Real-life ‘invisibility cloak’ could be available within 10 years

From Harry Potter to Star Trek, invisibility cloaks have been staple features of science fiction blockbusters for years.

Now, scientists from London start-up, Vollebak, have revealed plans to make the fictional item a reality.

The team is working with the University of Manchester on a Thermal Camouflage Jacket that’s designed to make the human body invisible to infrared cameras.

And it won’t be long before it hits the shelves, with the team suggesting a final product could be ready in just five to 10 years.

‘Designed to eventually make the human body invisible to infrared cameras, it’s a computer-programmable jacket that brings us one step closer to turning the invisibility cloak from science fiction into reality,’ Vollebak said.

Amid increasing use of infrared cameras for security, Vollebak set out to make an invisibility cloak that’s not only invisible in visible light, but also on the infrared spectrum.

‘For the last 3 years we’ve been bringing together the fields of physics, optical materials, electronic control systems, textiles and engineering, to create a single piece of clothing that someone can actually wear, that is also an advanced optical device,’ the team explained.

Their Thermal Camouflage Jacket prototype features 42 graphene patches, each made up of over 100 layers of pure graphene.

These patches can be controlled individually and regulate thermal radiation on the surface of the jacket, without changing its temperature.

Gold and copper wires run to each patch and can be controlled to apply different voltage to them.

The voltage forces ions between the graphene layers – and the more ions pushed, the less thermal radiation is emitted and the colder it looks.

For example, the team wrote code that allowed them to play Tetris in infrared.

Instead of seeing heat radiating from a human body as normal, infrared cameras were only able to see the pattern of the popular computer game.

‘The key detail is that every single patch can be programmed individually to emit a different level of thermal radiation,’ Vollebak explained.

‘And this is the way it can blend into its surroundings and appear invisible to infrared cameras.’

The team now plans to scale down the size of the graphene panels to improve the jacket’s camouflage abilities.

‘With enough patches and enough power, a person could simply blend into a forest. Or a plane could blend into a runway,’ they said.

As it stands, the Thermal Camouflage Jacket only operates on the infrared spectrum.

However, Vollebak says that in the future, it may be possible to create a version that operates on the visible spectrum too.

‘Graphene is a highly tuneable material, which means that applying energy to it changes how it appears on both the infrared spectrum and the visible spectrum,’ they explained.

‘So theoretically at least, changing the charge density of the graphene will change the colour we see.

‘And once you’ve got one device that controls all wavelengths, that’s when the possibility of building an invisibility cloak starts to become very real.’

The current prototype is simply a proof of concept, and the jacket is not yet for sale.

It also remains unclear how Vollebak sees the device being used in the future, or how much it might cost.

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  • 1 час, 10 минут назад 01.12.2022Science
    Experts say UK wind farm ban may cost billpayers an extra £800 million this winter

    Analysis has shown that households may have to pay a collective £800 million extra for energy bills this winter due to a 2016 decision to ban new onshore wind farm developments. While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a huge rebellion from backbenchers calling for the six year old policy to be scrapped, experts have claimed that developers could have built enough turbines to provide clean, cheaper energy to 1.5 million homes this winter if it was never in place.

    Research from the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has indicated that this could have knocked off the additional £800million in fees households will have to pay this winter, if onshore wind was included in Government-backed funding schemes.

    According to the analysis, an extra 1.7 gigawatts of capacity could have been added to Britain’s electricity network during the time that the developments were banned.

    The ECIU has previously told Express.co.uk that wind is the cheapest form of energy. Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “Lifting the ban on onshore wind in England is a no-brainer. It’s cheap, clean, plentiful and popular with the public – and has a key role to play in tackling the cost-of-living and climate crises.

    “Earlier this month Rishi Sunak pledged to make the UK a clean energy superpower. It’s time to start delivering.”

    Simon Clarke, a Conservative MP who has called for the ban to be lifted, said: “This analysis shows how banning onshore wind has left us more reliant on expensive gas this winter, exposing more families and businesses to the effects of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

    “We shouldn’t go back to the old system of imposing wind farms on people but give communities a genuine say.

