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[This question is based purely on curiosity. Unexplained versions of this kind of thing happen in films/books/etc., and I’d like to know if it’s at all plausible, or whether handwaving is the only resolution.]

Let’s have a hypothetical character, Jess. For no apparent reason, Jess woke up one morning invisible. Problem is, it’s not the most reliable superpower at the moment, and she has a habit of turning visible again at exactly the wrong time. (She never accidentally turns invisible, but only turns visible unintentionally.)

Jess lives somewhere chilly and has some remaining dignity, so would quite like not to have to strip naked whenever she wants to be invisible. She’d also love to be able to take her house keys and phone etc. with her, without them floating around mysteriously. How can Jess make her clothing/possessions invisible?

Jess is still learning about her invisibility, but here are few things she knows:

  • She wasn’t bitten by a spider
  • She didn’t get caught in a radioactive event while in space, so her spacesuit behaves like her (sorry ‘Fantastic Four’...)
  • She doesn’t have any other magical powers
  • When invisible, she doesn’t cast any shadow, so it can’t be rapid-change camouflage

I know that this question (Are invisible creatures theoretically possible?) kind of rules out scientifically plausible invisible humanoids, but is there any possible form of invisibility that could also affect objects the creature was in contact with?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mołot, sphennings, Vincent, Vylix, L.Dutch Nov 27 '17 at 4:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Is an acceptable answer "no?" Invisibility like this is the work of magic. Thus, you should rely on magic to make her possessions invisible as well. You can always invent some arbitrary pseudoscience (like a spider bite), but in the end, you're looking to extend some magical effect, and the best way to do that is more magic. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 26 '17 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ “No” is an entirely fair answer! I just want to make sure I’m not missing out on something plausible (even if it requires extending beyond actual possibility) before resorting to magic. $\endgroup$ – K. Price Nov 26 '17 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ What is the mechanism by which they are invisible? Are they surrounded by a refractive field, or phase shifted slightly out of phase with reality? What provides energy to power the shift to and from invisibility? $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Nov 26 '17 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @pojo-guy - I’m open to suggestions on their mechanism for invisibility, if it’s something that could also work on their clothing/possessions, not just their body. $\endgroup$ – K. Price Nov 26 '17 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Invisibility as you describe it is indistinguishable from magic. Whatever mechanism that makes the person invisible at your discretion can or cannot make clothing and other objects invisible. It's entirely up to you. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Nov 26 '17 at 23:33
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So, you mention the Invisible Woman in your scenario. A few years back, I was curious about how Sue Storm made her clothes invisible as well, so I looked it up.

Here's the thing--in all modern forms, Sue herself doesn't turn invisible! Instead, she has a form of telekinesis that allows her to bend light around her, causing onlookers to merely see empty space. (She openly admits that doing this should also render her blind, but cosmic rays are a heckuva drug.)

Perhaps Jess merely needs to expand her mind as to how powerful her invisibility truly is. If she's mentally bending light around her, hopefully she can bend light around anything she's wearing or carrying as well, with a little concentration or practice.

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  • $\begingroup$ In the movie (not the latest, but Jessica Alba) the 4’s clothes had the same powers as the people, thank’s to Mr.Fantastic’s engineering and the weird stuff the space suits were made from. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 27 '17 at 10:11
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Since invisivility is implausible, so is the ability to wilfully turn clothing (or anything else) implausible.

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume a change to the body allowed the body to become invisible. Could anything else?

The answer is, "possibly." Biologically, our bodies' ability to affect the world around us ends with the skin with two exceptions: body heat and odor.

Body heat gives us nothing to work with. There's no way to change the "heat" to carry the invisibility effect. Odor, on the otherhand....

Pheromones

If invisibility had something to do with skin oil and pheromones... There's a possibility there, but it has the side effect of only making invisible those things the odor can readily penetrate. You might have patches of visibility where clothing was more dense (the clothing over underwear comes to mind. In fact, the image that comes to mind is hilarious.) that the odor couldn't easily penetrate and render the material invisible.

Funnier still, as you walked down the street, small bits of things that come near you would also fade momentarily into invisibility as they were acted upon by the pheromone.

And if you want to make it completely ruthless, make the pheromone unique to each individual... meaning the pheromone of person A cannot render the biology of person B invisible. But it could render some or all of their clothing invisible.

As for the ability to render specific things (my clothing, my keys in my clothing, my backpack over my clothing, etc.) that just doesn't work for me. That's a remarkably selective solution that requires intelligence. I would have to decide what to exclude from the effect. Now it's not a pheromone, it's a psychic power. And that's just another form of magic.

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If they are surrounded by a refractive field that extends a fraction of an inch beyond their skin, then they could wear tight fitting clothes (spandex for example) and the field would cover them. They would not be able to wear arctic winter gear and maintain invisibility because that would require the refractive field to extend a couple of inches from their body.

The refractive field would require significant initial amount of effort to establish, but thereafter would require only maintenance energy (comparable to a brisk walk). When the organs generating the refractive field are exhausted the refractive field would collapse and leave her visible.

With training, as with any other physiological process, she can increase her limit through practice, nutrition, and rest.

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Well, you say "she doesn't have any other magical powers". So it would imply you consider being invisible a magical power. And for magic, anything goes -- at least anything that fits your story -- narrativium triumphs.

To have your possessions invisible along with you and have it at least remotely scientific sounding, invisibility should be some kind of a bodily field -- something that follows the body's movements and form, and perhaps extends a centimeter or so outside the body proper. Anything that comes within improbability invisibility field becomes invisible along with the body.

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Metamaterials

There is this new "Meta-materials" theory someone told me about, but I haven't done much research around it.

The idea is to create independent micro-structures artificially replicate atoms and their behavior in a certain range of electromagnetic radiation (by interacting with the field).

We then create a macro-structure by arranging them in a full 3D repeating pattern.

This macro-structure is then capable of refracting and reflecting waves (of a wavelength of the micro entities, sound/light ...) in a desired manner, that wouldn't had been possible with a whole block of simple matter: you can choose how light/sound or other waves react to a macroscopic object.

Int other word, a well engineered micro-structure simply arranged in a bulk (like a cloak for example), can reflect incoming light (in front of you) and refract light (the light coming from behind you, is replicated and bent/moved inside your meta-material cloak to be emitted in front of you) to the eyes of an observer: Making you Fully invisible.

For the sake of your story, The micro entities could be contained for application in something like a liquid that you spray on your cloths and the micro-structure are chemicals that can rearrange by itself in the proper way.

If it shouldn't be an object that someone can take from her, maybe say her body is emitting this liquid by will in her sweat for example, so that both her body, her cloths and other objects are soaked in this liquid, sharing the same macro-structure and take part to the light-bending phenomenon.

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    $\begingroup$ In the TV show, that liquid was named quicksilver and was produced naturally by Sasquatch. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 27 '17 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ Holy**** that's exactly what I meant, but I never seen the show though. The trailer has nice graphics of the effect. $\endgroup$ – Dudu Nov 28 '17 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you could edit in the link you found. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 28 '17 at 22:22

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