Metamaterials are no longer the only option for invisibility. For years that technology has been the source of hope for some future invisibility cloak, but so far only certain frequencies of light can be affected. Carbon nanotubes, on the other hand, can be used to bend all frequencies of visible light right now. Researchers at the University of Texas have used a sheet of carbon nanotubes to artificially create the mirage effect.

The mirage effect can often be seen on hot days when the sun heats paved roads. Sometimes you can see a puddle of water far down a road, but you know it is just an illusion. How does it happen? The air in contact with the pavement is much hotter than surrounding air. This temperature difference bends light so that instead of seeing the road, you see a warped image of the sky (which closely resembles reflecting water). Wherever there is an extreme temperature difference, there will be this mirage effect. The metallic bodies of cars can effectively heat the air around them, but carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are better. When an electric current passes through a sheet of CNTs, heat is quickly produced and dissipated. In the demonstration video, water was used instead of air. Like flicking a switch, the mirage effect can be activated and deactivated at will. This is a very convenient quality of the technology.
The CNTs seem a preferable alternative to metamaterials. The main drawbacks are excessive heat and possibly limited angles of cloaking. On the positive side, CNTs are much more durable than metamaterials and can bend all colors at once. Metamaterials have difficulty bending more than one color of light at a time. Indeed, it is hard to make a metamaterial that works with visible light at all. Rather than a small sheet, imagine a blanket of CNTs. With the press of a button that blanket becomes a personal wall of invisibility. With some advanced insulation on the inner side, the blanket might be able to hide a person, small car, or other item of interest. The main obstacles to this dream are the high cost of producing CNTs and supplying the energy necessary for what is essentially a high-tech electric heater.

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Video games often present players with virtual worlds that can be explored and manipulated. Playful exploration is a key aspect of the learning and creative processes. Just think about how difficult it is to learn when you are bored. If you are having fun, like playing a new game, you tend to learn rules and strategies much more easily. As young children playing is our primary occupation, but, as we progress through public schooling, our method of learning is forced to become quiet listening and frantic memorization. The lack of exploration and experimentation stifles creativity in students. Video games provide environments where experimentation and exploration are highly encouraged and beneficial. Is it any wonder that so many kids hate school and love video games?

Virtual worlds allow a player to take risks, explore freely, and test the rules that govern how those worlds function. The interactivity of video games can make players more engaged and mentally stimulated than quietly sitting in a classroom. Players have to act, observe any reactions, hypothesize appropriate courses of action, and act again to achieve goals set by the games. All this thinking and focus is good exercise for the brain, and it improves problem solving ability.

The demanding hand-eye coordination required for some video games is also a good thing. Some surgeons actually play video games to prepare for surgery with very satisfying results. First-person shooters, while sometimes criticized for their violence, improve hand-eye coordination and reaction times for players. Perhaps martial artists should play video games, and vice versa, for synergistic benefits.

The Nintendo Wii has become a fun tool for physical fitness. No longer sitting on the couch, Wii players are up and moving—burning calories in front of the TV instead of gaining them. Dance Dance Revolution has been a popular video game that also has its players exercising and having fun at the same time. Now the Xbox 360 Kinect is encouraging exercise in the living room. With its visual feedback of the player, the Kinect helps correct posture and body movement. This could be an invaluable tool for learning martial arts, yoga, dancing, etc.

Even creating video games can be beneficial. There is the obvious benefit of earning money. The video game industry earns tens of billions of dollars a year in the United States alone. To make a good game, collaboration is needed between artists, programmers, marketers, writers, and many more talented people. Programming is a good way to hone one's logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) allow players to meet other people from around the globe and communicate with them in real time. Players make friends, improve social skills, and sometimes even experience romance via video games. Some players even end up marrying people they meet in MMOs.

Playing video games can be a source of income as well as a hobby. There is a definite need for players to test games for bugs and glitches before they are sold to the public. Gaming competitions often reward winners with cash and other prizes. People have even created virtual economies in online games such as Second Life. People design virtual merchandise that is purchased by players with real world money.

Video games can also enhance school learning. Young children are often given simple games that challenge their math, spelling, and other skills. Yet, older kids playing video games is viewed with a very different attitude. There is a lot of unseen potential for games being applied to adolescents' education. Reading from a textbook can be boring for many students. Video games often introduce players to new ideas and give unique perspectives on events which can make textbook content feel more relevant. For instance, the game Age of Empires allows one to control small armies, manage resources, and strategize attacks against opposing civilizations. Reading about Sir William Wallace's exploits is much more interesting after virtually leading his troops into battle. The numerous World War II games create a similar interest in their period of history. Maybe future games will be embraced by teachers as interactive means to educate students.

There are plenty of reasons why video games are beneficial. The negative aspects of gaming should not be overlooked (perhaps the most prevalent one is addiction) but any human activity has its occasional shortcomings. With the proper attitude and ingenuity, video games should greatly benefit their players.


Steve Jobs is no longer with us. His absence will be felt by countless people, as this man has left many astounding marks on the pages of history. He helped create the personal computer industry and made computers more user-friendly. After driving his company to greatness, he was fired from it and later returned to make it great again. He was honored with a medal by President Reagan. He brought us the iPod, a device that has become an integral part of American culture. Apple's computers have been symbols of individuality and creativity. The iPad might fundamentally change how people view and use computers from now on. His demand for greatness from both himself and his company created an air of excellence and uniqueness that few people have. What direction will the tech industries take now that he is gone? Who could to hope to fill the gap left from his death? How will Apple continue to innovate without his direction?