The US Army is serious about developing invisibility cloaks

Among the superpowers people want, a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak generally comes pretty high on the list. Now even the US Army wants one for its soldiers. They are looking for companies to make them such cloaks in the next 18 months.

Scientific progress has turned many fictions into fact, but true invisibility may be unattainable, Martin Wegener of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany told the New Scientist: “Complete invisibility of macroscopic objects for all visible colors is fundamentally impossible.”

So the army will have to settle for a more workable definition of invisibility instead—perhaps a cloak that remains invisible under certain types of light, for example, making the cloaked soldier appear to be a ghostly image.

Read more on Quartz, published May 8, 2015.

Image by US Army under CC-BY license.

How Liberia finally got rid of Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the Ebola outbreak in Libera is over, which means there haven’t been any new cases for the past 42 days. But the country remains on high alert, as new Ebola cases are still being reported in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Stamping out an epidemic of a deadly infectious disease is a great achievement for any country. Liberia’s triumph is more remarkable still given the country’s poor access to healthcare.

Read more on Quartz, published May 9, 2015.

Image by European Commission under CC-BY-ND.

Astronauts will get dumber on their way to Mars

For enthusiasts of space travel, the bad news keeps coming. A new study, just published in Science Advances, finds that the smartest humans who will be chosen to go to Mars may not remain smart by the time they reach their destination (if at all they do).

We have known for a long time that leaving our cushy planet is fraught with problems. Space may be largely empty, but it’s filled up with invisible charged particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. Earth’s magnetic field deflects these particles, but space travelers will inevitably be exposed to such radiation. And the new study predicts that it will cause rapid and permanent damage to the brain.

Read more on Quartz, published May 1, 2015.

Image credit: NASA