Dressed to Dazzle
As high-tech materials invade high-street fashion, prepare for clothes that are cooler than silk and warmer than wool, keep insects at arm’s length, and emit many pinpricks of coloured light.
The convergence of fashion and high technology is leading to new kinds of fibres, fabrics and coatings that are imbuing clothing with equally wondrous powers. Corpe Nove, an Italian fashion company, has made a prototype shirt that shortens its sleeves when room temperature rises and can be ironed with a hairdryer. And at Nexia Biotechnologies, a Canadian firm, scientists have caused a stir by manufacturing spider silk from the milk of genetically engineered goats. Not surprisingly, some industry analysts think high-tech materials may soon influence fashion more profoundly than any individual designer.
A big impact is already being made at the molecular level. Nano-Tex, a subsidiary of American textiles maker Burlington, markets a portfolio of nanotechnologies that can make fabrics more durable, comfortable, wrinkle-free and stain-resistant. The notion of this technology posing a threat to the future of the clothing industry clearly does not worry popular fashion outlets such as Gap, Levi Strauss and Lands’ End, all of which employ Nano-Tex’s products. Meanwhile, Schoeller Textil in Germany, whose clients include famous designers Donna Karan and Polo Ralph Lauren, uses nanotechnology to create fabrics that can store or release heat.
Sensory Perception Technologies (Spn embodies an entirely different application of nanotechnology. Created in 2003 by Quest International, a flavour and fragrance company, and Woolmark, a wool textile organisation, SPT is a new technique of embedding chemicals into fabric. Though not the first of this type, SPT’s durability (evidently the microcapsule containing the chemicals can survive up to 30 washes) suggests an interesting future. Designers could incorporate signature scents into their collections. Sportswear could be impregnated with anti-perspirant. Hayfever sufferers might find relief by pulling on a T-shirt, and so on.
The loudest buzz now surrounds polylactic acid (PLA) fibres – and, in particular, one brand-named Ingeo. Developed by Cargill Dow, it is the first man-made fibre derived from a 100% annually renewable resource. This is currently maize (corn), though in theory any fermentable plant material, even potato peelings, can be used. In performance terms, the attraction for the 30-plus clothes makers signed up to use Ingeo lies in its superiority over polyester (which it was designed to replace).
As Philippa Watkins, a textiles specialist, notes, Ingeo is not a visual trend. Unlike nanotechnology, which promises to ‘transform what clothes can do, Ingeo’s impact on fashion will derive instead from its emphasis on using natural sustainable resources. Could wearing synthetic fabrics made from polluting and non-renewable fossil fuels become as uncool as slipping on a coat made from animal fur? Consumers should expect a much wider choice of ‘green’ fabrics. Alongside PLA fibres, firms are investigating plants such as bamboo, seaweed, nettles and banana stalks as raw materials for textiles. Soya bean fibre is also gaining ground. Harvested in China and spun in Europe, the fabric is a better absorber and ventilator than silk, and retains heat better than wool.
Elsewhere, fashion houses – among them Ermenegildo Zegna, Paul Smith and DKNY – are combining fashion with electronics. Clunky earlier attempts Involved attaching electronic components to the fabrics after the normal weaving process. But companies such as SOFTswitch have developed electro-conductive fabrics that behave in similar ways to conventional textiles.
Could electronic garments one day change colour or pattern? A hint of what could be achieved is offered by Luminex, a joint venture between Stabio Textile and Caen. Made of woven optical fibres and powered by a small battery, Luminex fabric emits thousands of pinpricks of light, the colour of which can be varied. Costumes made of the fabric wowed audiences at a production of the opera Aida in Washington, DC, last year.
Yet this ultimate of ambitions has remained elusive in daily fashion, largely because electronic textiles capable of such wizardry are still too fragile to wear. Margaret Orth, whose firm International Fashion Machines makes a colour-changing fabric, believes the capability is a decade or two away. Accessories with this chameleon-like capacity – for instance, a handbag that alters its colour – are more likely to appear first.
