Wacky Ideas from my Past – #1 The Invisibility Cloak

When I was a geeky teenager, I remember dreaming up these wild inventions that I though could revolutionize the world in some way.  Since that was 30 years ago, I thought it might be kind of fun to take stock of the likelihood of these ideas it today’s time.  Please try not to laugh.  Here was idea #1 – The Invisible Cloaking Device…

My thought was this – how cool would it be to be somewhere and put on a jacket and just become invisible.  Of course, the back pages of Popular Mechanics always had see-through glasses but of course, they were a gaff.  But I wondered if the cloaking concept could really work.  I didn’t see why not.  The way I figured it, if they could make transistors that were pretty much microscopic, and LED’s that were based on transistors, why not little cameras that were just as small?  All you had to do is put zillions of these cameras all over your cloak as well as zillions of LEDs.  But the LEDs had to be able to generate any color of light.  And each point of the cloak would have many cameras pointing in each direction, the signals of which were collected at a central computer.  The computer would figure out what part of the cloak was at the exact opposite position for each camera and each direction of view.  And so, that signal would get routed to the LED so as to generate the image that was the same as if you were looking through the cloak.  An engineering nightmare to be sure, especially in determining the position of every point of the coat.

So imagine how excited I was in 2006 when I first heard of experiments being done with cloaking devices.  Unfortunately, however, the technology is still woefully weak.  As shown in the figure below, you have to put a camera directly behind the subject and a combiner device between the viewer and the subject and it only works in one direction.  So, nobody is going to get fooled any time soon.

invisibility cloak

But still, the resulting effect is kind of cool.  See below…

invisibility cloak

So when will we have true invisibility?  I have seen projections of 10-20 years for single color with a cloak of a well-defined shape.  “Sometime this century” for a Harry Potter type invisible cloak.  I think that nanotech will facilitate the process by enabling microscopic devices that can image in all directions and are self aware of their position.  So, I say…

2030

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I was reading an article the other day about a new theory on the reason that we sleep.  A UCLA researcher suggests that rather than provide some vital biological function, it appears that sleep evolved to conserve energy and “keep us out of trouble.”  So it got me thinking about all of the other theories that I have read over the years – it helps restore energy levels, it strengthens the immune system, it repairs tissues and cells, it was an evolutionary development to avoid noctural predators.  And the list goes on, with no end of confusion and no apparent scientific consensus.

I wondered, what would be the purpose of sleep in a programmed reality?

And I thought of a possibility.  In multiplayer online games, a great deal of the logic behind the game resides in the client that sits on your PC.  The storage of the overall architecture of the game, each players attributes (to avoid hacking), etc., are on the server.  So what if our brain is analgous to such a client?  Doesn’t the client need to be upgraded periodically?  Ever notice how most PCs and Macs do automatic upgrades to various client programs upon reset, or when you attempt to open the program after it has been closed?  Notice that these upgrades aren’t done while you are playing or running the program?  The reason for that is to avoid any kind of software conflict.  It is far safer, and in most cases, essential, to do upgrades while the program is not running.  And then the next time you fire it up – presto, there are the changes.

Maybe the purpose of sleep is to allow the programmers the opportunity to upgrade our memories, processing capabilities, or whatever, during a down time.  It might explain why sleep deprivation causes us to act a little strangely.  It’s kind of like trying to run an ancient version of Word on your new Vista laptop.

(thanks to my nutty cat, Simba, for the sleeping pose)