    “Unlocking Britain’s wind potential, where communities agree, would cut everyone’s energy bills and allow local residents to benefit from rebates for hosting these cheap renewables.”

    Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin said that along with the lack of a scheme in place to roll out insulation, which could have also haloed households slash bills, households now have to pay hundreds more pounds than they should have done.

    He said: “Putting in place the ban on onshore wind has cost bill payers dear this winter.

    “This alongside a lost decade of installing insulation in homes has left many households paying hundreds of pounds more and the taxpayer picking up the rest of the tab through the energy price freeze.”

    This comes amid an energy crisis that has laid bare Britain’s vulnerability to volatile global gas markets. These are still largely influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. As Europe still largely relies on Russian gas, supply cuts and the war in Ukraine have sent wholesale costs soaring, which has highlighted the need for Britain to boost its homegrown power sources to bolster its energy independence.

    But while renewable technology like onshore wind could help to ramp up energy security, it appears that No 10 has still needed convincing to lift the ban, which remains in place.

    At least 34 MPs have called on Mr Sunak to change tack on planned onshore wind farm laws as a wing of the party feels the ban on new developments is the wrong move amid an energy crisis. Mr Clarke has been leading the charge, and he has been joined in his calls by former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, as well as the former chief whip Wendy Morton. On Monday, Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said that there would be more onshore wind projects built in areas “where communities are in favour of it”.

    However, recent polls indicate that more communities would be in favour of wind farms nearby than the Government suspects. A recent YouGov survey revealed that 9 in 10 (87 percent) people would support a wind turbine in their community if it meant cheaper energy.

    Dr Cran-McGreehin has previously told Express.co.uk: “When it comes to onshore wind, it is really baffling why the Government in the past few years have been hostile towards it or at best lukewarm. Similarly, with all renewables, onshore wind has the support of 80 percent of the population. it is popular, and it has been popular over the past several years.

    “Especially now since people know that it’s one of the cheapest forms of energy generation, they know that it means we have to import less gas, reducing our dependence on the international market and such high prices.

    “Onshore wind would be a sort of a win-win, and a Government that supports it would be following very popular public opinion. It’s really important that the industry has clear signals and the Government recognises the value of these technologies, so that will give the companies the confidence to invest and deploy them faster.”

  • 1 час, 10 минут назад 01.12.2022Science
    Elon Musk’s brain chip breakthrough as he confirms human testing to happen in months

    Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink has made a major breakthrough. He has announced that the technology, which could allow you to control a computer or mobile phone with your brain, looks set to be tested on humans within just six months. The billionaire’s secretive company has been scrambling to make the groundbreaking technology of tomorrow since it was first set up in 2016. While it has displayed various tests on monkeys and pigs in the past, the company has reached another landmark in tests involving six monkeys.

    This week, the firm released a video on its YouTube channel of its Show and Tell event, where Mr Musk and his colleagues unveiled the footage of the monkey experiment. It showed the animals typing out sentences like “welcome to show and tell” and “can I please have snacks” via the implanted brain chip.

    Mr Musk said the six monkeys could move a mouse with their minds to arrange the pre-written words in the right order, although he did note that the monkeys can’t actually spell.

    He said: “The monkeys actually enjoy doing the demos, and they get the banana smoothie, and it’s kind of a fun game. We care a great deal about animal welfare.”

    The multibillionaire also noted that the same technology could one day be used to allow quadriplegics to access a mouse and keyboard.

    He added: “Someone who has no other interface with the outside world would be able to control their phone better than someone who has working hands.”

    During Wednesday’s event, Mr Musk said Neuralink had submitted the large bulk of paperwork required for a human clinical trial to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical devices in the US.

    However, Mr Musk had previously been hoping that human trials would begin in 2020, and later 2022. Now, that’s been pushed back to at least 2023. Mr Musk first revealed that his brain chip company was testing its device in monkeys back in 2019.

    And this is not the first time that the world’s richest man has shown what his fascinating technology can do. Last year, Neuralink released a video showing a monkey playing the famous video game Pong with its brain.