Look at the following list of companies (1-6) and the list of new materials below. Match each company with the correct material.
Write the correct letter A-H next to the companies 1-6. NB You may use any answer more than once.
1 Corpe Nove
2 Nexia Biotechnologies
4 Schoeller Textil
5 Quest International and Wool mark
6 Cargill Dow
A material that can make you warmer or cooler
B clothing with perfume or medication added
C material that rarely needs washing
D clothes that can change according to external heat levels E material made from banana stalks
F material that is environmentally-friendly
G fibres similar to those found in nature
H clothes that can light up in the dark
Complete the summary below.
Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the Reading Passage for each answer.
Major changes in fabrics
Nanotechnology will bring changes we can see, while the brand called 7 _____________will help the environment. Fibre made from the 8 ___________plant has better qualities than silk and wool.
In first attempts to use electronics, companies started with a material made by a standard 9 ____________method and then they fixed 10 ______________to the material.
• needs a 11 ___________to make it work.
• has already been used to make stage 12. _________________________ is not suitable for everyday wear because it is too 13 ______________________.
The first products that can change colour are likely to be 14. _____________________
A If you took off your skin and laid it flat, it would cover an area of about twenty-one square feet, making it by far the body’s largest organ. Draped in place over our bodies, skin forms the barrier between what’s inside us and what’s outside. It protects us from a multitude of external forces. It serves as an avenue to our most intimate physical and psychological selves.
B This impervious yet permeable barrier, less than a millimetre thick in places, is composed of three layers. The outermost layer is the bloodless epidermis. The dermis includes collagen, elastin, and nerve endings. The innermost layer, subcutaneous fat, contains tissue that acts as an energy source, cushion and insulator for the body.
C From these familiar characteristics of skin emerge the profound mysteries of touch, arguably our most essential source of sensory stimulation. We can live without seeing or hearing – in fact, without any of our other senses. But babies born without effective nerve connections between skin and brain can fail to thrive and may even die.
D Laboratory experiments decades ago, now considered unethical and inhumane, kept baby monkeys from being touched by their mothers. It made no difference that the babies could see, hear and smell their mothers; without touching, the babies became apathetic, and failed to progress.
E For humans, insufficient touching in early years can have lifelong results. “In touching cultures, adult aggression is low, whereas, in cultures where touch is limited, adult aggression is high,” writes Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Studies of a variety of cultures show a correspondence between high rates of physical affection in childhood and low rates of adult physical violence.
F While the effects of touching are easy to understand, the mechanics of it are less so. “Your skin has millions of nerve cells of various shapes at different depths,” explains Stanley Bolanowski, a neuroscientist and associate director of the Institute for Sensory Research at Syracuse University. “When the nerve cells are stimulated, physical energy is transformed into energy used by the nervous system and passed from the skin to the spinal cord and brain. It’s called transduction, and no one knows exactly how it takes place.” Suffice it to say that the process involves the intricate, split-second operation of a complex system of signals between neurons in the skin and brain.
G This is starting to sound very confusing until Bolanowski says: “In simple terms, people perceive three basic things via skin: pressure, temperature, and pain.” And then I’m sure he’s wrong. “When I get wet, my skin feels wet,” I protest. “Close your eyes and lean back,” says Bolanowski.
H Something cold and wet is on my forehead – so wet, in fact, that I wait for water to start dripping down my cheeks. “Open your eyes.” Bolanowski says, showing me that the sensation comes from a chilled, but dry, metal cylinder. The combination of pressure and cold, he explains, is what makes my skin perceive wetness. He gives me a surgical glove to put on and has me put a finger in a glass of cold water. My finger feels wet, even though I have visual proof that it’s not touching water. My skin, which seemed so reliable, has been deceiving me my entire life. When I shower or wash my hands, I now realize, my skin feels pressure and temperature. It’s my brain that says I feel wet.
