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The Amazing Gecko-Man: a superhero future made possible by probable science

Joseph Volpe, @jrvolpe
January 18, 2012
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There's no superhero origin story that begins with a bite (or a lick?) from a gecko. Plain 'ol wall climbing powers are, it seems, just not as sexy as wearing skintight suits, slinging webs and crawling up buildings. But if a few bright minds at the University of Southampton have anything to say about it, we could soon find ourselves walking like real-life lizard people (V, anyone?) and suctioning onto various surfaces using the managed properties of light. Lead researcher John Zhang and his UK team have predicted the existence of a force more powerful than gravity and the short-range pull of the Casimir effect, whereby plasmons (electromagnetic waves) captured on a metamaterial and the electrons on a metal resonate and form a bond of attraction. The resultant particle field is supposedly strong enough to "overcome the Earth's gravitational pull" and could even be used to alter the reflectivity of a material. Obvious military and aerospace applications aside, this invisible adhesive could also make its way into our everyday lives -- they just need to need to prove that it, y'know, actually exists first.

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