THE NEW BLACK
If you thought brown was the proverbial new black, think again. Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory in Britain have developed a nickel-phosphorus compound called NPL Super Black that absorbs 99.65% of visible light. Black paint absorbs only about 97.5% of visible light--positively shiny by comparison. Not just cool, the new black is useful too. Precision optical instruments depend on eliminating any and all stray reflected light to get their readings. The blacker the black, the less reflected light, the better the data. That makes NPL Super Black a pretty bright idea.
INVENTOR National Physical Laboratory AVAILABILITY Now, price not available TO LEARN MORE www.npl.co.uk
RED FISH, BLUE FISH, GLOW-IN-THE-DARK FISH
Want to add some pizazz to your aquarium? A Taiwanese scientist has devised a way to make otherwise colorless fish glow neon green in the dark. Professor H.J. Tsai at National Taiwan University works this biological magic by injecting a protein extracted from jellyfish into the fertilized eggs of rice fish. He also uses a protein from coral to make fish glow a vibrant reddish pink. Opponents of genetic engineering fear that these creatures could crossbreed with wild species, creating glowing schools of Frankenfish. To keep them from spreading their shining DNA, the distributor, Taikong International, sterilizes them all.
INVENTOR H.J. Tsai AVAILABILITY Now, $7.50 each (in parts of Europe and Asia but not in the U.S.) TO LEARN MORE www.azoo.com.tw
FRESHLY BREWED FIRE LOGS
There's nothing like a crackling fire made from good old-fashioned firewood. But real logs produce lots of soot and carbon dioxide, and real trees often have to be felled to make them. Enter the Java Log. Made from used coffee grounds, it boasts a higher heat density than real wood, so it can burn hotter and last longer. When TIME compared the Java Log to a Duraflame (a log made of sawdust and wax), the Java Log ignited more quickly and produced taller, prettier flames. But does it make your house smell like a Starbucks store? Not to our nose.
INVENTOR Rod Sprules AVAILABILITY Now, about $3 per log TO LEARN MORE robustion.ca
THE INVISIBLE MAN
Harry Potter isn't the only academic with an invisibility cloak. A professor at the University of Tokyo has created an optical camouflage system that makes anyone wearing a special reflective material seem to disappear. Here's how: a video camera records the real-life scenery behind the subject, transmits that image to a front-mounted projector, which then displays the scene on the reflective material. The system has obvious military applications and could also be used in airplane cockpits to make landings easier for pilots.
INVENTORS Susumu Tachi, Masahiko Inami and Naoki Kawakami AVAILABILITY Around 2008 TO LEARN MORE www.star.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp