So, Dockers has been heavily promoting its new Go Khakis — which include nanoengineered materials that make ‘em particularly resistant to stains. It’s really just a Teflon coating, apparently, but since the company has been throwing around the word “nanotechnology” so much, the wits at Popular Science decided to call up the corporation and find out if there actually knew what the heck nanotechnology is. The entire transcript is online, but here’s a taste:

Popular Science: Can you explain what makes this nanotechnology rather than just a coating? What is nanotechnology?

D: One moment please. Did you get the pleated or flat-front?

PS: Flat-front.

D: OK, one moment please. Because the one that says nanotechnology is the versatile pant that wicks moisture away from you …

PS: I still don’t understand. Are there microscopic machines repelling the stain? How does it work?

D: Umm … I guess it’s the type of fabric that makes it the nano.

PS: So the “nano” has more to do with the size of the fibers? And water is small enough to get through for washing, but other liquids are not—they bead up and roll off?

D: You know, I’m really not sure, but I do know they’ll come clean. My kid has a pair of these. Messy kid. So I got the shirt and pants, and he’s doing great with them. You just need to remember to press after every fifth wash.

It’s an old, nasty trick — calling up the poor info-line workers to hassle them about arcane details of their products. But you know, finer entertainment cannot be had.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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