006, a joint effort between scientists from the United Kingdom and the United States of America produced a cloak that prevented a copper cylinder from being detected by microwaves. The cloak was made from metamaterials. It cast a small shadow, which the designers hope to fix.

The device works only in two dimensions and only on microwaves, items are still visible to the naked eye although the research may lay ground work to address that form of invisibility also.[5][6]

David R. Smith, Augustine Scholar and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University which demonstrated the first working "invisibility cloak" has been quoted as saying:[7]

It's not yet clear that you're going to get the invisibility that everyone thinks about with Harry Potter's cloak or the Star Trek cloaking device. To make an object literally vanish before a person's eyes, a cloak would have to simultaneously interact with all of the wavelengths, or colors, that make up light.

However, new studies by an American group of scientists say that the cloak would be very similar to the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter, but no shadow would be produced, because the cells would allow light to bend around them. The design calls for tiny metal needles to be fitted into a hairbrush-shaped cone at angles and lengths that would force light to pass around the cloak. This would make everything inside the cone appear to vanish because the light would no longer reflect off it. "It looks pretty much like fiction, I do realize, but it's completely in agreement with the laws of physics," said lead researcher Vladimir Shalaev, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue. "Ideally, if we make it real it would work exactly like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak," he said. "It's not going to be heavy because there's going to be very little metal in it."

See also

  • Cap of invisibility
  • Cloaking device


  1. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 332 W. W. Norton & company, London, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  2. ^ Edith Hamilton, Mythology, p 29, ISBN 0-451-62702-4
  3. ^ Gantz, Jeffrey (translator) (1987). The Mabinogion, p. 80. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044322-3.
  4. ^ John Clute and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, "Invisibility", p 625 ISBN 0-312-13486-X
  5. ^ Peter N. Spotts (2006-10-20). Disappear into thin air? Scientists take step toward invisibility.. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  6. ^ Sean Markey (2006-10-19). First Invisibility Cloak Tested Successfully, Scientists Say. National Geographic News. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  7. ^ Invisibility Cloak Demonstrated!. Computing News (2006). Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cloak_of_invisibility". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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