When I was a kid I swallowed science-fiction by the crates. And I was too young to be very discerning of quality – I liked everything. Good taste developed later, with age. But even at that tender age, there was one book that was so bad that not only did I realized it was bad, it really, really irked me. It was The Ayes of Texas (check the Amazon readers’ reviews!), a stupid 1982 Texas-secessionist fairy-tale in which a rich (and of course brilliant and smooth with ladies) conservative Texan, by throwing millions of dollars at scientists, gets all sorts of new gizmos and gadgets which he uses to win the Cold War by defeating both the Soviet and the US military, ending with Texas as the remaining standing military superpower. Hey, at that age I barely new where Texas was but the whole schtick was so sick, not to mention the stupid idea that scientific discovery can be bought just like that, with bags of money and few weeks of effort!
Anyway, since I doubt you’d care if I spoiled the plot of a book that you will not and should not read, the key weapon in the battle was an old WWII battleship armed with new types of weapons and, most importantly, made invisible by being plastered with panels made of a new material (which, if I remember correctly, break several laws of physics).
And while the invisibility panels as described in the book were impossible, that does not mean that nobody’s ever looked at the possibility of making materials that can make stuff more-or-less invisible. There was a report last year that saw a lot of press, and recently a new one came out, looking at chemicals called reflectins, coded by six genes unique to squid. Cephalopods rule, of course, and the distribution of reflectins in the skin is under the neural control of melanophores in cuttlefish and octopods.
Now, as MC explains very well, a new paper came out describing the properties of reflexins inserted into and expressed in E.coli. Then, reflexin synthetized by bacteria were coaxed into forming films on the surface of water and the light-reflecting properties were studies under varying conditions. You’ll have to read MC’s post for details.
Anyway, as MC notes, this is clearly of interest to the military, though I doubt they’ll ever use the synthetic reflexins to coat a WWII-era warship in order to defeat both the Soviet and the US armies in order to secede and form a Greater Texas.