Beyond Invisibility: New Theory Could Help "Hide" Objects From Earthquakes

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 15 2012 3:12 PM

Beyond Invisibility: New Theory Could Help "Hide" Objects From Earthquakes

127925515
Engineers suspended by ropes conduct a block-by-block inspection of the Washington Monument exterior following the East Coast earthquake in August 2011.

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

In the post-Harry Potter world, we’ve received repeated promises that scientists are “getting closer” to a real invisibility cloak. In recent months, researchers were able to bend light around small objects underwater using carbon nanotubes. And Texas scientists found a way to hide 3-D objects.

Now, scientists at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have developed a theoretical way to hide objects from vibrations, such as those caused by earthquakes. Dr. William Parnell hopes to develop a device that sends vibration waves around an object, rather than through it, preventing damage, according to io9.

Advertisement

With this theory comes the challenge of finding the appropriate material. According to the Telegraph, the scientists think that pressurized rubber will do the trick. For now, however, this is all just a theory, and the University of Manchester team is now tasked with realizing the hypothesis.

If this concept does work, the results could be tremendous. Entire buildings would be safe from earthquake or terrorist attack.

It would be great to go back in time and insure that the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument did not suffer damage from the earthquake in August. And more importantly, it could prevent disaster like that in Japan, when an earthquake and tsunami resulted in nuclear crisis. But how expensive it would be to produce and install, especially if it were to protect entire structures? It seems likely to be too pricey to protect individual homes, for instance. But as is so often the case here, the development is in such early stages that speculation is more parlor game

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Caitlin Mac Neal is an intern for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.