Harry Potter and the Intel Quad Core-based invisibility cloak

Love him or loathe him, Harry Potter is back on our cinema screens once more in a new feature-length film from Warner Brothers entitled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One.

And it has already been a huge success, raking in a tremendous £18.3m in a record-breaking opening weekend that’s sure to swell the coffers of anyone even remotely associated with the mature schoolboy and his money-making magical wooden stick.

Riding on the coattails of the publicity generated by this latest episode in the angst-ridden life of the bespectacled wizard, a number of search-engine optimised (SEO) journalists have decided to investigate whether some of the magical objects used in the Potter films might one day become scientific realities.

Notably, of course, many of them have focused their attention on Mr Potter’s invisibility cloak, which, I am assured by Potter cognoscenti, is a rare and expensive piece of clothing spun from pelts of the Demiguise, which are, of course, magical herbivores found in south-east Asia.

In their hunt for a real-world equivalent, many writers have produced lengthy dissertations explaining how ‘metamaterials’ – artificially structured materials designed to interact with and control electromagnetic waves – might one day be used to build cloaking devices that could render objects invisible to the human eye.

Whether they will or not, I can’t be sure. But even if they could, I’m not convinced that we need such exotic materials to make us invisible from the view of others. Because I believe that there’s an existing technology out there today that has helped to make all of us pretty close to invisible already.

That’s right. Just think back how this one particular technology has impacted our own lives over the past decade and you will see that I’m not exaggerating.

Years ago, to buy some goods, it was necessary to travel into the local town and visit any number of stores, engaging in pleasant banter with any number of shopkeepers along the way. Not any more. With this technology, there’s no need to meet and greet anyone. You can buy anything your heart desires without talking to a soul.

Along similar lines, to pay bills it used to be necessary to write out cheques and mail them off at the local post office. Today, there’s no need to visit the local postmaster for envelopes and stamps. This technology can be used to pay all debts by standing order – it simply takes the money out of bank accounts electronically.

Booking a holiday is an equally forlorn business. Rather than pop down to a local travel agent and spend hours poring over glossy brochures with an attractive salesperson, this technology allows individuals to book holiday flights and accommodation from home, obviating the need for any human interaction whatsoever.

And what, you might ask, is this wonderful technology that has helped to render us invisible from the folks around us? Well, it certainly wasn’t made from the pelts of the Demiguise, was it? But then, it wasn’t made from a new exotic form of metamaterial either!

No, the technology that has already made us invisible to others was simply created from silicon and software. And by now you’ve probably guessed that the technology I’m referring to is no more than your very own unassuming home computer.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Electronicstalk

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