Women are often thought of as frivolous because of their obsession with fashion, but there’s a sound psychological basis for this: It turns out that if you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases, but if you wear the same white coat that you’re told belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.

In the April 3rd edition of the New York Times, Sandra Blakeslee quotes researcher Joshua I. Davis as saying, "I love the idea of trying to figure out why, when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and how that might affect our basic abilities."

She quotes researcher Adam D. Galinsky as saying that "we think not just with our brains but with our bodies, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear."

And what about washing those clothes? If you’re tired of doing the laundry, and all those pesky things–like dryer sheets–that go along with it? Imagine jeans, sweats or socks that clean and de-odorize themselves when hung on a clothesline in the sun or draped on a balcony railing. Scientists are developing a new cotton fabric that does clean itself of stains and bacteria when exposed to ordinary sunlight.

Mingce Long and Deyong Wu have invented a fabric with a coating made from a compound of titanium dioxide, the white material used in everything from white paint to foods to sunscreen lotions. Titanium dioxide breaks down dirt and kills microbes when exposed to some types of light. It already has found uses in self-cleaning windows, kitchen and bathroom tiles, odor-free socks and other products.

Self-cleaning cotton fabrics have been made in the past, but they self-clean thoroughly only when exposed to ultraviolet rays. So the researchers set out to develop a new cotton fabric that cleans itself when exposed to ordinary sunlight. The cotton fabric is coated with nanoparticles made from a compound of titanium dioxide and nitrogen that remains intact after washing and drying. So if your clothes are dirty, just go stand in the sun.

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