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New York Fashion Week, which ended last Thursday, brought together the biggest names in haute couture to showcase some of the weirdest and wildest designs people could hang off their bodies. A number of bloggers took the opportunity to use NYFW as a backdrop to talk about science.

Our science comic contributor, makinaro, took it one step further. He wondered what would happen if designers took the most advanced technologies and scientific concepts to put into their fashions. We present his imagination at work.

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Ancient Roman Nanotechnology —- The Lycurgus Cup

In the 1950’s the British Museum acquired one of the most amazing archaeological finds from Ancient Rome.  The Lycurgus Cup is a beautiful 1,600 year old goblet crafted from glass by the Ancient Romans.  The cup depicts the punishment of Lycurgus, a mythical king who was ensnared in vines for committing evil acts against the Greek god Dionysus.  The craftsmanship and artwork of the cup are certainly amazing on their own. During the age of the Roman Empire the Romans were master glassmakers, producing some of the finest pieces of glassware in history.   However the Lycurgus cup has one incredible property that goes far beyond traditional glassmaking.  When exposed to light, the cup turns from jade green into a bright, glowing red color.  For decades historians, archaeologists, and scientists had no idea why this occurred or how the Romans made the cup with such light changing properties.  Then in 1990 a small fragment of the cup was examined by scientists under a microscope.  What they discovered is truly amazing.

The Lycurgus cup is not only made of glass, but is impregnated with thousands of small particles of gold and silver.  Each of the gold and silver particles are less than 50 nano-meters in diameter, less than one-one thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.  When the cup is hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position.  What is even more amazing is that the addition of the particles to the glass was no accident or coincidence.  The Romans would have had to have known the exact mixture and density of particles needed to give the cup light changing properties.  This would have been done without the aid of a microscope, without the knowledge of atomic theory, and 1,300 years before Newton’s Theory of Colors.

Today the Lycurgus Cup has profound affects on modern nanotechnology.  After studying the cup, researchers and engineers are looking to adapt the technology for modern purposes.  A researcher from the University of Illinois named Gong Gang Liu is currently working on a device which uses the same technology to diagnose disease.  Another application of the technology is a possible device which can detect dangerous materials being smuggled onto airplanes by terrorists.  

The legacy of Ancient Rome continues.  Arena’s, baths, arches, and  nanotechnology. 

Toy chest?

The size of a speck of dust, this tiny box folded up all on its own when heated. Such an autonomous process is known as “self-assembly,” in which unorganized components form an organized structure solely through interaction with one another, with no outside direction. In this case, the researchers developed a 2-D pattern for a 3-D cube, using different metals for the “walls” than for the corners or “hinges.” When heated, the hinges balled up and in doing so pulled the walls of the pattern together, forming the box.

Credit: MRS

Making a Mini Mona Lisa

The world’s most famous painting has now been created on the world’s smallest canvas. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have “painted” the Mona Lisa on a substrate surface approximately 30 microns in width – or one-third the width of a human hair. The team’s creation, the “Mini Lisa,” demonstrates a technique that could potentially be used to achieve nanomanufacturing of devices because the team was able to vary the surface concentration of molecules on such short-length scales.

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This Week in Science - August 5 - 11, 2013:

  • Lab grown burger here.
  • Curiosity’s one year anniversary here.
  • Growing ears here.
  • Mini Mona Lisa here.
  • Giant skull in Potomac here.
  • Scottish astronomical calendar here.
  • Alcohol from coffee grounds here.
  • Henrietta Lacks family & NIH agreement here.
  • Lasers inserting DNA into cells here.
  • Successful malaria vaccine here.
  • Pink planet challenging theories here.
  • European fish hunting water insect here.

How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us

from Keithly:

Nanotechnology is an important new area of research that promises significant advances in electronics, materials, biotechnology, alternative energy sources, and dozens of other applications. The graphic below illustrates, at a personal level, the potential impact on each of us. And where electrical measurement is required, Keithley instrumentation is being used in an expanding list of nanotechnology research and development settings.

[source]

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Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your nanogarden grow?

Harvard engineer Wim Noorduin has a green thumb. Only his thumb is only a few microns wide. By carefully controlling gradients of chemicals, he guided the construction of flower-like crystal structures to match their larger biological forms. It’s certainly art, but it also demonstrates a masterful manipulation of chemistry on the nano scale.

Just how small are they? As NPR reports, these flowers could fit in the lapel of the tiny Abraham Lincoln statue on the back of a penny (back when pennies had the Lincoln Memorial on them, anyway). These electron microscope images are false colored to recreate fantastic flowers, and these manipulations will one day help control the construction of useful microstructures. 

If you’re seriously engineering-inclined, here’s the original research as it appears in Science.

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Viral Membrane Protects Medical Nanorobots From Immune System

Scientists say they have developed a cloaking device to spirit medical nanorobots of the future past immune systems into diseased cells. Their innovation comes from stealing a powerful weapon viruses wield to infect their hosts.

Some viruses wrap themselves in a protective membrane to avoid detection by their host’s immune system and enter cells they are trying to infect. A team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have been able to construct their own version of a viral membrane.

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Tiny, Logical Robots Injected into Cockroaches

Nanotechnology just got a little bit smarter.

At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Ido Bachelet led a team of scientists in building tiny robots that can respond to chemical cues and operate inside a living animal. More than that, they can operate as logic gates, essentially acting as real computers.

That gives the nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable. Such tiny robots could do everything from target tumors to repair tissue damage.

The experimenters used a technique called “DNA origami” to make the robots. DNA comes in a double-helix shape, making long strings. And like yarn, the strings can be linked together to make different shapes. In this case, the researchers knitted together DNA into a kind of folded box with a lid, a robot called an “E” for “effector.” The “lid” opened when certain molecules bumped into it.

This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers

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The colorful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British Museum is the key to a super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.

The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. Read more.

Scientists Create World’s Tiniest Bunny Using New 3D Shaping Material

"Scientists in Japan recently used a promising new 3D printing material to create objects so small that they are the size as a single bacteria. The researchers were able print shapes that are measured in mere micrometers, including the world’s tiniest rabbit. While the demonstration may be playful, the application certainly isn’t – this new technology may someday be used to print cells and micro-electrodes for medical purposes.”

Nanomotors Operate Inside Living Cells 

For the first time, researchers from Penn State University have created “nanomotors” that can be controlled while inside a living cell. These microscopic synthetic motors can move inside a cell, spin around and bump against cell membranes.

According to the researchers, this breakthrough has the potential to improve cancer treatments and change the way medicine is administered, and could one day help treat diseases by mechanically manipulating cells.

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