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Boffins develop 'Hidden gateway to Hogwarts girls' loos'

Actually more of a raygun-proof forcefield barrier

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Attention-seeking boffins in China claim to have created a "tunable electromagnetic gateway" which "can realize functionalities that were thought to be possible only in science fictions". Sadly they seem not to be aware of the difference between science fiction and the enormous, derivative, fist-eatingly turgid Billy Bunter/Meg'n'Mog combo fantasy platform Harry Potter™.

Somewhat puzzlingly, famous Chinese invisibility-cloak brainbox Huanyang Chen (nowadays of the Mong Institute in Hong Kong) and his colleagues specifically refer to J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in their new "electromagnetic portal" paper, now available online. Fans of the tiresome adolescent wizard will doubtless recall that the eponymous chamber was accessed by means of a fairly conventional secret entrance located in a girls' lavatory, which could only be opened by somebody able to converse with snakes.

The Chinese paper, however, actually offers no possibilities in the line of reptile linguistics or covert intrusion into girls' loos. Nor does it offer much in the way of proper science-fictional gateway/portal "functionalities" such as travel to other stars, alternate universes, the past, the future etc.

All it does offer, in fact, is a conceptual arch or gateway that "can block electromagnetic waves but that allows the passage of other entities". This is also described in the paper as a "hidden portal". The Telegraph has concluded that rather than the snakespeech-operated haunted dunny tunnel in Chamber of Secrets, Chen et al are referring to the magically concealed Platform 9¾ at King's Cross from which the Hogwarts Express departs.

But in fact according to Chen:

"In the frequency range in which the metamaterial possesses a negative refraction index, people standing outside the gateway would see something like a mirror. Whether it can block all visible light depends on whether one can make a metamaterial that has a negative refractive index from 300 to 800 nanometres."

So it would seem that in fact nothing is actually hidden. Nor does the "gateway" lead to anywhere other than where it is. It's not even a relatively humdrum Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass mirror-portal.

The physics may be fine, then - though the metamaterial required to build the "gateway" is notional thus far. But this has to be one of the worst bits of layman exposition ever.

This thing isn't a science-fiction gateway or a portal. What it is, if you will, is an insubstantial protective barrier able to resist electromagnetic attacks - for instance zappings from deadly laser blaster cannon of the sort already nearing service with the US military, or potentially any of the various kinds of microwave rayguns. It's a shield against energy weapons, perhaps also against heat.

Within the rules of bogus metamaterial science stories, in fact, it's a "forcefield cloak" or similar. ®

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