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In the spirit of taking a little break from writing about the daily, depressing myriad of violations of law, Constitution and common decency perpetrated in America and around the world, I found this story and I just couldn’t resist.

First, let me just say that I don’t doubt that this technology exists. I’ve heard about ‘invisible cloaks’ in development for troops in recent years, and other equally amazing 21st Century technological developments. Here's a YouTube video of 'optical camouflage'. But, I will admit that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of applying this new 'invisibility' technology to something as large as a military tank; operating in a theater of war no less.

I can’t say this technology makes me comfortable. Perhaps, in another time, in a necessary war, the announcement of this new technology could be heralded as a godsend. But, the times in which we live - the era of neocon wars and whispers of wars - tends to take the fun out of any such futuristic technology.

Ultimately, this is truly an amazing breakthrough and a prime example of what earthly science is capable of in the 21st Century. Then again, it could be an ominous sign of a future engulfed in perpetual war. In other words, the ultimate manifestation of Darth Cheney’s nightly dream-state fantasy.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has just unveiled a brand new technology that is capable of making a regulation size military tank completely invisible. In secret trials last week, the British Army said it had made a vehicle completely disappear from sight. The MoD also predicted that by 2012, they’d be rolling out service-ready -- fully functioning - ‘invisible tanks’ to the battlefields.

Purportedly, the new technology uses a series of cameras and projectors that beam background images of the surrounding landscape onto the body of the tank, thus obscuring its movement to the human eye. Whoever is looking in the general direction of the tank would see only what is beyond it and not the tank itself.

An unnamed British soldier purportedly witnessed the trials:

"This technology is incredible. If I hadn't been present I wouldn't have believed it. I looked across the fields and just saw grass and trees - but in reality I was staring down the barrel of a tank gun."

Thursday’s U.K’s Daily Mail has the literally fantastic story:

How the technology works in a combat situation is very sensitive, but the MoD is believed to be testing a military jacket that works on the same principles.

It is the type of innovation normally associated with James Bond, and the brains behind the latest technology is the MoD's resident theoretical physicist - their very own "Q" - Professor Sir John Pendry, of Imperial College London.

He said the only drawback was the reliability of the cameras and projectors.

But he added: "The next stage is to make the tank invisible without them - which is intricate and complicated, but possible."

I know the Daily Mail is as close to being a British tabloid news rag without actually being classified as one, as one can get, but Fox is reporting the same story, and it’s also being carried by the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph and the Sun. I also found the story on a couple of blogs here and here.

I must admit that I couldn’t find the story on the British Ministry of Defence website. Now whether the MoD just hasn’t updated its website is unclear. I’ll be checking back in days to come.

Meanwhile... believe it or not.


Originally posted to markthshark on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 04:56 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Welcome to the future (13+ / 0-)

    This movement doesn't end when we Draft Gore ... That's when it begins.

    by markthshark on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 04:55:34 AM PDT

  •  Sounds like just the ticket. (11+ / 0-)

    I've got just the item to sell the military to go along with "invisible tanks", my staff and I have an unlimited ready supply of "invisible uniforms" at attractive wholesale prices.(Free shipping!)

    "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful,,,they never stop thinking of ways to harm our country and neither do we" G W Bush

    by irate on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:00:30 AM PDT

  •  Blackwater's working on technology... (7+ / 0-)

    . . . to develop invisible dead Iraqis.  The ones you can see create all kinds of trouble and inconveniences for this Very Patriotic Company.


    The distinction that goes with mere office runs far ahead of the distinction that goes with actual achievement. H.L. Mencken

    by BenGoshi on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:03:10 AM PDT

  •  If (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, kyril

    If it's invisible, how do we know it hasn't rolled out already?

  •  I will be interested in results of its first (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, Timbuk the Second, kyril

    encounter with the newly-developed 'invisible RPG' or 'invisible IED'!

    Life is not a 'dress rehearsal'!

    by wgard on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:12:46 AM PDT

  •  Some existential threats (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wilmguy, JeffW, kyril

    require existential weapons

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:15:17 AM PDT

  •  One way to defeat this technology (6+ / 0-)

    is to use an infrared visor or detector which would sense the heat of the object. I doubt a tank or even a person, could be made sufficently cool that it would not show up. Modified night vision goggles might work for this.

    H.L. Mencken: "A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves"

    by igneous on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:17:07 AM PDT

  •  Too bad we are not working as hard on (5+ / 0-)

    solving real problems like the climate crisis and developing alternative fuels.  

