200608021149In world shaking science news, Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, is being used by scientists as a model of how invisibility might really work:

…Dr Ulf Leonhardt, a theoretical physicist at St Andrews University in Scotland, believes the most plausible example is the Invisible Woman, one of the Marvel Comics super-heroes in the “Fantastic Four”.

“She guides light around her using a force field in this cartoon. This is what could be done in practice,” Leonhardt told Reuters in an interview. “That comes closest to what engineers will probably be able to do in the future.”

[snip]In the research published in the New Journal of Physics, Leonhardt described the physics of theoretical devices that could create invisibility. It is a follow-up paper to an earlier study published in the journal Science.

“What the Invisible Woman does is curve space around herself to bend light. What these devices would do is to mimic that curved space,” he said.

BUT HOW WOULD SHE BE ABLE TO SEE WITH NO LIGHT HITTING HER RETINAS??? Can you answer that, Dr. Smartpant Leonhardt??? Well, can you?????


  1. That’s rather easy to explain. Her ability to bend visible light is complemented by her having vision that can see in the “invisible” spectrum: ultraviolet, infrared, and other higher and lower energy emissions. Crudely, she might have what amounts to “radar vision.”

  2. Everyone is forgetting that the mechanics of invisibility was described in an early Star Trek episode, during their first encounter with the Romulans. Mr Spock speculated that “an invisbility field, involving the selective bending of light rays, could work” or something like that.

  3. Wow. Nice answer, Dwight. Although I get the impression we both take this sort of stuff seriously; it’s what I would’ve answered! Oh, and thanks Scott for the reference work for ST!

  4. hm, nice one, Heidi.

    she *would* be able to see, if the light would hit her retinas. alas, she would see saturated colors, just like when we do the mapping exam that requires the pupils to be dillated.

    so she’d need invisible sunglasses.

  5. Here’s A theory I wrote, same subject, on another Web site:

    “Well, let me dig back to my days of aircraft avionics maintenance to answer how such a cloaking device might work by bending light, but still allowing the user to see.

    Back in the day, different avionics systems would sometime share the same coax signal line by utilizing a technique called “blanking.â€? That is, System A would be allowed to receive/transmit on the coax cable for, say, 10 microseconds, and then it would shut off. Then System B would receive/transmit for, say, the next 10 microseconds, and then it would shut off. The cycle would continue on and on, allowing both systems to operate in what is was, in effect, a pseudo-continuous manner. The line sharing times were certainly transparent to the human user, who, with limited senses, would be oblivious to the process. Today, with the advent of fiber optics lines, the blanking times are probably measured in nanoseconds.

    A similar optical effect is taking place when a film projector is projecting a film at 24 frames per second. Your eye sees the a film’s 24 frames per second as a solid, non-flickering image, even though, when compared to a blanking signal going through coax cable, the “on/offâ€? times are glacially slow.

    So, for Sue Richards to be able to see, she could employ some sort of blanking technique for her invisibility power. She’d pass enough light around her at the right “pulsedâ€? intervals so she appeared to not be there, yet would still be able to allow enough light through to her eyes during the “offâ€? times so she could see.

    The problem with such light-bending invisibility is that once your opponent knows you can do it, the sensor countermeasures needed to detect such activity are pretty easy to develop, in my opinion. Still, it would be a powerful tool against those not expecting it, ala the Predator film.”