    In the latest test, the monkeys used the brain implant to focus on highlighted words and letters. Another video released by the firm has shown that the animals have been trained to charge the devices by sitting under a wireless charger.

    The Neuralink researchers also unveiled a clip of a pig on a treadmill, which they claimed was helping them study how to address mobility issues in humans. The microchips are said to have multiple flexible “threads” that allow them to be inserted into your brain. Mr Musk likens this to “replacing a piece of your skull with a smartwatch, for lack of a better analogy”.

    Neuralink’s co-founder DJ Seo, who is also the vice president of a company called Implant, said during the presentation that 64 of these “threads” can be implanted into the brain using a robotic system in just 15 minutes.

    A robotic system has to be used in the process due to the tiny size of the threads. Christine Odabashian, the leader of Neuralink’s hardware insertion team, said: “Imagine taking a hair from your head and sticking it into jello covered by saran wrap, doing that to a precise depth and precision, and doing that 64 times in a reasonable amount of time.”

    Mr Musk has even claimed he will get one of these implants inserted. During the presentation, he said, “You could have a Neuralink device implanted right now and you wouldn’t even know. I mean, hypothetically … In fact, in one of these demos, I will.”

    But some experts have raised the alarm over Mr Musk’s new technology, warning that it could have serious ethical complications and would also require invasive medical procedures to get them implanted.

    Anna Wexler, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNBC: “From an ethical perspective, I think that hype is very concerning. Space or Twitter, that’s one thing, but when you come into the medical context, the stakes are higher.

    But Xing Chen, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, added: “There’s quite a few disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which people have received brain implants and the disorders have been treated quite successfully, allowing them to have an improved quality of life,” Chen said. “So I do feel that there is a precedent for doing this.”

  • 1 час, 10 минут назад 01.12.2022Science
    Mysterious flash brighter than 1,000 trillion Suns is black hole firing jet at Earth

    A mysterious flash in the night sky that was brighter than 1,000 trillion Suns may have been caused by a supermassive black hole firing a jet straight at Earth, astronomers have reported. The strange phenomenon, dubbed AT 2022cmc, was first observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility — an all-sky survey being undertaken at the Palomar Observatory in California. Now, astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say that the signal likely came from a jet of matter streaking out along the black hole’s axis of rotation at close to the speed of light after the hole began devouring a nearby star.

    Black holes are regions where the very fabric of spacetime is so warped by concentrated mass that, beyond their “event horizon”, nothing — not even light — can escape their gravity. Supermassive black holes, which lurk at the heart of every galaxy, are the largest type, and can be up to millions or even billions of times the mass of our Sun.

    When an unfortunate star gets too close to the gravitational well of a blackhole, it can be torn apart by so-called “tidal forces” — the difference in the strength of gravity across an object. On Earth, for example, the tidal force generated by the Moon causes the Earth to bulge slightly, and the oceans to a larger degree, forming the tides.

    The name astronomers give to a star being shredded by a black hole is a “tidal disruption event”. AT 2022cmc is the brightest such event seen to date — as well as the most distant, having occurred some 8.5 billion light years away,

    According to the researchers, the reason such a distant event appeared so bright to us here on Earth is most likely the black hole’s axis — and therefore one of the jets it fired off — was pointed in our direction.

    Because of this, the signal would have been boosted by the Doppler effect, in much the same way that the siren of an approaching ambulance can appear amped up. Studying the signal, the team said, may help us learn more about how black holes feed and grow.

    Paper author and MIT astrophysicist Dr Matteo Lucchini said: “We know that there is one supermassive black hole per galaxy, and they formed very quickly in the universe’s first million years.

    “That tells us they feed very fast, though we don’t know how that feeding process works. So, sources like a tidal disruption event can actually be a really good probe for how that process happens.”

    Shortly after AT 2022cmc was first detected, Dr Lucchini and his colleague Dr Dheeraj Pasham set about analysing its signal using the “Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR” (NICER) — an X-ray telescope which operates on the International Space Station.

    Dr Pasham said: “Things looked pretty normal the first three days. Then we looked at it with an X-ray telescope — and what we found was [that] the source was too bright.”