I Perceptions of pressure, temperature and pain manifest themselves in many different ways. Gentle stimulation of pressure receptors can result in ticklishness; gentle stimulation of pain receptors, in itching. Both sensations arise from a neurological transmission, not from something that physically exists. Skin, I’m realizing, is under constant assault, both from within the body and from forces outside. Repairs occur with varying success.
J Take the spot where I nicked myself with a knife while slicing fruit. I have a crusty scab surrounded by pink tissue about a quarter inch long on my right palm. Under the scab, epidermal cells are migrating into the wound to close it up. When the process is complete, the scab will fall off to reveal new epidermis. It’s only been a few days, but my little self-repair is almost complete. Likewise, we recover quickly from slight burns. If you ever happen to touch a hot burner, just put your finger in cold water. The chances are you will have no blister, little pain and no scar. Severe burns, though, are a different matter.
Questions 15 – 18
The passage has 10 paragraphs A–J. Which paragraph contains the following information?
Answer the questions below by writing the correct letters, A-J, in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.
15. the features of human skin, on and below the surface
16. an experiment in which the writer can see what is happening
17. advice on how you can avoid damage to the skin
18. cruel research methods used in the past
Questions 19 and 20
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D from the following questions and write your answers in boxes 5 and 6 on your answer sheet.
19. How does a lack of affectionate touching affect children?
A It makes them apathetic.
B They are more likely to become violent adults.
C They will be less aggressive when they grow up.
D We do not really know.
20. After the ‘wetness’ experiments, the writer says that
A his skin is not normal.
B his skin was wet when it felt wet.
C he knew why it felt wet when it was dry.
D the experiments taught him nothing new.
Questions 21 – 25
Complete each sentence with the correct ending A–I from the box below. Write the correct letter A–I in boxes 7–11 on your answer sheet.
21. Touch is unique among the five senses
22. A substance may feel wet
23. Something may tickle
24. The skin may itch
25. A small cut heals up quickly
A because it is both cold and painful.
B because the outer layer of the skin can mend itself.
C because it can be extremely thin.
D because there is light pressure on the skin.
E because we do not need the others to survive.
F because there is a good blood supply to the skin.
G because of a small amount of pain.
H because there is a low temperature and pressure.
I because it is hurting a lot.
J because all humans are capable of experiencing it.
Questions 26 – 28
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 107?
In boxes 12-14 on your answer sheet, write:
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
26. Even scientists have difficulty understanding how our sense of touch works.
27. The skin is more sensitive to pressure than to temperature or pain.
28. The human skin is always good at repairing itself.
A Myths related to the causes and symptoms of “colorblindness” abound throughout the world. The term itself is misleading, since it is extremely rare for anyone to have a complete lack of color perception. By look ing into the myths related to color blindness, one can learn many facts about the structure and genetics o the human eye. It is a myth that colorblind people see the world as if it were a black and white movie. There are very few cases of complete colorblindness. Those who have a complete lack of color perception are referred to as monochromatics, and usually have a serious problem with their overall vision as well as an inability to see colors. The fact is that in most cases of colorblindness, there are only certain shades that a person cannot distinguish between. These people are said to be dichromatic. They may not be able to tell the difference between red and green, or orange and yellow. A person with normal color vision has what is called trichromatic vision. The difference between the three levels of color perception have to do with the cones in the human eye. A normal human eye has three cones located inside the retina: the red cone, the green cone, and the yellow cone. Each cone contains a specific pigment whose function is to absorb the light of these colors and the combinations of them. People with trichromatic vision have all three cones in working order. When one of the three cones does not function properly, dichromatic vision occurs.
