Can You See Me Now?

By Judy Berman

Ever been in this situation? You’re having a quiet cup of coffee or other liquid refreshment, and the guy sitting next to you is asking questions. To be polite, you respond.

But he’s not answering any of your comments.

You talking to me? Turns out, he wasn’t. He was on his cell phone. Embarrassing. This happened to me, and I just felt invisible. If only.

But, suppose you could actually crawl into a black hole and be unobserved in the background? REALLY blend. That’d be a handy feature whether you’re trying to slink away to avoid a confrontation or to duck a creditor.

Cloaking devices could help. That’s not just the stuff of science fiction such as in “Star Trek” or “Star Wars,” or the invisibility cloak that Harry Potter used to skulk around Hogwarts.

An invisibility cloak might be in use within 10 years.Cornell University scientists have created a “time cloak” that masks an entire event, according to Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press.

Would this give criminals the edge in committing a crime? Would they be able to walk into an art museum like Pierce Brosnan’s character in “The Thomas Crown Affair” and steal a painting in broad daylight? Even if the museum is swarming with police?

That’d be a ways off yet. Right now, the time cloak lasts maybe less than a nanosecond – which is one billionth of a second, according to a study in the journal “Nature.”

Researchers at Duke University and elsewhere also are at work  to develop this technology.

It would be an asset for the military and police. They could use this to camouflage their soldiers and police officers, and tanks and planes from the enemy or track those engaged in illicit activities.

“There are practical applications … This is a way of adding a packet of information to high-speed data unseen without interrupting the flow of information,” Borenstein wrote.

The downside for us mere mortals is that same technology also could be used to spread computer viruses.

Personally, I’m just hoping it becomes available for everyday use.

A little smoke and mirrors could come in handy. Just slip the cloak on, like Harry Potter, and become invisible. Say, you’ve left the boss’s office after requesting a raise and you hear maniacal laughter. If you were to return undetected, you might discover just what people are saying when they think you’re not in the room.

Then, again … sometimes, the lack of transparency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo Credit: A dragon-shaped cloud of dust seems to fly out from a bright explosion in this infrared light image (top) from the Spitzer Space Telescope, a creature that is entirely cloaked in shadow when viewed in visible part of the spectrum (bottom).

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Star_Formation_Revealed_around_M17.jpg

Movie references and science info (ABC News)

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=5560679

Military use and science info (Discovery.com)

http://science.discovery.com/videos/popscis-future-of-invisibility-cloak.html

The Bully

I was only 9 years old, but I knew that Otto was trouble with a capital T.

He’d thrown my schoolbooks into a snowbank and laughed while I bawled like crazy as I retrieved them. It wasn’t the first time. I was terrified. Imagine you’re the smallest kid in your class and some kid – the size of a rhino – is standing between you and a safe passage home.

Once you’re in his sights, that short walk home suddenly becomes filled with terror. Otto, who was in my 4th-grade class, was a bully and nearly as big as some of my teachers. Never knowing for sure when this goon would pop out of nowhere added to my stress. Most kids look forward to the end of the school day. Not me. I dreaded going to school for the same reason.

For months, Otto (not his real name) would verbally or physically threaten me. Fighting back was not an option – not if I wanted to live to tell about it.

One day, he stepped up the harassment. Otto was waiting for me as I took a shortcut on my way home from school. This time, he had a buddy. The bully took the rubber off his shoe and hit me in the face with it. Otto smirked in satisfaction as I cried. His friend just laughed.

My Mom only spoke about this once. She said they went to the bully’s parents’ home. With apologies to Marlon Brando in “The Godfather,” I imagine my Dad’s conversation went something like this: “I’m a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall my (daughter), if my (daughter) is struck by a bolt of lightning, I will blame some of the people here.”

After that, I was able to put Otto in my rearview mirror. He never physically tormented me again.

You might think: So, that’s the end of it. But it wasn’t.

Life is rarely tied up neatly like it is in the movies and in books. In Carl Hiaasen’s novel, “Hoot,” you might get a vicarious thrill when Roy Eberhardt gives his tormentor, Dana Matherson, his comeuppance and Matherson is sniveling in jail. Or, you dread every encounter J. K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter, has with Dudley Dursley and Draco Malfoy, who later make peace toward the end of the series. The worst outcome is when the conflict turns deadly, as it did in S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” when Johnny killed the Soc, Bob, to save Ponyboy’s life.

I can’t recall even talking to Otto for the next four years that we went to school together. It’s like we were strangers passing each other in the revolving door of life. It’s been decades since I’ve been in fourth grade. Yet there’s hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think of Otto and wonder who he’s harassing now.

If you know of someone who is bullying or being bullied, please speak up. Stop the bully from doing more harm.

I was lucky. My parents stepped in, and peace was restored.

Many others long for the same intervention and a safe place they can turn to when they’re feeling threatened.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.