A journey through the culture and history of invisibility with Philip Ball

June 15 / 159

Philip Ball. Photo supplied.
Philip Ball. Photo supplied.


What would you do if you were invisible? According to Philip Ball, chances are it would have something to do with power, wealth or sex (or all three at once!).

Science writer, broadcaster and editor of Nature, Philip Ball was in Melbourne exclusively to deliver the fourth DICE (Dialogues on Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship) lecture at the Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI).  


Fresh from the Auckland Writers’ Festival, Mr Ball took the sold out crowd at CCI’s LAB-14 on a journey to explore the colourful cultural history of invisibility, from medieval grimoires to cutting-edge nanotechnology, camouflage to early cinematography, beliefs about ghosts to the dawn of nuclear physics, and the discovery of dark energy and virtual reality.


The concept of invisibility has featured in history, culture and science through the ages – from Plato to Shakespeare, James Clerk Maxwell to HG Wells, and invisibility cloaks to stealth jets.


Invisibility also features in the natural world, with animals employing camouflage and concealment to blend in with their surroundings as a survival mechanism.


Invisibility is pervasive even in science and technology, with attempts to render weapons, vehicles, even buildings, unseen to the naked eye, and dominates two emerging scientific disciplines called transformation optics and metamaterials engineering – theoretical and experimental ways to manipulate light in ways that would once have been considered impossible.


To listen to an audio recording of the talk please visit: http://www.carltonconnect.com.au/dice-lecture/ 


Story by Christen Teen

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