The world's first ‘fantasy-reality’ show began with the search for that which couldn’t be seen — an invisibility cloak

The first entry almost went unnoticed. It was an invisibility cloak made of metascreen - ultra-thin copper tape affixed to equally thin polycarbonate film. The cloak desisted from reflecting any kind of waves and hence, the presence of an object behind it could never be felt. Besides, little antennae on the cloak ensured that no radar could detect what was being concealed, so a three-dimensional object could be made absolutely invisible from any angle.

Next came a Canadian company that based its invisibility cloak on Quantum Stealth technology, with which it could clothe an entire army. Now, soldiers could strike fearlessly in broad daylight without any fear of being seen or detected. The material made rays of light bend around the object instead of deflecting off it and could operate in any frequency.

The doll maker came up with a battery-operated invisibility cloak. The concept of drawing from an external energy source helped - the metasurface was fitted with strategically positioned amplifiers that drew energy from the battery, thus making the cloak effective across a broader frequency spectrum and suppressing visibility in varied conditions. (On a tangential note, the fact that it is battery-operated has caught the fancy of a few Asian countries that are currently trying to mass-produce it at a much cheaper cost and flood the Indian market.)

The IT guy entered the contest with a cloak that was also an analog computer, capable of performing complex calculations. (All these years, you needed a screensaver to hide your chat windows when the boss came around, but now, you could hide the entire computer by making it invisible.)

However, it is not yet known if you can do status updates on Facebook using the cloak-computer, but you can sure get your integration and differentiation problems solved by it. How? The IT whiz threw light on the subject by explaining how the computer used light waves to create graph-like curves in space that determined various calculus functions, while the cloak modified the characteristics of the light waves to turn an object invisible.

A printer came next and demonstrated a simple way to construct an invisibility cloak – just print it using a 3D printer. (So how does one find out if the print out has arrived? We’ll leave the judges to deal with it.) The cloak had perforations based on a specific algorithm that enabled it to deflect microwaves, and was created using stereolithographic technology - layers of polymer plastic were added one over the other, carefully leaving out the holes and perforations as dictated by the algorithm, until the cloak was, er, invisible.

A tailor came up with his own idea - and created an invisibility cloak using gold-coated silk thread. However, like Krypton for Superman and the heel for Achilles, the cloak had a weak link - it could function only at terahertz frequencies. It had already been tested on an emperor and barring a little boy, no one could see through it.

This inference led to another glaring loophole - the invisibility cloak did not work on children.

Next was a cook. “If I can make noodles in 2 minutes, I can make an invisibility cloak just as fast,” he boasted. He removed the layer of Teflon from his saucepan and used it to make a cloak in just 15 minutes, using a process called topology optimization. “I just used advanced computer software and the algorithm did the rest,” he explained nonchalantly. Teflon proved to be an excellent alternative to any metamaterial, according to him.

Finally, a college kid came on the show. "15 minutes? Nonsense, I can tell you how to become invisible in 3 seconds flat." The judges looked at him, awestruck. “Oh it’s simple,” he continued. “To become invisible, all you need to do is stop talking.” “I don't understand,” a judge blurted out.

“We do it all the time in social media. Just turn off the chat feature - you'll become invisible.”

sureshl.india@gmail.com