back to article Boffins demo time-warp cloaking device

A team of scientists at Cornell University in the US has demonstrated a way to bend light in such a way that it effectively hides an event from happening – what they call a "spatio-temporal cloaking" scheme. The team, which is funded by DARPA, has built on work by Imperial College London, which showed that it was theoretically …


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  1. Pet Peeve

    What's an order of magnitude among friends?

    I think you need to shift the decimal place one over. It would be 186,200 miles long, if you're talking about the distance a photon can travel in a second (in vacuum).

    1. Notas Badoff

      Not talking in a vacuum...

      No, they are likely talking about other materials, not a vacuum. You do know that the speed of light depends on the transmission medium, right? Like in diamond, almost 2.5 times 'slower'. And composites have gotten down to <10km/s. Look up "slow light" at Wikipedia.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Standard Units please

        but is it faster than a sheep in a vacuum?

  2. ZankerH

    Space warp? Time bending?

    This does it folks, we're now officialy in The Future.

    1. stucs201

      Yes, but its the *wrong* future. We were supposed to get flying cars and holidays on the moon before we got cloaking devices.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Probably it's that future that's wrong.

        Flying cars and vacations on the moon, for the time being, have run into a couple of nasty reality checks.

        For the first, it's the basic fact of gravity: what goes up must come down, so if your flying car breaks down OVER the middle of nowhere, where does that leave you?

        For the second, it seems to escape some people that getting something out of the earth's gravity well takes an extraordinary amount of energy. if we want space travel to be more ubiquitous, we're gonna need to lick the problem of a better source of escape energy first: something like an electric->kinetic converter useable up to over 30,000km/h.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          "For the first, it's the basic fact of gravity: what goes up must come down, so if your flying car breaks down OVER the middle of nowhere, where does that leave you?"

          In the middle of nowhere most likely, which is where we'll meet Courage the small dog. Win-win (if you like the cartoon that is ;-)).

          "if we want space travel to be more ubiquitous, we're gonna need to lick the problem of a better source of escape energy first"

          This is why people above spoke of "being in the future".

        2. Greg J Preece

          "For the first, it's the basic fact of gravity: what goes up must come down, so if your flying car breaks down OVER the middle of nowhere, where does that leave you?"

          Um...the same place as if it happened with a plane? Didn't stop us building planes...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge


            While airplanes come in all shapes and sizes they have a number of differences from the flying car concept. They require dedicated areas to operate. Can't just set one down in front of the house or like that. Pilots receive specialist training that goes well beyond your average road exam. And since airplanes don't suffer from the design constraints of the concept of flying cars (think objects the size--at worst, slightly larger--of the average automobile), certain aerodynamic considerations can be factored in to make certain kinds of failure a less-than-catastrophic affair.

      2. Chemist

        "holidays on the moon"

        The moon's overrated. OK the golf is easy but the brochures all go on about the seas and as far as I can see when you get to the beach the tide's always way out .

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Plus there's no atmosphere...

        2. Mike Flugennock
          Thumb Up

          re: holidays on the moon

          "The moon's overrated. OK the golf is easy but the brochures all go on about the seas and as far as I can see when you get to the beach the tide's always way out ."

          Oh, I don't know... I've seen lots of fotos of the Grand Canyon, and I've been to Carson National Monument in New Mexico, and I've driven through the desert in eastern Arizona; they're pretty desolate for sure, but man, are they gorgeous, and I'd certainly go back again if I had the chance.

          For the same reason, I could totally get into a week's vacation at Hadley Rille or the Taurus-Littrow Valley. Hadley would be especially spectacular, I think, if the panoramas the Apollo 15 crew shot are any indication; imagine the Grand Canyon turned up to 11... or, perhaps the Taurus Mountains near the Apollo 17 site would be good for some stargazing -- guaranteed clear skies, y'know.

          Too bad I've not done any mountaineering; I'll bet climbing the Tycho Central Peak would be awesome.

          1. Chemist

            Re: Re re: holidays on the moon

            I know what you mean. In fact our holiday home is 1800m above sea-level and nowhere near any sea.

    2. Greg J Preece

      It officially became the future when the years stopped being referred to as "two thousand and X" and became "twenty X".

  3. Peter Johnstone

    Philidelphia Experiment

    Am I the only one that's noticed that if you add some letters and take some away then 'cloaked event' is an anagram of 'USS Eldridge'?

    I'll get my coat..

    1. pyr
      Paris Hilton

      Oddly enough, when I add some letters and then take some away from 'cloaked event' I find an anagram of 'Paris Hilton'.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Holy hyperbolic sci-fi press release bullshit, Batman!

    Yeah, I've got a "spatio-temporal cloaking" scheme for you, it also works by creating a gap where there aren't any photons where an event can take place unobserved, it's called "darkness" and I create it by switching off the lights.

    Furthermore if you put your computer in my newly-invented "room with the lights off", you also can't see hackers attacking it.

    Can I have my Nobel prize now please?

    1. Alex Rose
      Thumb Up

      Oh, Oh, Oh, pick me, pick me!!!

      I was in complete agreement with you here but then I went back and looked at the diagram and I *think* I have the answer. In your method people can observe that something has happened (i.e. the lights went out) when your unobserved event takes place.

      In the Cornell method an observer would not notice anything changing, so it's as if someone did something in a lit room which you could not see without them having to turn the lights off to stop you seeing it.

      Hope that makes sense - I also hope I'm right because I'm actually a little bit embarrassed by how excited I am that I may have worked this out :)

      1. Ian Yates


        What Alex is getting at is that observers can obverse that your event is unobservered.

