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Invisibility

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Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)

Abstract

In Book 2 of Republic, Plato recounts a thought experiment in fictional form that permits an investigation of the question: do human beings naturally tend to justice or to injustice? The story is told by Glaucon, one of the interlocutors of Socrates. Glaucon tells how Gyges, a shepherd in the ancient kingdom of Lydia, comes across a golden ring. The shepherd takes the ring, puts it on, and discovers he becomes invisible when he turns the collet of the ring one way; he reappears when he turns it the other way. And what does Gyges do with this new-found power? He seduces the queen, murders the king, and takes control of the kingdom for himself. You yourself have probably daydreamed about possessing the superpower of invisibility, and the chances are those daydreams involved the same sorts of action that the shepherd Gyges carried out (if perhaps not to the same degree). Invisibility allows you to spy on your beautiful work colleague, cause mischief to your enemies, steal whatever you fancy and make an unseen getaway. If you agree with Glaucon then you’d have to say human nature hasn’t changed radically over the past two millennia—people then as now are motivated by thoughts of sex, money, power. Socrates disagreed with Glaucon. He admitted that people sometimes do act on impure impulses, but when we do so we feel ashamed. He argued that people do generally strive to be moral. Whether you side with Glaucon or Socrates, the story of Gyges demonstrates how potent is this idea of invisibility.

Keywords

  • Refractive Index
  • Attenuation Coefficient
  • Inattentional Blindness
  • Gradient Refractive Index
  • Star Trek

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

‘I’m never stocking them again, never! It’s been bedlam! I thought we’d seen the worst when we bought two hundred copies of the Invisible Book of Invisibility—cost a fortune, and we never found them.’—Manager of Flourish and Blotts

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

J.K. Rowling

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Webb, S. (2017). Invisibility. In: All the Wonder that Would Be. Science and Fiction. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51759-9_7

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