Are Invisibility Cloaks Real? Scientists Are One Step Closer To Making One With DNA & Gold

Ad failed to load

If your favorite part of the entire Harry Potter series was his invisibility cloak (and its propensity to get everyone's favorite wizard into trouble), you're in luck. New research developed by scientists at Northwestern and published this month in Science gets us one step closer to real invisibility cloaks. No, this isn't second-year Potions — it's real life.

OK, so the scientists' first priority isn't quite making Hogwarts-style invisibility cloaks a reality, but rather improving cloaking technology, which makes objects appear invisible or transparent. Cloaking technology has huge implications for businesses, the military and other areas of everyday life. It's shown up in science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and more for years. But it's not just a fantasy; it's been a focus of intense scientific attention for years. According to Futurism, Toyota patented a "cloaking device" in 2017, designed to make the pillars on each side of the front windshields of a car look "transparent" to drivers, to improve their visibility. Their device uses mirrors, while other researchers are investigating the possibility of highly complicated flat-screen technology and cameras and of ultra-thin metallic surfaces that seem to "bend" light and radio-magnetic waves away from them. The new research from the Northwestern scientists fits roughly into this last category, but it's taken an entirely new approach — using minuscule particles of gold and some DNA.

Ad failed to load

The scientists have basically created an entire new way of constructing materials, through an intensely cool process: using DNA to structure "superlattices" of gold nanoparticles. It's a very technically complex idea, but in essence, it combines a technique called top-down lithography, which takes miniature amounts of a material and "etches" away the bits that aren't needed, with another one: 3D construction using DNA strands. The scientists used lithography to make tiny moulds, then positioned layered lattices of gold nanoparticles on them — all held together by specially created strands of DNA fused with the gold. The result? A super cool new material.

There are a lot of things that are exciting about this development. One is that it means these materials can be precisely arranged in some very peculiar ways that were previously out of reach for scientists. The aspect that's getting the most attention, though, is the fact that if you alter the DNA strands holding these materials together, they can change color on truly microscopic levels — like pixels, but far tinier. The optical possibilities are endless, and the researchers reckon that they can alter the DNA to replicate virtually every color known. That could mean big developments for future cloaking technology.

Ad failed to load

This isn't the only bit of cloaking technology gaining speed right now, either. One of the biggest issues with human-invented cloaking devices is that they need to be able to cover every aspect of the light spectrum. Earlier in 2018, a discovery from Harvard scientists debuted in Nature that proposed just that: lenses made of titanium "nanofins" that could transmit all the different wavelengths of light in exactly the same way. The astrophysicist Ethan Siegel wrote in Forbes that this sort of technology could be the way forward for cloaking devices, as it could allow every wavelength of light to "bend" around an object and continue in its original direction without stopping, rendering the object itself invisible. That, right now, is the holy grail of cloaking devices — and it may not be far away.

At this point, it's not a matter of "if" cloaking technology will exist; it's probably more a question of "when." But there's still a long way to go before invisibility cloaks are available in your local store. The DNA-gold mash-up is still a very new technology that hasn't been applied to anything specific yet, and the titanium nanofins are in very early development. It's also not unthinkable, as Siegel predicted, that some of these ideas could end up joining together to make cloaking easier. If you were disappointed that Wonder Woman's invisible jet didn't make an appearance in her 2017 movie, hold on; they may one day be a reality in the sky.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Bustle's Editors On Ice Dancing + Rihanna

For those of you who had a holiday on President's Day, welcome to the start of the work week! And for everyone who worked yesterday, you're one day closer to the weekend, woo! Today's been a fairly chill day so far — we've got more on the Winter Olym…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

Here Are All The Terms You Need To Know If You’re Watching Olympic Ski Events Right Now

Every four years the Winter Olympics rolls around to remind me that A) there are so many important Winter Olympic sports, and B) I know virtually nothing any of them. And I know for a fact, I'm not alone, I bet most people don't know what the differe…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
via Romper

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale

17 Moms Reveal The Most Disgusting Part Of Their Pregnancy

Pregnant bodies do weird-ass things. Weird-ass, gross things. I mean, my pregnant body did (twice), and I have long-suspected I'm not alone. So I asked other moms to share the most disgusting part of their pregnancy and I learned that, not only am I …
via Romper