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:21:37 AM PDT

  •  The concept (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    markthshark, DBunn, JeffW, kyril

    I am tempted to say think Tellytubbies, you will see why. Imagine you had a small tv camera on your back which fed the image of the scene behind you to a computer screen you were holding in front of you. From the right angle and lighting it would look like a hole had been punched through you.

    This system works on the same principle but with multiple cameras. I have seen early prototypes and in the filmed demonstration it was remarkably difficult to see the vehicle. It visually fades into the background rather like a chameleon. The drawback at that stage was the processing needed to project the image induced a delay so while it worked fine with the vehicle stationary, the illusion was not as good when it moved.

    Of course, the thing is dependent on the spectrum used. While it may be invisible to the human eye in visible light, in infra-red or radar things would be different.

    •  Why couldn't they project an image (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for any and all spectra?

      If you don't have an earth-shaking idea, get one, you'll love building a better world.

      by hestal on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:32:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Different generation (2+ / 0-)

        The visible spectrum is for the most part detected by your eye from reflected light - in other words light from a source - the sun or artificial lamp - bounces off a surface. The few exceptions are light sources themselves - fires or TV screens or the lights behind your LCD screen.

        Near infra-red - the sort of thing used in surveillance cameras - works in the same way but as you get further into the infra-red you are looking essentially at the temperature of the surface. Those sorts of cameras use the heat radiated from the surface to build an image which is why people or say car tires look bright in such pictures. A "heat image" panel would require cooling and then selective heating to build up a camoflage which I doubt is within current technology.

  •  Comment from another forum I read (5+ / 0-)

    "Let me know when they can make the rumbling engine noise and landscape crushing invisible too."

    Someone once asked me if I had learned anything from going to war so many times. My reply: Yes, I learned how to cry.
    Joe Galloway

    by BOHICA on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:48:40 AM PDT

  •  All of Star Trek's toys w/ none of Star Treks (5+ / 0-)

    responsibility.  They Klingons are running things.

  •  Something like this: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timbuk the Second

    "Say fellas, do you see any tanks around?  I can see any, but it sure does SOUND like we're in the middle of an armored battallion."

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 05:57:11 AM PDT

  •  I saw an invisible tank in action a few days ago (5+ / 0-)

    It was one of the most amazing things I've never seen.

  •  Good thing tanks don't produce huge IR signatures (3+ / 0-)

    Else night goggles and most simple anti-tank munitions could see 'em just fine.

    Oh, silly me. Tanks do.

    Never mind. :)

    When you turn on your own country's children, it's not your country anymore.

    by cskendrick on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 06:16:12 AM PDT

  •  It's the kind of thing that will inspire. (0+ / 0-)

    It will inspire countless man hours of development to negate and render useless the "invisible shield".

    We watched the dedication of computer hackers and developers of virus programs just for the sheer joy of doing it.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 06:22:30 AM PDT

  •  We had an agreement with the Romulans... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattinjersey, JeffW

    ... that we wouldn't pursue cloaking technology. This is clearly against Federation rules!


    Please, save the conservative.

    by MrHinkyDink on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 06:25:43 AM PDT

  •  I think this is a hoax. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    razajac, mattinjersey, JeffW

    The newspapers reporting it are all London tabs, not reputable sources like the Guardian, the Times, or the Independent.

    Let's not get all ga-ga over this, gadge.

    •  YesYesYesThankYou (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So glad to hear one sane person chime in on this.

      Some folks are also heading this off at the pass by mentioning the inherent immorality of spending one penny on any new technology which will add even one iota to an already obscenely bloated capacity to coerce and kill. Thanks for those comments.

      But it speaks volumes to the seeming insensitivity of Kossacks to what should be a pretty straightforward thought experiment which would lead one to realize 1) the magnitude of the technical functionalities required for the technology being "showcased" in the YouTube demo, and 2) the stark contrast of that complexity against the simplicity of the digital/blue-screen technology required to create the specific effect shown.

      In short, it is a hoax.

      Thanks for dropping that first shoe, Kimball.

      Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

      by razajac on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 07:20:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Projectors (0+ / 0-)

        The concept of projectors is pretty straightforward.
        There is no reason it can't work.

        As noted in these comments, there are many problems with the concept.
        First you need a projector standing somewhere.
        Next the infrared vulnerability.

        •  No, it can't work. Certain not as shown. (0+ / 0-)

          sigh I guess I have to spell it out.

