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Ability to turn invisible

  1. Mar 8, 2005 #1
    Hi folks. I'm a novelist working on a story that could use a physicist's help. Unfortunately, I know nothing about physics (I was an English major, as you might expect)!

    One of the characters in my new story has the ability to turn invisible. I would like to have a plausible explanation for this ability, something that goes beyond drinking a serum or hiding under an "invisibility cloak."

    I thought perhaps I could do something with the way others see the character, such as his body does not reflect light the way other objects do. OR perhaps he can exist in another dimension and move back and forth in space (this seems the most promising). OR perhaps he can "vibrate" to the point of invisibility through speed. That's what I have so far.

    A friend mentioned string theory and gravitons might help, but I don't know enough to even explore that.

    Also, if there is a way to make his clothes invisible as well, that is a plus, but I suspect that would create other problems.

    This is not an invisible man story, nor a work of science fiction. It's a more mainstream take on special talents. But I would like the science to feel true and plausible.

    I do realize this all sounds a bit out of left field. Any help or suggestions on where else to look/research would be greatly appreciated! Many thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2005 #2
    Take any digital camera with a screen. Now imagine the screen occupying the entire back side, and the lenses occupying the entire frontside. There you go, you can now "see through" the entire camera/device. Now imagine the camera being very thin, flexible, and wearable as a shirt, cloak, or make-up.

    That's roughly the explanation for James Bond's car in his last movie.
  4. Mar 9, 2005 #3

    Although going through other dimensions is still star trek stuff, you can have a specialized reflective coat and a projector projecting the background onto you which would make you invisible. This was actually done by a Japanese researcher. You might want to google that. You could also wear specialized screens with cameras fitted all around which displays the images infront and back. Dunno if it was actually done.
  5. Mar 9, 2005 #4
    make the character from a 5 dimentional universe. That way, we would only see 3D cross sections of him at a time.


  6. Mar 9, 2005 #5


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    Gravitons have nothing to do with this, string theories's higher dimensions may as in the post directly above.
  7. Mar 10, 2005 #6


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    Isnt it kinda iffy to talk about string theory being a way to make somoen invisible. Arent the multiple dimensions beyond actual human comprehension and might not be something you can measure like you can measure the x,y,z axis?
  8. Mar 10, 2005 #7
    Since this is meant to be sci-fi to a certain extent, i'll bite.

    Perhaps, the electrons of the man's atoms do absorb photons (light) just like any electron but they re-emit them outside the spectrum of visible light. So, what you get could be an invisible man but who gives off E.M radiation all around him.
  9. Mar 10, 2005 #8
    if he can fragment, then hes practically becoming a ghost, and can probably walk thru walls
    what if he changes the wavelength of light that hits him so he relfects invisible light instead of white light
    i quite like the vibrating really fast idea, but when you think about it he'd need a new organ or cell type to control any form of natural invisibilty
  10. Mar 11, 2005 #9
    All the character has to do is be able to "excite" all his electrons and keep them that way to be invisible. Or at least as much as he can to keep his photon levels WAY down.
    Funnily enough, I am also a novelist using this forum in helping me write.
    I also enjoy studying physics.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2005
  11. Mar 11, 2005 #10


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  12. Mar 14, 2005 #11


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    Hi folks;
    I guess I'm going a little web-crazy here. I've only had internet access for a week and am still trying to figure it out. Since this site is positively fascinating, I'm strolling through and posting if there's anything for me to say. For starters, am I the only person in the world who figures that an invisible person would be blind? For true all-over invisibility, the retinae would be unreactive with light. Also, the speed thing would pretty much mean that the guy would incinerate instantly. Molecular motion is heat. I used to be a pretty decent writer until I got onto the ADD meds; not since. My specialties were hard SF and tech articles. What I learned after decades of researching everything is that you just have to make it up sometimes. It doesn't detract from the story, but even less if you make it sound reasonably plausible. (Think James P. Hogan or Larry Niven.)
  13. Mar 18, 2005 #12
    many thanks!

    What a great Board!

    Thanks for provoking some thoughts -- keep the ideas coming.

    Many thanks!
  14. Mar 18, 2005 #13
    I wouldn't think string theory would be a plausible explanation for anything in a novel. Especially not one about theoretical physics. That's not meant to be a jab at it, I'm just saying most people who read it will just be confused.

    You could say that when the person absorbs light, it is completely re-emitted on the opposite side of him than which it entered.
  15. Mar 18, 2005 #14
    KingNothing is correct.

    You want to re-emit it on the other side.

    An alternative (but less plausible way) is to refract the light all the
    way around so you are in a "bubble".

    The best way is to pick up the little blue powerup sitting in the pyramid
    next to the rocket launcher. :cool:
  16. Mar 18, 2005 #15


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    "...the electrons of the man's atoms do absorb photons (light) just like any electron but they re-emit them outside the spectrum of visible light..."

    ... "excite" all his electrons and keep them that way to be invisible...."

    Both of these only solve half the problem. They do not deal with light from objects behind him being seen by the observer. He would look like a man-shaped area of blackness.
  17. Mar 18, 2005 #16

    A full solution of the problem requires that the light be re-emitted from the
    other side of whichever way it came from, so it would not be a black outline.
  18. Mar 18, 2005 #17
    if all the atoms in the mans body absorbed and re-emitted the photons in the same direction as they were originally travelling, then they would seem to pass straight through the man, seeming invisible
  19. Jun 12, 2005 #18
    There can be a camera behind his back, and he is like a tv screen, so when turned on, you can see through him.
  20. Jun 12, 2005 #19


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    Let's not have parallel discussions on the same topic...especially one that's been dead a while.

    I'm closing this and leaving the thread (of this same title) in Gen Engg open.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2005
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