    Typically, the researchers explained, bright flashes in the sky are gamma ray bursts. These are extreme radiation emissions — starting with gamma rays, followed by an afterglow across the longer wavelengths of the spectrum — that are released in jets when massive stars go supernova, leaving behind either a neutron star or a black hole.

    In contrast, Dr Pasham explained, “this particular event was 100 times more powerful than the most powerful gamma-ray burst afterglow. It was something extraordinary.”

    Continuing to study the signal’s activity over various optical, radio, ultraviolet and X-ray telescopes, the team noted an extreme luminosity in the X-ray band — one that swung wildly by a factor of 500 over the course of a few weeks.

    This, the team believe, must have been powered by what they call an “extreme accretion episode”, when a huge churning disk of matter forms around a black hole — from, for instance, a star being torn apart by tidal forces.

    Friction between the materials swirling around in this disk causes it to get hot and, according to the leading theory, produce powerful magnetic fields that are twisted by the rotation of the jets and the black hole, forming tight cones at the hole’s rotational poles. Eventually, this twisted field becomes so strong that it accelerates particles away from the black hole along the axis of rotation — forming the jets.

    Regarding AT 2022cmc specifically, Dr Matteo Lucchini said: “We found that the jet speed is 99.99 percent [of] the speed of light.” To produce such an intense jet, the team set, the black hole must be in an extremely active phase. Or, as the researchers glibly put it, a “hyper-feeding frenzy”.

    Dr Pasham added: “It’s probably swallowing the star at the rate of half the mass of the Sun per year. A lot of this tidal disruption happens early on, and we were able to catch this event right at the beginning, within one week of the black hole starting to feed on the star.”

    According to the researchers, AT 2022cmc is the fourth Doppler-boosted tidal disruption event ever detected — and the first seen since 2011. It is also the first to have ever been discovered via an optical sky survey.

    More of these strange, luminous phenomena are expected to be spotted in the near future as new and more powerful telescopes are brought online. Such discoveries should help shed light on how supermassive black holes grow and shape the galaxies around them.

    Dr Lucchini concluded: “We expect many more of these tidal disruption events in the future. Then we might be able to say, finally, how exactly black holes launch these extremely powerful jets.”

    The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

  • 1 час, 21 минута назад 01.12.2022Science
    Disney’s age-altering AI can make young actors look 80 or old actors 20 in REAL TIME

    Disney researchers are out to transform Hollywood with a new artificial intelligence tool that could eliminate the need for special effects to alter the age of actors playing a character in a movie.

    Using the face re-aging network (FRAN), filmmakers can now make actors look as young as 20 or as old as 80 years old just by inputting the person’s headshot into the system that then predicts which parts of the face should be altered by age.

    It then adds effects like wrinkles or smoothed skin as a layer on the actor’s face in the film or television show without requiring a skilled artist to alter frame-by-frame manually, which typically causes facial identity loss.

    Disney touts its AI tool as being the first solution of its kind that can automatically alter an actor’s age on video despite expressions, lighting conditions and viewpoints.

    Digitally altering the age of actors’ faces has become popular over the years, but current models seem to fail at convincing viewers.

    A recent use of de-aging technology was seen in Netflix’s ‘The Irishman,’ which was filed by director Martin Scorsese who spent millions of dollars on digital de-aging effects, only for results to be criticized by viewers.

    The gangster film cost around $159 million, but most of the funds went to making Robert De Niro look in his 20s – he was 76 years old when the movie was shot.

    Many viewers noted the results were unstable across the video frames.

    One Redditor shared: ‘It’s 100% obvious I’m looking at an old man with a Snapchat filter over him.

    ‘Between how he walks, moves, talks, it’s so obvious it’s an old man pretending to be 30-40 years younger. It just looks SO bad, and honestly makes me wish they used multiple actors to play different portions of Robert’s character.’

    This issue seems to be the top reason for Disney’s FRAN.

