Editorial: painting it black
If you've flicked through this issue of E&T then turned straight to this page looking for the address of someone to contact about the lack of colour, pause for a moment, read through a few of the stories and the reason for the monochrome look should become clear.
At first glance you might think we've taken to heart the apocryphal comments attributed to Henry Ford about the range of colours in which his company's Model T was available. In a way we have, but only to emphasise the focus on the technology associated with a lack of colour.
Whether it's black arts, black marks or black books, darkness tends to have negative connotations - artistic shorthand for despair and gloom. Just see how many songs you can think of with black in the title - not the soundtrack that's going to generate much of a party atmosphere, is it?
Engineers, being generally a more practical bunch, look at the potential of blackness. In the earlier and later years it was in production, the Model T Ford came in blue, red, green and grey. Limiting choice to one colour for a crucial period from 1914 to 1926 (12 million of the 15 million cars sold were black) meant manufacturing could be streamlined, leading to volume production, which brought prices within reach of the average American and heralded the birth of mainstream motoring. Black was chosen for good reasons: not only did it dry more quickly than other paints, but it was also cheaper and more durable.
In the world of physics, total blackness has become a Holy Grail similar to absolute zero. As we explain in 'The Science of Black', researchers are working at levels at which even a tiny increase in the amount of light a surface absorbs can have huge implications for its uses.
Black is also back in fashion in the energy sector with the resurgence in the use of coal for electricity generation reported in our power section. In electronics, by way of contrast, the chicken wire of carbon atoms known as graphene is in the very earliest stages of development as a material with a host of potential applications - read all about it in 'Flat out For the Future'.
Then there's the association with death and mourning. 'Immortality on Hold' and 'A Science Without a Deadline' look at some of the ingenious ways scientists and engineers have come up with to postpone the inevitable. Too late for those who travelled on the London Necropolis Railway featured in 'Final Destination'.
While normal (colour) service will be resumed in your next copy of E&T, the black and white look continues in the refreshed branding that our publisher, the IET, launched last month with adverts on the London Underground.
The ads mark the start of a national marketing campaign to introduce a back-to-basics IET image, which has been designed to send out a clear 'come and join us' message.
If you're reading this and haven't already heard that message, getting E&T fortnightly is just one of the benefits that IET members enjoy. Take a look at www.theiet.org to find out more.