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In praise of the zip

Leading neuroscientist on a life-long fascination

By Susan Greenfield for CNN

Susan Greenfield
Greenfield: "I quite like grungy, punky kinds of clothes and I like zips."
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(CNN) -- I was born in 1950 and when I was a little girl I had something called a "siren suit."

It was a bit of a hangover from the war, I suppose, because it was like a boiler suit that, as a toddler, one was zipped up into. It had lots of zips, which may have been where my fondness of the zip began.

Zips are fascinating to play with. I love the way you can have things gaping wide apart one minute and suddenly it's all clean and secure.

Velcro is not as good. It's not as strong and it's not consistent because only bits of the object are done up. It's the same with buttons and press studs -- the connector is intermittent.

With a zip you can't have any gaping bits because the entire thing is uniform along the whole of the two surfaces.

It's so simple and it can be applied to so many different things. It's also not electronic. It's very nice to have something that it is still ubiquitously used and is very clever but that isn't something you press a button for. That is quite rare these days.

I'm very interested in clothes -- they can make such a difference to how you feel and how you look. I quite like grungy, punky kinds of clothes and I like zips.

I have two Karen Millen T-shirts the same -- one in red and one in black -- that have a zip, which you don't really need at all. The zip wraps around you and it undoes you. It starts at the neck and goes right around the body.

I have a couple of pairs of jeans, which have a button-up fly but I also have some which have a zip.

I used to have an old vinyl Rolling Stones album called Sticky Fingers, which had a real zip on the cover. You could actually open it and close it. That was fun.

There's just something about the zip's simplicity, ubiquity and efficiency.

-- Baroness Susan Greenfield is professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford and director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and the author of Tomorrow's People: How 21st-Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Think and Feel.

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