    ‘Although research on facial image re-aging has attempted to automate and solve this problem, current techniques are of little practical use as they typically suffer from facial identity loss, poor resolution, and unstable results across subsequent video frames,’ reads Disney’s study that was conducted in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    The work began with a database of 2,000 synthetically generated faces, each with 14 different ages ranging from 18 to 85 years, thus providing a total of 196 training pairs per sampled identity.

    Researchers then used a ‘proven’ neural network to alter the ages of the synthetic faces, leading to the design of FRAN.

    The neural networks used, according to the researchers, are well known for preserving the spatial layout of the input.

    It is now capable of ‘unprecedented temporal stability and preservation of facial identity across variable expressions, viewpoints, and lighting conditions,’ according to the researchers.

    And the temporal smoothness over the input video frames naturally contributes to the good temporal consistency in FRAN’s output.

    ‘Combined, these factors make FRAN an excellent, production-ready solution for re-aging real faces on video,’ the researchers wrote in the study.

    To re-age images, FRAN is asked to individually output images (frames in the movie or television show) from ages 20 to 80, done in 10-year steps.

    The team notes that this method allows FRAN to handle different head poses and lighting, along with altering faces that may appear blurry in some frames.

    However, the study notes this technology only focuses on adults and does not change scalp hair or the person’s face shape.

    While Disney has not shared how it plans to use FRAN, it has used such technology in movies like Ant-Man.

    The Marvel film included a flashback scene set decades prior to the rest of the story, a young Hank Pym is shown leaving SHIELD due to their undisclosed attempts at replicating his shrinking tech.

  • 1 час, 21 минута назад 01.12.2022Science
    Former SpaceX engineer, 62, accuses Elon Musk’s company of age discrimination

    A 62-year-old former SpaceX engineer says that Elon Musk’s company discriminated against him on the basis of age during his time there.

    John Johnson was hired in 2018 at age 58 because of his expertise in a sector called optics engineering that happens to be crucial to a range of applications related to the aerospace company’s work.

    Musk requires his employees to be ‘hardcore’ and work extremely long hours at Twitter, SpaceX and Tesla. In his essay published on the platform Lioness, Johnson makes a point of saying that he often put in 10-12 hour days, seven days a week at the company’s California offices – and consistently received positive feedback from managers during his performance reviews.

    ‘As we move into this new era of wealthy industrialists taking the helm of the largest tech firms, I feel compelled to tell my story, as I believe it is essential that their workforces reflect all the demographics of our pluralistic society, not just the male-dominant youth culture that saturated my former workplace,’ Johnson writes.

    After resigning in June, Johnson filed a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission alleging that SpaceX discriminated against him based on age and then retaliated against him.

    DailyMail.com reached out to SpaceX’s press office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

    In early 2019, Johnson injured his back and was in physical therapy for weeks, but he didn’t miss any work. When his back wasn’t getting better, he needed surgery and told his manager that he’d only be out for a few days and provided him with a list of tasks he was working on.

    Johnson alleges that SpaceX went behind his back and recruited an engineer to permanently take over his supplier development role and also internally reassigned a buyer to take over his procurement role.

    ‘These young men in their twenties and thirties descended upon me right before my surgery, scheduling meetings for a download on everything I was doing in those areas,’ Johnson writes.

    ‘Then they arranged a tour to become acquainted with the suppliers; despite my months of supplier contact as well as being the bridge between internal requirements and external supplier capabilities, I was not even invited to accompany them.’

    Johnson claims that all the employees who were brought on to take over his job duties were decades younger and had steep learning curves. He also says that it wasn’t his manager that had brought them in – but it seemed to be from managers at Starlink, which was being run by Mark Juncosa, who has been called one of the mogul’s ‘young loyalists.’

    When Johnson told his manager that he felt ageism was an issue, it was reported to human resources and they assured him that everything came from ‘misunderstandings.’ HR told him to monitor internal job postings.

    In early 2021, Johnson’s new manager told him he’d been hired into a non-management track.

    According to Johnson, a manufacturing engineer who was assigned to ‘shadow’ him said his Starlink manager had said Johnson ‘might retire or die.’

    ‘I was 61, with six more years to the standard retirement age, even if I was considering retiring—which I was not. I wasn’t sick or overweight, and am generally quite healthy,’ he explains in the essay.

