Jumaat, 8 November 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

NTU don makes objects vanish with 'invisibility cloak'


IT might seem like a magic show performed by legendary illusionist Harry Houdini but a Singapore-based scientist and his team have managed to create an "invisibility cloak" that can make objects and even small animals such as cats disappear.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the research in this area by a team led by Dr Zhang Baile, a Singaporean permanent resident, was published two weeks ago in Nature Communications, one of the top science journals.

Using carefully angled blocks of glass to form a wall around an empty core, light is bent around an object – or living creature – placed in the centre. The object then appears to be "invisible", allowing the viewer to see only what's behind the glass "cloak".

While the research is still at an early stage, the light-bending technology behind the glass "cloak" may have useful applications in security and defence, such as in developing military surveillance equipment.

"It is not quite like Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility because this is not an actual cloak that you can wrap around you yet – it's a glass structure but you can 'see through' an object placed in the centre in a natural environment," said Dr Zhang, assistant physics professor at the Nanyang Technological University.

The 32-year-old Dr Zhang collaborated with six other scientists, including members of Zhejiang University in China and Marvell Technology Group Boston, over the last three years to come up with the innovation, which was showcased for the first time in Singapore yesterday.

With the capability to function in open air, it is a significant improvement over his previous prototype, made of a colourless crystalline mineral called calcite, which can only make an object "invisible" in a liquid called laser oil.

Even then, Dr Zhang's earlier work had already put him on the list of the world's top 35 innovators under the age of 35 compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review magazine in August last year.

While he is pleased with the progress so far, Dr Zhang admitted that the research is "still far away from actual applications".

The "cloak" as it is now still suffers from several limitations: It can make things invisible only when viewed from up to six specific directions, although the team is working to make it omni-directional. It is also a bulky construct that is difficult to move around.

"It's progress but it's not particularly revolutionary, it's not true invisibility if it only works from six directions," said Professor John Pendry, the chair in theoretical solid state physics at the Imperial College of London whose work in cloaking objects in electromagnetic fields is the basis of Dr Zhang's initial research.

"Cloaks are very useful things for... stealth or security, so when they get it omni-directional, I shall be impressed." — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Official websites hacked


The websites of Singapore's president and prime minister have been hacked after it vowed to crack down on activist group Anonymous, which is demanding greater Internet freedom in the city-state, officials confirmed.

A "subpage" of the website of the Istana, the official residence of President Tony Tan, was "compromised" early yesterday, telecommunication officials said without giving details.

The hacking happened about an hour after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's website displayed mocking messages and pictures from Anonymous, which is demanding the scrapping of rules requiring Singapore news websites to obtain annual licenses.

The rules, which came into effect in June, have sparked anger among some bloggers and activists who say they are designed to muzzle free expression.

While the defaced section of www.istana.gov.sg had been taken offline by early afternoon, screengrabs widely circulated on social media showed the image of a stern-looking elderly woman raising a middle finger.

Its authenticity could not be independently verified.

It was accompanied by the words "JIAK LIAO BEE!", a mildly offensive term in Hokkien, referring to people who get paid for doing nothing.

Unlike the hacking of the prime minister's website, there was no indication of the involvement of Anonymous in the attack on the Istana page.

"Both the PMO (prime minister's office) and Istana main websites are still working, and we will restore the compromised pages as soon as possible.

"The matter is under investigation," the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said in a statement.

The defaced section of Lee's official website www.pmo.gov.sg showed a message with a pejorative in online youth slang.

"It's great to be Singaporean today," read a headline next to Anonymous' trademark Guy Fawkes mask, a symbol of anti-establishment defiance worldwide.

The double attacks came after Lee on Wednesday told local journalists that his government would "spare no effort" in going after Anonymous members who had threatened to wage a cyber war against the government.

Singapore strictly regulates the traditional media, but insists the new licensing rules do not impinge on Internet freedom. — AFP

Bank director fined for assaulting taxi driver


A BANKING director was fined S$4,000 (RM10,244) and ordered to pay S$1,000 (RM2,561) compensation for assaulting a taxi driver two years ago.

Briton Mason Robert Alford, 41, admitted to punching Tan Chin Huat, 58, in the face along the East Coast Park expressway on Dec 14, 2011.

The court heard that Tan picked up Alford, the regional head of the Asia-Pacific region for credit analysis, near Lau Pa Sat hawker centre at about 1am that day.

Alford, who was reeking of alcohol, told the driver to go to Eastwood condominium in Bedok.

Along the ECP, Alford suddenly began to shout, kicked and shook the cabbie's seat several times. Alford then pressed down on the victim's shoulder forcefully.

He also threw several punches in the victim's direction and one landed on his left cheek.

Tan eventually managed to drive to the nearest police station.

Alford's lawyers asked for a mandatory treatment order which the court said was totally inappropriate.

A psychiatric report from the Institute of Mental Health said it was likely that Alford was experiencing a relapse of his recurrent depressive disorder at the time.

Alford could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to S$5,000 (RM12,798). — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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