May 1/8, 2002   

   Team spins mirror fibers
Researchers have spun highly reflective fibers by layering the right materials in plastic. The fibers could lead to optical barcodes that can be woven into clothes and currency. They could eventually herald more efficient fiber-optic communications lines.
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Light flashes fire up nanotubes
Camera flashes have been known to trigger movie stars' tempers. It turns out they can have a truly incendiary effect -- on carbon nanotubes.

Quantum force powers microslide
Scientists have found that you can get something for nothing as long as you don't expect much. This is because empty space is never truly empty. One result could be a self-powered sliding motion for microdevices.

Light boosts plastic magnet
Using light to strengthen a plastic magnet could lead to better and cheaper data storage devices. The trick is being able to do it at other than ridiculously cold temperatures.

Metal crystals cover glass
Metal can be coaxed to form frost-like branching patterns on non-conducting surfaces. With the right amount of electrical current, the patterns will fill in, leaving a mirror-smooth coating on glass, plastic and even Teflon.

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