The Physics Buzz Challenge: Project Runway

So a while back, fellow buzz-blogger uncountable and myself were having a discussion about our favorite reality TV shows. I was deep in the heart of season 7 of Project Runway and uncountable was fixated on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. We somehow came up with the idea to challenge each other to find a physics angle for each show and write a post about it. No alcohol was involved, so I guess that means we have to take the challenge seriously now. I was reminded of this challenge because of Kendra’s post yesterday where an anonymous commenter actually mentioned Drag Race and suggested we go to the website and turn our favorite physicists into drag queens (it has been said and it cannot be unsaid!). Either that commenter was actually uncountable (who must be too lazy to sign in) or this is further proof that us science nerds do enjoy things non-science related from time to time (or we are all secretly hooked on fashion-related-reality-TV?).

Anyway, I am going to go for the easy-out here and actually make reference to Diana Eng who was on the show in season 2. So far as I can tell she is one of the adorably awkward queens of the “fashion nerds,” or folks who combine science and technology with fashion. She has a book out about integrating technology and fasion called Fashion Geek: Clothes, Accessories and Tech, and it has this description on her website:

In Fashion Geek, Diana pioneers an emerging generation of tech savvy women crafters (or would-be crafters) who demand stylish yet practical designs that are electronically charged. Now you can take simple, girly items such as a hoodie or scarf and transform them into must-have techno-accessories through approachable, step-by-step directions. Full-color photos make it easy to see how every project comes to life.

She auditioned for Project Runway with a hoodie she designed that had a camera and a heart rate monitor built in. The two are connected, and assuming that your heart rate goes up when you see something you like, the camera (positioned in the hood, so you have to have it up on your head for this to work) takes a photo when you see something gets you excited.

Eng left the Project Runway competition mid-way through but apparently she has been insanely busy ever since because her blog is just loaded with cool content. In addition, she manages a project called Fairy Tale Fashion, where in readers actually submit designs and ideas for innovative fashion and Eng helps to make them a reality. She featured a video explaining to viewers the science of biomimetic deployable structures, or geometric structures which change shape easily (like an umbrella). You also see this in leaves and flowers that open and close. Eng translates these origami-like folded patterns into a scarf, a hooded poncho and the shoulders of a blouse. Her first fashion show for Fairy Tale Fashion puts them on display, along with some awesome LED dresses.

But my absolute favorite story from her blog is her experience on PBS’s SciGirls, which is a show, you guessed it, about girls doing science. Eng worked with some youngsters to make a super hero prince dress fairy tale princess dress for the Fairy Tale Fashion line. I love that these girls both loved the science and were totally girly. They’re too young to worry about that being a good or a bad thing in a male dominated field. They just do what they like and that’s that. From Eng’s blog:

The girls designed the super hero prince dress and I showed them how to make it. The dress had an EL wire cape controlled by an accelerometer so that the cape lit up in reaction to motion. And the skirt inflated to create a billowing cloud effect which every flying superhero princess needs.

The girls programmed an Arduino microcontroller to make conductive thread embroidered LEDs sparkle on lace. The girls really liked sparkly things. When I was showing them how to program the Arduino to make the LEDs sparkle, they practically pushed me out of the way so that they could program the sparkles themselves. I didn’t even finish explaining how to write the program. The girls just took over.

In between takes, Ariella, Hallie, and Sophia made up a song and dance for everything, the ironing dance, the LED song. It would be interesting to see little girls take over the electronics world with sparkle programs and soldering songs.

This just makes my freaking day – thinking about little girls singing programming songs while building an LED dress. You can watch the episode here.

So I don’t know if this is cheating because the post was barely about Project Runway, but it was about fashion. One way or another the ball is in your court now, uncountable! May the best blog win! (there is no winner, this is all in good fun/doing our jobs).

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