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Invisibility: The History and Science of How Not to Be Seen

This book may be seen as a Trojan Horse—a way to teach physics (in particular optics) without seeming to do so. Taking on a fascinating topic (invisibility), the author packs an incredible number of optics concepts into a text that reads almost like a detective novel. To solve the mystery of how objects or people could become invisible, the reader goes on a learning quest exploring optical laws, properties and materials.

Not surprisingly, a book on how NOT to see requires extensive considerations on how we DO see things, and how our understanding of seeing has evolved over the years. The many delightful literary and historical sidenotes span from Greek mythology to the present and combine with biographical anecdotes about key authors and scientists.

There is not a single equation in this book, but the concepts are presented rigorously in the text and in the many supporting diagrams. The book is thus accessible to anybody with a high school physics background. An extensive bibliography and an equally extensive index are highly visible at the end of the book.

In the same spirit of a fun-but-accurate take on optics as the rest of the book, one appendix is an "Invisiobibliography" (the literature, as the science list is in the bibliography mentioned earlier), and another covers the main point of the book: “How to make your own invisibility device.” The author has collected several key supplies for this process, but he confesses he has not accomplished it yet (leaving it as an exercise for the reader, as any good academic would).

Returning to the Trojan Horse metaphor, this book is likely to enchant and inform an adult reader or to spark a lifelong interest in science for a young reader.

Review by Bogdan Hoanca, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA.

The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or its publisher, Optica (formerly OSA).

Publish Date: 27 July 2023

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