Markets in everything

It’s a nail polish that doubles as a way to thwart sexual assault – and it’s being developed at N.C. State University: Undercover Colors.

The chemistry startup, developed by undergrads, is creating a nail polish that, when exposed to date rape drugs, changes color.

The full story is here, via Catherine Rampell.


if it changes colour when exposed to the most common of blackout-inducing party drugs, namely ethanol, a lot of its alerts are going to be ignored

A 2009 Australian study found that of 97 instances of patients __ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL__ believing their drinks might have been spiked, tests were able to detect drugs in none.;jsessionid=1A5CA4E84F9299FA5853EB38C5B37085.f03t04

Must be The Rape Culture being so strong as to cause false negatives.

No such thing as false positives or false negatives in rape culture, there are just rapes and rapes that haven't happened yet.

So, it changes color when exposed to alcohol?

Isn't this more a "there is no great stagnation" post?

"We are early in the R&D stage for this important product..."

Uh huh.

The arms race begins.

Date rape drugs are a myth invented by women who drink too much:

right-o--heartiste is already on the case.

While date rape drugs like GHB are real, their use is extremely uncommon. Alcohol is by far and away the largest culprit in date rape cases. They are mostly an urban legend to justify shameful behavior.

Given this, what effect would the introduction of a detector of such drugs have?

Every false positive will be treated as...

Solve for the equilibrium...


There is a 0% chance this test will be sensitive enough to warrant its use. Even if the test is 99% accurate, the rate of false positives will be extremely high, as the actual incidence is in the one in hundreds of millions range.

Even in controlled conditions, amateurs struggle to interpret the results of reagent tests for a much smaller class of chemicals: see the DanceSafe kits used to test for MDMA. I can just see the panic spreading, as every woman who buys this gets a false positive and brags to her friends about how everyone is trying to date rape her.

Too late.

And the false positive rate is? I can already imagine the hysterics.

Phase 2: telescoping admantium claws come out.

Am I really the only journalist on several continents who wants to know what specific compounds this nail polish is supposed to detect and how? I'm sure these students are well-intentioned and have a clever idea, but the paucity of details makes this sound like vaporware.

Yeah, it's almost certainly BS.

There was a previous story about a cup that detected Rohypnol. It may be easy but it sounds hard. Not only is it likely unique chemistry for each drug detected (thankfully coloration seems to exist for Rohypnol) you have to work it into a coloring that women will like. Starts out puke green and turns chartreuse isn't going to cut it.

The crack team of chemists is now writing a marketing report. I'm sure they will disclose their research.

It seems likely the chemistry is their (advisor's) IP.

Oh wait, which side is the "crack" team on?

You are the first that I've seen.

This product and the resulting press/social media coverage may be a pretty good indicator that Americans have watched far too many CSI episodes and received far too little science education.

Paging Camille Paglia

I don't think this sends the right message to anyone. Love to see how they will market this new, important breakthrough in chemistry.

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