    ‘I responded that surely my age couldn’t be a legal reason for a job assignment. The engineer, realizing the egregiousness of the situation, reported it to HR just minutes later.’

    Months later, that Starlink manager was promoted. Johnson even reached out to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. After being assured they’d investigate his claims, he never heard back and was later told that business conditions had changed and SpaceX no longer had work for him in his area of expertise.

    At that time, Johnson says there quite a number of job openings, including in the Starlink optics area.

    After reading the writing on the wall, Johnson submitted his resignation.

    ‘Musk is now closer in age to Social Security eligibility than to the sea of fresh-faced recent graduates his company employs,’ Johnson writes. ‘At what age will he be when this predominantly young staff become concerned that he might “retire or die”?’

    This is not the first time that employees of SpaceX have alleged a discriminatory environment.

    Three women who interned at SpaceX said they faced sexual harassment and unwanted advances from other interns as well as senior leaders across a range of incidents, a New York Times report details.

    In November 2021, a former SpaceX employee filed a lawsuit against the firm alleging race discrimination, national origin discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract.

  • 3 часа, 20 минут назад 01.12.2022Science
    Mars megatsunami 3.4 billion years ago may have been caused by an asteroid collision

    A megatsunami on Mars 3.4 billion years ago may have been caused by an asteroid half the size of Kilimanjaro that sparked waves up to 820ft high, new research suggests.

    It is believed the tsunami in an ancient ocean may have shaped the Red Planet’s landscape and left deposits that could hint at whether it was once habitable.

    Researchers think the catastrophic flooding event may have been sparked by an asteroid collision similar to the Chicxulub impact on Earth, which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

    They analysed maps of Mars’ surface, created by combining images from previous missions to the planet, and identified an impact crater that could have caused the megatsunami.

    This crater – named Pohl – has a diameter of 68 miles (110km) and is located within an area of the northern lowlands that previous studies suggested may have been covered by an ocean, in a region around 393ft (120m) below its proposed sea level.

    Alexis Rodriguez and colleagues at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona believe Pohl may have formed around 3.4 billion years ago based on its position above and below rocks previously dated to this time.

    They simulated asteroid and comet collisions with this region to test what type of impact that could have created Pohl and whether this could have led to a megatsunami.

    The authors found that the simulations that formed craters with similar dimensions to Pohl were caused by either a 5.5 mile (9 km) wide asteroid encountering strong ground resistance – releasing in 13 million megatons of TNT energy – or a 1.8 mile (3 km) space rock encountering weak ground resistance – releasing 0.5 million megatons of TNT energy.

    The latter is about half the height of Mount Kilimanjaro on Earth.

    As a TNT comparison, the amount of energy released by Tsar Bomba – the most powerful nuclear bomb ever tested – was approximately 57 megatons of TNT energy.

    Both simulated impacts formed craters measuring 68 miles (110 km) in diameter and generated megatsunamis that reached as far as 932 miles (1,500 km) from the centre of the impact site.

    Analysis of the megatsunami caused by the 5.5 mile-wide asteroid impact indicated that this tsunami may have measured up to approximately 820ft (250m) tall on land.

    The authors suggest that the aftermath of the proposed Pohl impact may have had similarities with the Chicxulub impact on Earth, which previous research has suggested occurred within a region 656ft (200m) below sea level, generated a crater with a temporary diameter of 62 miles (100 km), and led to a megatsunami that was 656ft (200m) high on land.

    A previous study by the same researchers also suggested that Mars may have ben hit by two megatsunamis triggered by a pair of meteor impacts millions of years apart.

    Between the two impacts, Mars went through a period of frigid climate change with liquid water turning to ice.

    The first impact sparked a tsunami wave that was composed of liquid water.

    The second, however, saw a tsunami form rounded lobes of ice whose structure suggested that an ancient ocean on Mars was briny.

    Experts believe that if this ocean was the right temperature it could therefore once have harboured life.

    The new research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Science Real-life 'invisibility cloak' could be available within 10 years