Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 14/06/2004Everyone's playing How Not To Be Seen today. Japanese inventor Susumu Tachi has unveiled -- well, de-cloaked -- his amazing Retro-Reflectum coat of invisibility, which projects an image forwards of whatever's behind the wearer.

Monday 14/06/2004
Everyone's playing How Not To Be Seen today. Japanese inventor Susumu Tachi has unveiled -- well, de-cloaked -- his amazing Retro-Reflectum coat of invisibility, which projects an image forwards of whatever's behind the wearer. The most important thing for this trick, besides sounding like a spell from Harry Potter, is to make it work no matter what angle the viewer is looking from -- the still pictures of the coat don't show you this.

This needs a huge matrix of sensors, processors and display segments. The second most important thing is to be able to match the brightness of the scene around you: easy enough in the dark, but harder if you walk in front of a kilowatt halogen spotlight. So you need a lot of power.

In other words, to make it all work you need the equivalent of the Hubble telescope mixed with Piccadilly Circus and a small power station stashed somewhere unobtrusive. But these are all technical details: I'm sure Susumu has them well in hand.

Meanwhile, navies are getting the hang of the stealth warship -- the Swedes have their Windows--NT powered Visby corvette (no jokes about the shipyard name, Kockums, please), while the US Navy is hard at work building the DD (X) destroyer. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems has been given the task of making this hugely automated, low radar profile black ship -- let's hope they've read Ben Rich's account of his attempts to build a stealth ship when he was in charge of Lockheed's Skunk Works in the 80s -- when an entirely successful trial of a ship that slipped through radar and took about four men to run led to the termination of the contract, because the US Navy wanted big ships full of beefy men more than anything else in the world. Certainly more than they wanted, say, an effective defence force. "Starve before you do business with the Navy", he said.

I have a perfectly serviceable method of how not to be seen that needs neither politics nor pocket nukes. Be somewhere else.

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