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Thanks to British scientist Sir John Pendry the impossible sci-fi fantasy of invisibility may yet make it into the real (if incomprehensible) world

From ancient Greek myths to modern Harry Potter, the possibilities of invisibility – for good, evil and everything in between – have fascinated humanity. Now, thanks to a British scientist, the impossible may yet make it into the real (if incomprehensible) world.

Professor Sir John Pendry’s “metamaterials” deceive the eye and boggle the mind in equal measure. By guiding light around the object that they cover, they give the impression of, well, nothing at all. It may be too soon to talk sensibly of invisibility cloaks, but such discussions are no longer reserved for the fringes of science fiction conventions, either.

Amid such excitement, it is easy to overlook the sheer hard work required to turn fantasy into reality. Yet Professor Pendry’s discoveries are the fruit of nearly half a century of labour. With yesterday’s top prize from the Institute of Physics, such efforts are rightly rewarded.