          The idea, as shown in the YouTube demo, is that each person viewing the "cloaked" object--and that could, of course, be each of thousands of enemy combatants in an army company--must have previously had a high-powered "projector" installed between their eyes.  Further, these projectors must be capable of being continuously cognizant of the background being masked onto the "cloaked" object. Further, it must project that image only onto the object being "cloaked," not onto the surrounding objects or background.  Further, these projectors must be capable--perhaps via radar--of discerning the angle of the surface normal to the line of sight over a sufficiently high density of points to pass as a verisimilitude resolution, and furthermore be able to generate these point-for-point calculated imaging warpings and brightness increases and attenuations with a sufficient frequency so as to produce a sense of motion continuity. Movies use 24 frames-per-second; perhaps that would do.

          You can imagine the tactical nightmare of actually implementing the technology shown in the YouTube video for real-world military application.  Installing the projectors into the heads of all enemy combatants seems like the bottleneck to me, but some may disagree.

          Remember that I'm responding specifically to the impression people are projecting on this site that the YouTube video is a testament to strides being made in "cloaking" technology.  Certainly, interesting work can be done in trying to achieve relatively crude, but distinctly useful dynamic color/texture camouflaging effects using feasible technology.  The "technology" being "showcased" in the YouTube video is simply video effects production technology; blue(/green/etc.)-screen technique. Nothing more.

          And since the video linked at the top of this diary is the aforementioned YouTube thing, I can draw no other conclusion than that markthshark somehow got duped, or duped himself, into believing he was seeing groundbreaking "cloaking" technology.

          I suppose, if he reads this, he'll feel insulted.  I don't mean to demean or insult:  I'm just calling a spade a spade.  Believe me; I've seen worse.  Much worse!

          Again, thanks to Kimball for pointing this out.  I don't think all Kossacks need to be excruciatingly technically savvy.  But it's OK if the few of us who have some engineering background can chime in to fill the gap.

          Fletcherize all information!

          Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

          by razajac on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 09:46:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Counterpoint (0+ / 0-)

            Well certainly you can imagine a scenario where most observers would have the same viewpoint. For example if the tank is on the road, most observers would essentially have two viewpoints, either the front or the back.

            Also I am most admiring of your condescension.

            •  And am most admiring... (0+ / 0-)

              ...of the capacity of ignorant people to mythologize something as transparent as a demonstration of green-screen video image processing.

              My question is simple: What does "cloaking" have to do with the YouTube video cited front and center by markthshark?  Answer: Nothing.

              It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that his claim that practical "cloaking" technology is poised to pounce on the battlefield is somehow linked to a mistaken perception that the YouTube video demonstrated the "cutting edge" of that technology.  Which is plainly does not.

              It really is that simple.

              markthshark mentioned in his own followup comment the necessity of following the links before jumping to conclusions.  I had to admit he sort of had me there--tho I did view the video; and you'd have greatly admired the condescending way I closed my eyes and shook my head.  Anyway, I went ahead and followed the links.

              I found an article about one physicist who is presently working at getting light to flow around a very small object.

              Look:  I need to cut it there and reiterate two things:

              One; Perhaps the original poster's error was in citing that video. I just reread the article; it would have you believe the diary writer believed the video to be a case-in-point.  Bad, bad, bad.

              Two; ...and I said it before... To the extent that these and other military technologies are being researched, it certainly should stimulate an interest in the larger moral question.  But it's still a factor that bad cites and misbegotten notions of the possible tend to blunt the edge of downstream ruminations; even significant moral questions of our times involving the stark contrast between societies that seem to have nothing better to do than find new and better ways to kill and coerce while other societies are scrambling to find non-filthy water to drink--all this while the whole planet is on the verge of becoming a solar heat sink due to global warming.  Don't think I didn't notice markthshark's tech fetishism leaking out from the edges of his "concern."

              You've got to keep the signal-to-noise ratio healthy.

              OKOK: One last thing.

              You say:

              Well certainly you can imagine a scenario where most observers would have the same viewpoint. For example if the tank is on the road, most observers would essentially have two viewpoints, either the front or the back.

              Uh... No.  Are you sure you can't imagine a battlefield scenario in which, say, two enemy soldiers view a tank whose individual angles of view differ by 60degrees? Or more?  Take the thought experiment a little further; consider the scads of other soldiers between those two soldiers.

              And I never even brought up parallax. Now, practically speaking I'm sure the brass would be happy just to get some kind of dynamic surface coloring technology with a functional optimized camouflaging algorithm.  That's not what's being described in this diary.

              Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

              by razajac on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 04:01:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Good on ya, raz. You win the verbosity award... (0+ / 0-)

            Listen, I linked the video because the article linked the video. Simple as that. I never said the video depicted: "cloaking." It says right on the link: "optical camouflage."