B Some people believe that only men can be colorblind. This is also a myth, though it is not completely untrue. In an average population, 8% of males exhibit some form of colorblindness, while only 0.5% of women do. While there may be some truth to the idea that more men have trouble matching their clothing than women, the reason that color vision deficiency is predominant in males has nothing to do with fashion. The fact is that the gene for color blindness is located on the X chromosome, which men only have one of. Females have two X chromosomes, and if one carries the defective gene, the other one naturally compensates. Therefore, the only way for a female to inherit colorblindness is for both of her X chromosomes to carry the defective gene. This is why the incidence of color deficiency is sometimes more prevalent in extremely small societies that have a limited gene pool.
C It is true that all babies are born colorblind. A baby’s cones do not begin to differentiate between many different colors until he is approximately four months old. This is why many of the modern toys for very young babies consist of black and white patterns or primary colors, rather than traditional soft pastels. However, some current research points to the importance of developing an infant’s color visual system. In 2004, Japanese researcher Yoichi Sugita of the Neuroscience Research Institute performed an experiment that would suggest that color vision deficiency isn’t entirely genetic. In his experiment, he subjected a group of baby monkeys to monochromatic lighting for one year. He later compared their vision to normal monkey who had experienced the colorful world outdoors. It was found that the test monkeys were unable to perform the color-matching tasks that the normal monkeys could. Nevertheless, most cases of colorblindness are attributed to genetic factors that are present at birth.
D Part of the reason there are so many inconsistencies related to colorblindness, or “color vision deficiency” as it is called in the medical world, is that it is difficult to know exactly which colors each human can see. Children are taught from a very young age that an apple is red. Naming colors allows children to associate a certain shade with a certain name, regardless of a color vision deficiency. Someone who never takes a color test can go through life thinking that what they see as red is called green. Children are generally tested for colorblindness at about four years of age. The Ishihara Test is the most common, though it is highly criticized’ because it requires that children have the ability to recognize numerals. In the Ishihara Test, a number made up of colored dots is hidden inside a series of dots of a different shade. Those with normal vision can distinguish the number from the background, while those with color vision deficiency will only see the dots.
E While many of the myths related to colorblindness have been busted by modern science, there are still a few remaining beliefs that require more research in order to be labeled as folklore. For example, there is a long-standing belief that colorblindness can aid military soldiers because it gives them the ability to see through camouflage. Another belief is that everyone becomes colorblind in an emergency situation. The basis of this idea is that a catastrophic event can overwhelm the brain, causing it to utilize only those receptors needed to perform vital tasks. In general, identifying color is not considered an essential task in a life or death situation.
Questions 29 – 33
The following reading passage has five sections A-E.
Choose the correct heading for each section from the list of headings.
Write the correct number i-viii in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.
NB. There are more headings than sections, so you will not use them all.
29 Section A
30 Section B
31 Section C
32 Section D
33 Section E
List of Headings
i Colorblindness in different countries
ii Diagnosing colorblindness
iii What is colorblindness?
iv Curing colorblindness
v Unsolved myths
vi Animals and colorblindness
vii Developing the ability to see color
viii Colorblindness and the sexes
Questions 34 – 36
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C, or D. Write your answers in boxes 6-8 on your Answer Sheet.
34 People who see color normally are called
35 Children usually begin to see a variety of colors by the age of
A one month.
B four months.
C one year.
D four years.
36 Children who take the Ishihara Test must be able to
A distinguish letters.
B write their names.
C read numbers.
D name colors.
Questions 37 – 40
Complete the summary using words from the box below. Write your answers in boxes 9-12 on your Answer Sheet.
There are more answers than spaces, so you will not use them all.
It is a common 37……………….. that only men suffer from colorblindness. On average 38……………….. than ten percent of men have this problem. Women have two 39……………….. For this reason, it is 40……………….. for a woman to suffer from colorblindness.
myth a little less
X chromosomes defective genes
fact slightly more
exactly less likely
8. soya bean
10. electronic components
14. accessories/ handbags
27. Not given
38. little less
39. X chromosomes
40. less likely
Academic Reading Practice Tests
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