We write a lot about invisibility cloaks 'round these parts. Ever wanted to see one in action? Well, here's your chance, courtesy the researchers over at the University of Texas at Dallas.
In trying to wrap your head around how this works, think about a mirage. The sheet you see up there is made up of carbon nanotubes submerged in water. The array of molecule-thick tubes heat up quick, and a bunch of them can transfer said heat across a surface fast. That's important, because heat is a key component in creating a mirage, or more specifically a photothermal deflection, which is what you're seeing here.
A good ol' fashioned mirage like you see out in the desert is actually an optical trick that can be captured on film. It's all about temperature differential: light is turning as it passes over a desert surface, and through denser, colder air into warm air. That phantom water you see is actually a reflection of the sky through the bending light, and your mind trying to make sense of what's really there. If there was something really there, like, say, a shrub, you wouldn't see it. Here's a handy illustration of the concept via HowStuffWorks:
The team at UT Dallas is using this very same trick to make the sheet in the video below seemingly disappear. It is remarkable to see this cloaking device demonstrated in real life and on a workable scale," a spokesperson for the Institute of Physics told Wired. "The array of applications that could arise from this device, besides cloaking, is a testament to the excellent work of the authors."
You can read a full brief of their work right here.
CORRECTION: We called UT Dallas the "University of Dallas," which is incorrect. Don't tell my parents — they live in Texas.
Mirage image via HowStuffWorks