        The article is describing a situation where observers are none-the-wise about not observing an event. However, they may observe the feck-off big machinary that is preventing them from observing said event.

        1. Simon Neill

          In fact...

          This machinery is so huge, I'd say you don't even need to turn it on to prevent the event being observed. The MET office use this technique already - lots of fancy machinery to hide the dart board.

    2. Paul Kinsler

      Axel Rose is right

      The point of a cloak - whether spatial or spacetime is not just to hide things or events, but to also hide the fact that they are hidden.

      But rather than "Cornell method", I think you might mean "Imperial College London method" instead :-)

      Some other links & commentary (by me)

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Yes but

    Will it cloak my garden shed?

    1. lglethal Silver badge


      It already has... Didnt you notice?

  6. Anonymous Coward


    ....or it didn't happen.

    errr, wait a sec....

  7. DJ Smiley

    18,600 mile long computer........ CERN?

    Oh and isn't the earth one giant computer? tehe

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but...

      Yes, the earth is a giant computer - but then some damn fool loaded a Trojan'ed update "because he wanted to see the boobie video" and now it is infected with Trojan-B-Ark. The mice are furious, and I hear they are taking us to the Galactic Worst Buy to let the Vogon Geek Squad "fix" it...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused

    how can hiding a physical object to visible light help with code injection into a software system? Other than using a cloak of invisibility to gain access to data centre?

    1. Paul Kinsler

      The point is you use the concept, not a specific (optical) implementation.

      For example you imagine that by speeding and slowing the clock signal of a target system you can preserve its outputs unchanged from the unaffected case, but nevertheless create a time interval in which you can use the hardware undetected. But at the moment this is just a concept, not a suggested implementation.

  9. Richard Jukes


    Here be dragons?

  10. Silverburn

    Forward 10 years

    Any bets on the septics claiming this as their invention/discovery when they roll out the first production model, even though it originated out of ICL?

    Then a chinese version 3 years after that?

  11. Seanmon


    Ho is this n ws ? I've be n able t do this or ag s.

    1. Patrick R

      Good for you

      The rest of us had not seen it coming.

  12. Purlieu

    Twenty X

    That happenned when the year became easily alliterative i.e. 2012 = TWEnty TWElve

  13. David Glasgow

    13 comments and nobody has mentioned Romulans, Borg and whatnot?

    El Reg must have upped its demographic!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Far more strange..

      Far more strangely, given the title, is the complete absence of "It's just a jump to the left..."

      The dinner jacket with the hump and the antimatter shooting laser in the pocket, please...

  14. Godwhacker

    It's already been built

    They just accidentally switched it on when sending out the press release

  15. collinsl

    I was under the impression that the Federation (IE us) was banned from owning cloaking technology?

    1. Dan 63

      the Defiant from DS9 had a cloakng device, and was legal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Cloaking Device

        It was on loan from the Romulans and had a Romulan officer to go with it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          only for the first few episodes it featured in & it was only supposed to be used in the gamma quadrant too, but that didnt stop the Defiant crew from using it in boththe alpha & beta quadrants multiple times often with the romulans finding out about the fact & yet the romulans never demanded the return of the device.

          besides everyones forgetting the pegasus project ;)

    2. Simon Neill


      Only stolen cloaking technology, IIRC it was ok to make our own but given how easily most cloaking devices were circumvented who'd want one anyway?

      Every time they met a cloaked ship they found a new component to reverse the polarity on that uncloaked said ship.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well-mannered photons

    How did those photons know to bend back towards the second (again, concave) lens. Over-simplified diagram for the US media?

    1. Paul Kinsler

      it's a time lens

      and a rather approximate diagram in a sort of co-moving (time) frame of reference. Bending back (down) is a relative slowing.

  17. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Where's the cat?

    OK, so let me get this right - if we bend light (or whatever EM radiation) around something so it can't be detected, then anything that happens to said thing (or that said thing does to anything else) then didn't actually happen simply because you still can't detect it?

    Isn't this just the 2012 (said in either way) version of the noise falling trees make in a forest when no-one is around, or perhaps Schroedinger's dear/dead little moggie?

  18. Nick Gisburne

    Same problem...

    "their current scheme would have to be 18,600 miles long"

    They had the same problem when they invented the nuclear hand grenade and realised that the instructions for use were 'pull pin and throw 17 miles'.

  19. Stevie Silver badge


    Are you sure the decimal point is in the right place there? 18,600 miles?

    Can't get to the source material to check myself from here, and not sure I'd be able to follow the maths anyway.

  20. Robert E A Harvey

    'ang on

    So all we needed to do was to invent a 'time lens' and everything becomes easy?

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  22. Zot

    Can someone explain something for me

    "The team estimates the effect could be stretched to a single second, long enough to allow code injection"

    - does that mean into a cable or directly into RAM, or what? It's too brief to understand.

    If it's hacking a data cable then surly all the parities and handshaking will catch it and return an error.



  23. webbedfeetrule

    The future is here!

    If I am cloaked when I go to the moon does that mean I didn't travel there & ergo teleported across time & space?

  24. DragonKin37
    Black Helicopters

    Cloacking Code ?

    So the article states its possible to use spatio-temporal cloaking for code injection. Hmm is the going to be a cyberweapon before we add the tech to our space drones?

  25. Winkypop Silver badge

    18,600 miles long

    Or, 1 used silver DeLorean DMC-12.

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