#AtoZChallenge – Cloaking Device, used by Romulans and Klingons, and soon by real-world military?

Time for C in my Sci-Fi themed A-to-Z Challenge

For C, I’ll talk about cloaking devices. There’s no way I could even begin this discussion without reference to Star Trek!

The Romulans had the first cloaking devices in the original Star Trek episode Balance of Terror – it was devised as a deep-space analog to a submarine submerging. The technology has since been a staple in the various incarnations of Star Trek over the decades. In Star Trek, the technology has ships fade and completely vanish from view.

The fantasy version, of course, has been around for ages longer – from the One Ring of Sauron to Harry Potter’s cloak, there are countless magical ways to vanish from sight.


Can you really make something vanish?

Sort of. There are special materials that are used to hide planes and tanks from radar or infrared detection (you can still see these things perfectly well with your naked eye, though). There is also active camouflage, which allows objects to blend into their surroundings by using panels or coating that change their colour and brightness.

^ Keep in mind, however, that news stories like this tell us how such a cloak could work – it’s hard to say if anyone actually has a usable prototype yet.

It’s very likely that some sort of cloaking devices are possible, but to apply it in space would be extra difficult (if not impossible). You see, there a problem of heat – to keep your starship crew alive, you use systems that generate heat. You can’t hide heat! There are laws against that…

So some kinds of invisibility are possible, but it might not be as spectacular or useful as it is in fiction.

In my current fiction:

Shortly after my characters in Far Flung get, well, flung across the universe, they are aided by an alien using a “capture” ship – a space station that has been modified to capture an enemy freighter and deliver it to a secret location. This capture ship is supposed to be able to hide from enemy detection, but things don’t work out that well…

More about cloaking possibilities: