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Watching things disappear "is an amazing experience," admits Joachim Fischer of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. But making items vanish is not the reason he creates invisibility cloaks. Rather, the magic-like tricks are attractive demonstrations of the fantastic capabilities that new optical theories and nanotechnology construction methods now enable.

This new area, called "transformation optics," as the item just above also showed, has turned modern optical design on its ear by showing how to manipulate light in ways long thought to be impossible. They promise to improve dramatically such light-based technologies as microscopes, lenses, chip manufacturing and data communications.

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Category: Science