(Image: Sagehen Creek Field Station)

And for my next trick I will make a whole building vanish. This invisible barn seems to melt into the forest, confusing passers-by.

Built at the University of California’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, it was designed by Seung Teak Lee and Mi Jung Lim from design firm stpmj, who wanted to create a structure with an understated shape that emphasises its surroundings. “Many architects and designers consider nature as just a background,” says Lee. “We thought it could be interesting to flip this.”

(Image: Sagehen Creek Field Station)

The whole barn, which measures just a metre at its widest point, is wrapped with reflective panelling to make it blend into the background, while the angled reflections of tree trunks hint at its true shape.

Judging by how confusing the structure looks to human eyes, you might expect it to baffle birds as well. However, it has been specifically designed with avian sight in mind. The mirrored film reflects wavelengths visible to birds more intensely so they can see it and avoid it.

Novel materials can also be used to make things invisible by bending light around objects. Two devices that cloak objects by bending light in the range visible to humans were able to conceal tiny microphones placed on a wall.

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