            Figures, another extrapolat'or.

            This movement doesn't end when we Draft Gore ... That's when it begins.

            by markthshark on Sat Nov 03, 2007 at 07:13:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, mark; don't try to duck it. (0+ / 0-)

              I never said the video depicted: "cloaking." It says right on the link: "optical camouflage."

              Well, that's interesting, because the video isn't a demonstration of "optical camouflage," either.  If the cite doesn't pertain to "cloaking," is it quite pertinent to your diary?  So, which technology are they on the verge of rolling out?  "Cloaking" or "Optical Camouflage"? I say that if the video depicts neither, then it doesn't matter; the video is no harbinger of anything of the sort.

              A quote from yr diary:

              Here's a YouTube video of 'optical camouflage'. But, I will admit that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of applying this new 'invisibility' technology to something as large as a military tank; operating in a theater of war no less.

              Don't try to duck it by saying you just cited what they cite, like some kind of hapless victim. You (more or less) mindfully composed diary text that supposes what their text supposes; that the video has something--anything whatsoever--to do with something applicable to hiding strategic stuff in a theater of war; regardless of whether it's an application of cloaking or optical camouflage or zubzub technology or whatever you deem to call it.

              I don't doubt Professor Pendry's legitimacy. I just doubt the necessity of wrapping a modest claim by a physics researcher in a bogus video and overheated Buck Rogers prose from the tabloids.

              I wouldn't doubt the necessity of that if I drooled over the prospect of acquiring magical powers (e.g., cloaking); but I'm working overtime to make my actual, physical presence in decent society non-repugnant, so forgive me if I'm not impressed.

              Isn't it a good feeling when you see the paper in the morning, it says 'Axe Slayer Kills 19' and you say, "They can't pin that one on me!" - Jean Shepherd

              by razajac on Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 02:01:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Daily Mail (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Most UK national newspapers are in the tabloid format and it is important not to confuse them with the US idea of a tabloid. The nearest to them is the Daily Sport which is essentially a sport and soft porn daily. Next comes the Sun and, to a lesser extent the Mirror. Both are populist and have pin-ups but with the Mirror especially they do nave serious reporting. These three are usually refered to disparagingly as "Red tops" after the color background they have to their logo.

        The Mail is a fairly right-wing - in UK political terms Conservative - and is a serious paper

    •  Curious minds follow links before deeming... (0+ / 0-)

      legitimate scientific breakthroughs - a hoax.

      Obligatory internet searches would have debunked your "debunking" before you offered it. Imagine that.

      Pendry's work is funded through the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council

      Professor Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London founded the field of metamaterials with a negative refractive index. His work, with long-time US collaborator Professor David Smith, has paved the way for perfect lenses and other devices that focus light into a space smaller than its wavelength - beating the so-called 'diffraction limit'.

      Guardian Unlimited/Technology
      Times Online -- May 28, 2006
      Times Online -- October 20, 2006
      Wikipedia/Pendry, Sir John

      As you can see from the above links, this technology has existed for awhile. It's just that it hasn't been perfected until now.

      Professor Sir John Pendry's bona fides and qualifications are well known throughout Europe and the greater world scientific community - including being knighted and receiving many awards for his work in theoretical physics.

      Scientists conjure true 'cloaking' device'

      Skepticism is healthy - denial of facts is not.

      This movement doesn't end when we Draft Gore ... That's when it begins.

      by markthshark on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 11:46:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gimmickses, alvays gimmickses! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

    by JeffW on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 06:43:33 AM PDT

  •  Advances in military tech evoke response (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Invisible weapons and soldiers will just make the response one of complete devastation of the theater of operations. Think tactical WMD.

    Live unity, celebrate diversity.

    by tjfxh on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 07:16:20 AM PDT

  •  Invisible merit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    How many invisible tanks will be needed to defeat global warming?

    Reminds me of a poem:

    The other day, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn't there.
    He wasn't there again today...
    Oh dear, I wish he'd go away.

    I think that was by Robert Louis Sevenson.

  •  Future Movie Scene (0+ / 0-)

    Shortly after the technology is introduced, I predict the first related military comedy scene. The tank will be rolling along unseen, until PFC Doofus plays a home video using the tank's cloaking system. Hilarity ensues.

    Extra points to the writers if they can make the contents of the video advance the plot.

    Remember, you read it here first :-)



    jabney co-writes - at

    by jabney on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 08:18:39 AM PDT

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