Christmas lights? They've lost their luster. This holiday season, affluent families who'd prefer to have properly heaven-lit trees should start grinding up their hoarded gold into nanoparticles to inject into their freshly cut evergreen. After a chemical transformation, the tree will light itself.
Sadly, magnificent force-fed Christmas trees are not yet a reality. But, cross your fingers, they might soon be. Researcher Dr. Yen-Hsun Su has already managed to transform a "common aquatic herb" into a bioluminescent spectacle. In effect: a glowing plant. The key, NPR's Robert Krulwich notes, is the golden nanoparticles that light up a plant in a fashion more common among deep sea creatures.
The hope is that luminously engineered flora may well be able to replace street lights in the future, cutting urban energy costs and maybe even doing a little to protect the environment.
The downside, of course, is that there will be glowing trees.