In 1898 Acharya J C Bose, a researcher from Calcutta, India, wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: 'In order to imitate the rotation by liquids like sugar solutions, I made elements of "molecules" of twisted jute, of two varieties, one kind being twisted to the right (positive) and the other twisted to the left (negative).... The twisted structure produces an optical twist of the plane of polarization'. This paper, published 111 years ago and reporting experimental microwave tests on the optical activity of the artificial chiral medium, was the first publication on what has now become a flourishing and dynamic field of metamaterials - man-made media with all sorts of unusual functionalities that can be achieved by artificial structuring smaller than the wavelength scale of the external stimulus. An increasing number of researchers are currently designing, fabricating and studying artificial metamaterials composed of tailored chiral building blocks that may be viewed as 'artificial chiral molecules'. This special section is devoted to this vibrant and emerging research direction and has a special emphasis on the theory of light interactions with artificial chiral media
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