Is Invisibility a Real Possibility?

Much of what today we consider commonplace was once the stuff of science fiction in a bygone age. Many of the technologies we take for granted today, such as space travel, transcontinental passenger aircraft, submarines and almost instantaneous global communication, once existed in the realm of speculative fiction. How many of the technologies which exist only in the realm of our best loved Sci-Fi motion pictures and television series will eventually become the reality of tomorrow?

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present “That’s Impossible” a television series on the History Channel that examines seemingly impossible technologies based upon stories and inventions in history, and detailing exactly what is needed to turn them into reality. The show premiered on July 7, 2009 and is narrated by veteran actor Jonathan Frakes, best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.


One appalling fact is continuously driven home in this series, that many of our greatest scientific and technological feats have in part been driven forward, in leaps and bounds, by military necessity.

Will humankind’s quest for invisibility lead to a major human catastrophe and tempt us to wage war and unimaginable acts of barbarism?

The great Greek philosopher Plato uses the tale of the “Ring of Gyges,” which confers invisibility, in The Republic as a thought experiment to argue that a person with such a ring, whether previously just or unjust, would use it to commit as many crimes as necessary to get what they want. Plato does not agree with this. The argument of the rest of the Republic, consequently, is that the just man would not be tempted by invisibility to commit crimes, because he would know that crime itself makes one unhappy and that he is better off to remain just.

H.G. Wells’ novel “The Invisible Man” however, ends tragically when its central protagonist, Griffin successfully develops a method to achieve invisibility, but cannot become visible again, and is driven to insanity and becomes a pathological killer.

Which aspect of our human nature will prevail? We at Discovery Enterprise would very much like to hear from you. Join us and, please express your views in our forums section.

That’s Impossible Episode 1 – Invisibility Cloaks

The Invisible Man (1933) Trailer

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