(X-ray art by Benedetta Bonichi)
There's been an ongoing fascination in fashion with cool-looking graphics from X-rays. When I interviewed futurist Watts Wacker a few years ago, I remember him discussing how we were entering the Age of Biology, and that the next frontier of discovery wasn't out "there" in deep space (sorry, Elon Musk), but much closer to home.
As in the "home" you live in: the skin you're in. This fascination with knowing about our innerselves I think became an obsession as science has allowed us to see inside ourselves and our world, even down to the quantum level. Just being able to see what makes it all tick, knowing how matters are contructed is the first important step in understanding it. Beyond just labeling it. “I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something," observed physicist Richard Feynman. "What I cannot create, I do not understand." While the goal of looking within might not be to build it, it certainly is about understanding it.
In addition to being cool for fashiony purposes, X-ray technology is also used in everything from spotting tiny cracks in aircraft wings to making medical diagnoses, to scanning passengers’ bags at the airport. An incredibly useful part of life, it's also limited. It can detect things like shiny silver fillings in your teeth, so-called "heavier" chemical elements, but elements like hydrogen that are lighter - not so much.
There is technology that can image "light" elements including liquids that uses neutrons, but neutron radiography is currently is not very portable or even practical. Unlike X-ray machines, the neutron ones can be tens of meters long and require a really powerful source of energy to run.
(X-ray dress by Alexander McQueen McQ)
(Nick Veasey, Jimmy Choo December 2006 - C-Type Print 594 x 420mm / 23 x 16.5" / Edition of 10)
(image by Eizo)
Being able to shrink these devices would allow for both types of next-gen imaging technology to be used in the field. So the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds and supports breakthrough technologies for national security, is seeking to rectify this with their new Intense and Compact Neutron Sources (ICONS) program. ICONS will be able to detect corrosion on aircraft wings and in ships, detect bombs, and identify the atomic makeup of any object. “We’re looking for innovative designs and construction methods to shrink a neutron accelerator from 10 meters or longer down to 1 meter or less, similar to the size of portable X-ray tubes today,” explains Vincent Tang, DARPA program manager. “Creating a high-yield, directional neutron source in a very compact package is a significant challenge,” he adds, "but a successful ICONS program would provide an imaging tool with significant national security applications, able to deliver very detailed, accurate internal imaging of objects in any setting.” (black x-ray flats)
(Helmut Newton, X-ray with Chain 1994)
This photo of a pair Asiatic lilies was taken at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) using neutron-imaging technology. The blooms are inside a container made from a normally impenetrable material - in this case, lead - and the neutrons pass easily through, while remaining sensitive enough to display details as fine as the veins on the leaves.
- Lesley Scott
NOTE: Actively embracing the future - from technology to traditional gender roles - with a desire to make it fashionable and timely is a signature of the Futurenetic Fashion Tribe. For more of my posts and podcasts about this tribe, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.