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Wireless drinking, A rose by any other ... color?, Plants aglow? Add water!

by Stephen Trzaska
March 20, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 13

Wireless drinking

Long-distance paramours who feel like they are light-years apart can now feel light-years ahead, thanks to high-tech wine glasses that glow red, presumably because that's the color of passion and romance.

The glasses are outfitted with liquid sensors and wireless links. When either vessel is picked up, the linked, faraway counterpart glows due to red light-emitting diodes. Even better, when one puts the glass to the lips, the other glass glows brightly.

The loving cups were created by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reported in New Scientist magazine. The researchers hope that the vessels can help provide a "communal drinking experience," which is an important part of social interaction. No word yet on when glowing plates and cutlery will be created.

A rose by any other ... color?

The Dutch company floraholland—seller of ornamental flowers and plants by auction and contract sales—has also seized on the glowing theme. Its products, "Glowing Flowers," are freshly cut glow-in-the-dark roses and chrysanthemums.

According to the company, the flowers appear white in regular light but emit an "eerie green glow" for several hours in the dark. The flowers are sprayed with a new patented dye, which is invisible and not harmful to flowers or people. The treated flowers are exposed to daylight or black light for a while. After that, the flowers will glow in the dark for quite some time. The company says the treatment has no effect on the lifespan of the flowers.

To combat a wilting market, the company says that its innovative flowers "fit into the 'bling bling' trend," referring to the lifestyle built around excess spending and ostentation, most notably exhibited by hip-hop artists. Apparently, the flowers are off to a rosy start: The first batches were sold at an auction in the Netherlands and fetched about 50% more than their nonglowing counterparts.

The firm G. de Koning has obtained the exclusive right to use the new dye on ornamental flowers and plants. The company can also give other white or pale-colored flowers this color treatment. The Dutch company Trendy Roses is one of the resellers of Glowing Flowers. In its own right, this company sells many different colored roses, including blue, purple, orange, gold, and silver.

According to Trendy Roses, the roses are put in an environmentally friendly coloring liquid and placed in a cooling house. In this cooling house, a climate is reproduced in which, as the roses continue to grow, they need more fluid and absorb more of the coloring liquid.

As if the novel colors weren't enough, these roses can be decorated with glitter in different colors. Buying a dozen roses just got more interesting, if not more complicated.

Plants aglow? Add water!

Plants are often used as decorative objects, and the interaction between cultivator and "cultivatee" has been a one-way street. Not anymore. Students at Singapore Polytechnic claim to have created a plant that communicates with people by glowing when it needs water.

In a nod to the "glowing gene" era, the students genetically modified plants to contain a modified green fluorescent marker gene from a jellyfish. These plants light up when subjected to dehydration stress. The green signal emitted by the dehydrated plants is detected by an optical sensor that was developed in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University.

The students won the Best Project Award under the Polytechnic Student Research Program in recognition of their achievement. Because there are many kinds of fluorescent protein genes, the students are working to develop other color-coded plants that fluoresce in response to stresses such as heat and nutrient deficiency. (Good thing, since it's hard for a plant to wear a heart on its sleeve.)

Besides the novelty act, the development of such transgenic plants could help farmers develop more efficient irrigation for crops, so that water is provided on a field scale only when required. This project might also give hope to those people lacking their own colored part: a green thumb.


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