Encrypted thread may doom fashion fakes; unraveling the piping plover mystery


Scientists unravel the mystery of where piping plovers, ubiquitous summertime birds, go in winter. (Bigstock photo)
November 26, 2012
Fashion
Encrypted thread might make it easier to identify designer knockoffs
New Scientist, November

Knockoffs of pricey designer duds are common in fashion these days. It seems that as soon as a collection is sent down the runway, fake, discounted versions — complete with falsified logos to make them look like the real thing — begin circulating in stores and market stalls. Now, a new type of thread could spell danger for the fashion fakes.

New Scientist reports that the idea is a spinoff of the technology that hides patterns in paper currency to deter counterfeiting. A Swedish scientist used this concept to develop a semi-transparent thread for clothing and accessories. As in currency, the thread can conceal patterns visible only under polarized light, according to the magazine. The technology doesn’t prevent counterfeit items from being produced, but the thread can provide evidence for firms whose designs have been stolen and consumers who sometimes pay exorbitant prices for items they don’t know are fake.

While fashionistas on a budget might balk at a world without discounted knockoffs, there is a silver lining: The scientist who developed the technology plans to make similar threads “for use in electronically enhanced textiles that change color with electric voltage, so you could alter your fashion with the flick of a switch.”

Birds
Where do beach-hopping plovers go?
Audubon, November-December

Piping plovers, the small white birds that can be spotted near the Great Lakes and Atlantic coastline, love to summer by the seaside. But their winter whereabouts, after breeding season is over and beachy breezes turn blustery, have long been a mystery, one that Sue Haig, a wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been trying to solve for three decades. Audubon magazine chronicles the laborious task of creating a plover census and tracking the birds from their breeding territories into the unknown.

The magazine followed Haig and other researchers as they walked across mudflats, kayaked across shorelines and tried to answer the perennial cold-weather question: Where have all the plovers gone?

The answer, it turns out, is something that East Coasters can appreciate: the warm, white-sand beaches of the Bahamas. Why should we care? Due to beachfront development up and down the East Coast, only 8,000 plovers remain today, a number that “hardly ensures the [species’s] future,” according to the magazine. Studying their migration habits, say experts, can help conservation efforts to protect them.

Maggie Fazeli Fard

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