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April 1, 2014 - 10:25pm

Engineering department showcases 'invisibility spray' in April Fool's prank


Sorry, Harry Potter fans, the invisibility cloak won’t be coming to stores near you anytime soon, despite what a video released by the engineering department claims.

The video, released on the department’s Facebook page early Tuesday morning, demonstrated a new spray that purportedly made objects nearly invisible through nanotechnology. Though some students were prompted to immediately share the discovery with friends, many recognized the April Fool’s Day shenanigans.

“As nanotechnology blurs the line between science and science fiction, Christoph Ellison has developed a paint that guides rays of light around an object,” the department wrote in a statement. “Still in development, the distortions allow the outline of the object to be seen, preventing true invisibility.”

The engineering department later confirmed to the Daily that such technology does not yet exist at the University. The video follows a similar prank last year, where the department claimed to demonstrate a teleportation machine said to be capable of moving a small key across a laboratory.

Students had varied reactions on social media to this year’s prank. While some considered the video humorous, others provided evidence of real research being done in the field. Nanotechnology is currently a significant area of research at the University. Invisibility, as improbable as it sounds, may not be that unreasonable of a concept in reality.

In 2013, Jay Guo, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, demonstrated that nanoscopic grooves could theoretically be used as an alternate means of printing, given their ability to absorb various light wavelengths and reflect others back toward the observer.

While the demonstration in the video may have taken some liberties, Guo indicated that currently available technologies such as carbon nanotubes could be used in specific instances and conditions to simulate properties of invisibility.

“That could be feasible under certain conditions, yes,” Guo said.

In a search for other uses, faculty in the biomedical engineering department are currently conducting research in the growing field of bio-nanotechnology, which examines potential uses of nanotechnology to solve biological problems such as cancers, genetic mutations and blood diseases.

However, the engineering department was not the only group to take part in the April Fool’s Day fun. Throughout the scientific community, hoaxes ran rampant.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, one of the most revered international physics research institutes, released an “official statement” and video stating future communications by the lab would be written in Comic Sans font.

In usual form, Google also announced a series of innovations to celebrate April 1, including #Hoffsome — a photo management application that automatically adds actor David Hasselhoff into the background of any picture — and Google Naps — a parody of Google Maps that directs users to their nearest “secret napping locations.”