It’s cold enough to the point where I wear hats indoors.

[Purple Reigh via Time]

On the off chance that it has escaped your notice, purple is having a moment. And while many may assume a sudden color explosion to be just another whim of fickle fashion, the analysts and anthropologists who study shifts in chromatic preferences see this particular manifestation – the purple proliferation – as a sign of our uncertain times. Sartorially speaking, fall is almost always dominated by warm colors (think camel, winter white), so this season’s abundance of purple – and a chilly blue one at that – is “very unusual,” says Leatrice Eiseman, psychologist and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. The New Jersey–based company, which provides universal color standards for design industries and manufacturers worldwide, predicted two years ago that purple would be everywhere this fall. Eiseman sees the hybrid color as a reflection of “discontent and desire for change,” a quarrel between cool blue (peace, hope) and warm red (passion, anger, turmoil).

Aha! So I wasn’t seeing things. Purple is splashed all over this season’s lines (and storefronts I’ve visited this year. I started liking purple in 2007…perhaps I have Pantone spidey-senses?

Twice a year, Pantone holds a closed-door, highly secretive meeting in Europe, where the world’s top cultural anthropologists, color psychologists–yes, such an occupation exists–and designers from the fashion, automotive and other industries share their highly attuned thoughts on color. Their semiannual consensus, one palette for spring and one for fall, is sold in bound copies by the hundreds for $750 a pop to companies ranging from Pottery Barn and KitchenAid to Ford. Meeting participants “come in with gadgets and toys, strange things like mirrors, records, their own color palettes and mood boards,” says David Shah, a Holland-based publisher of color and textile magazines who runs the Pantone gatherings. “I’ve seen people get hysterical with each other over the minutest difference in hue, something where nobody’s going to know the difference.” He adds, “Color’s a complicated business.”

And purple may be one of the most complicated colors. It traces its roots back to kings and cardinals, in the days when thousands of mollusks had to be crushed to make a single drop of purple dye, a process only those with servants could afford.

Color forecasting for a living, that sounds fun. So that’s where all the color palettes come from!

[50 Best Inventions 2008 via TIME]

2. The Tesla Roadster
Electric cars were always environmentally friendly, quiet, clean — but definitely not sexy. The Tesla Roadster has changed all that. A battery-powered sports car that sells for $100,000 and has a top speed of 125 m.p.h. (200 km/h), the Roadster has excited the clean-tech crowd since it was announced in 2003.

6. The Global Seed Vault
Almost every nation keeps collections of native seeds so local crops can be replanted in case of an agricultural disaster. The Global Seed Vault, opened this year on the far-northern Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, is a backup for the backups. It’s badly needed — as many as half the seed banks in developing countries are at risk from natural disasters or general instability.

7. The Chevy Volt
No-emission electric motors — which began the automobile revolution — are the technology of tomorrow for cars. But today’s batteries can’t support the typical driving experience. Chevy’s Volt is a nice compromise. The sedan has an electric motor with a battery that can provide up to 40 miles (about 65 km) of range on a single charge. A gas engine kicks in to recharge the battery while you’re driving. Since nearly 80% of us drive less than 40 miles a day, that means that unlike the Prius, the Volt could get drivers off gas altogether. The best of both worlds lands by the end of 2010.

16. The Dynamic Tower
Each of the 80 floors in the world’s first moving skyscraper — with offices and a hotel, topped by apartments — will rotate 360 degrees, all at different speeds* [click for video]. Designed by Italian architect David Fisher and located in Dubai (another is planned for Moscow), the prefab, wind-powered tower will cost an estimated $700 million.

*Personally, I think it would be terrifying to have that dynamic of a building in my city. It’s quite sinister looking, the way it slithers in the sky. But that is forgivable since it is a green builiding – turbines located between floors capture wind energy and generate electricity.

22. The Shadowless Skyscraper
Le Project Triangle, a combination office/hotel, is the first skyscraper to be approved since Paris lifted a 31-year-old ban on high-rise construction in the city center. Using computer modeling, the designers of Beijing’s “bird’s nest” Olympic stadium came up with a building almost as startling: a slender glass-and-steel triangle, like a shark fin, that they say won’t cast shadows on surrounding streets.

32. Facebook for Spies
Secret agents are people too. They’re just very scary people who know lots of classified information. So don’t they deserve a social network of their own? That’s why in September, the Federal Government launched A-Space, a highly restricted Facebook-style website that’s designed to encourage the sharing of ideas and information among members of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the U.S.’s 13 other intelligence services.

37. Smog-Eating Cement
Take ordinary cement. Mix in an agent called a photo-catalyzer (titanium dioxide, if you really want to know), which speeds up the natural process that breaks down smog into its component parts.

40. The Seven New Deadly Sins
In March the Vatican updated the traditional seven deadly sins with seven new social sins, to bring the list into line with the temptations of the modern world. The additions: bioethical sins, morally dubious experiments that harm human embryos, drug abuse, polluting, social injustice, accumulating excessive wealth and creating poverty.

P.S. I thought this was hilarious.

[via Blake Stacey @ ScienceBlogs]