Giants of the Infinitesimal
Beauty in the detail: Stunning nanoscale images reveal incredible patterns that can be created by playing with cells, crystals and DNA
From the iridescence of butterfly wings to the intricacies of plankton, studying nature on a nanoscale could help scientists create machines as small as those inside a living cell.
Now a new book, the 'Nanoscience: Giants of the Infinitesimal', has selected some of the best images from the field to reveal how nature's hidden beauty could be replicated by humans.
The images chart how nanoscience has progressed over the past 50 years showing iconic research such as the smiley faces made from DNA and muscle cells of beef developed from stem cells.
Professor Mark Miodownik
"Many have tried and failed to write engaging and compelling books about nanotechnology. Forbes and Grimsey succeed because they take the reader on a tour of the highlights, and in their company it is like visiting an exquisite grotto: compelling, mysterious and extremely beautiful. If you don’t come away from this book feeling intellectually exhilarated, then you need to stay in more"
'Lucid text and visuals combine to dazzling effect in this introduction to nanotechnology' -
'The nano world can be stunningly beautiful, and NanoScience: Giants of the Infinitesimal demonstrates this with more than 100 gorgeous images drawn from research across the discipline ... a good overview of the work that individual nano scientists are doing to explore this tiny, mesmerisingly beautiful world.'
Any practising scientist or engineer, or a student of those subjects, should find this book inspiring because it brings together the latest achievements in the field, creating a real sense of the direction this research is taking. Furthermore, the authors often make interesting and sometimes surprising links between seemingly unconnected topics (for example, soap bubbles, zeolites and living cells) that may help to stimulate the readers to think outside the box in their own research.
'Small is beautiful, even when it's big'
The Times Eureka Review, May 2012
Giants of the Infinitesimal
By Peter Forbes
From the time of the cave painters. artists and sculptors have used patterns to make sense of the world. Since the modernist revolution at the beginning of the 20th century their scope has increased dramatically thanks to increased abstraction. the discovery of cultures outside the European mainstream and, especially for sculptors, new materials.
But this took place at the familiar scale of dimensions we can easily see and manipulate. In 1959 the great physicist, pioneer of nanoscience and populariser Richard Feynman - like Howard Carter peering into Tutankhamen·s tomb in 1922 - broke through Into a enormous new realm of conceptual space: the nano dimension. At first this was really just a notion, but now we know so much about nanostructures. They have amazing properties. including self ·cleaning, dazzling light shows. incredible feats of storage and communication. the possibility of tissue regeneration and carbon-free light harvesting. As intriguing shapes and patterns they are Inspiring architects to create new structures on a large scale and intriguing parallels have emerged between the nano and macro worlds.
Take the power of hex. Hexagonal structures have a particular magic, being involved in structures at all length scales from graphene. made of hexagons about 0.2 nanornetres across; through tiny marine organisms such as the radiolarians; the bees' honeycomb; to the geodesic domes of the Eden Project in Cornwall. Not forgetting the Giant's Causeway, in County Antrim.
In the exhibition Giants of the Infinitesimal (GoI,) Tom Grimsey and Theo Kaccoufa have taken the idea of magnifying the nanoworld literally. Grimsey is a sculptor who sees science. and nanoscience in particular. as a route out of the post·modern impasse; the sincerity of science as an antidote to the ironies of contemporary art For him, the elan and playfulness of scientists such as the graphene discoverers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov and the fascination of the structures they create are as much art as science. Besides the Nobei-Prize winning graphene discovery, Geim demonstrated the phenomenon of diamagnetism by levitating a frog, a You Tube hit. This won him an lg Nobel prize (given for wacky science) even before his Nobel and he's the only scientist to have won both. From the artist's perspective. Grimsey says: "As an artist you're hunting around the world for new subject matter that's interesting and engaging, new territory to uncover. I've found that science. and this particular area of science, Is incredibly rich as a subject matter."
Kaccoufa is a kinetic artist and a genius at constructing electromechanical machines. Together they set out to create kinetic sculptures on a large scale that mimic some of the astonishing things that happen in the nanoworld. Grimsey's studio, in East London, is an Aladdin's cave of molecular assemblies and machining equipment. The studio brims with the joy of making, of materials and bricolage. He says: "One of the most seductive things, as a sculptor making objects, is the idea that things on the nanoscale will self-assemble, the right ingredients in the right conditions will actually start to make objects."
Although a key point to grasp about the nanoworld is that they do things differently down there (gravity, for instance, which weighs so heavily on us, has no bearing; whereas viscosity, the drag of fluids, and the incessant restless motion of atoms, are all-important). Much of the energy and creativity of that world can be recreated on a large scale.
And a lot of the fascination stems from wrestling with magnets, currents of air and turbulent water to create a balance of forces similar to that in the nanoworld and hence to make visible the astonishing creativity of matter that can self-assemble under its own tug of attractions and repulslons. Grimsey describes the process as "adjusting the tuning. the buoyancy, attractions and repulsions we need to make it work. Some of the scientists we're working with have become quite excited by this. At first we were like sponges, soaking up information. The traffic was all one way. But here we've been able to give them information and excitement the other way. We've found we can make some structures that replicate what goes on at a chemical level."
In their self-assembly chambers. billiard ball atoms with magnets jostle with currents of air or water. They come together and part in ever-changing patterns. But some of the configurations are startling. There is an intriguing class of molecules called rotaxanes in which a ring of atoms is trapped on a collar between two dumbbell ends. It has been used as a molecular transistor with the collar sliding up and down to create the transistor's on/off switch. The GoI self-assembly tanks can reproduce this structure.
The exhibition fulfils what Grimsey finds in his hero Feynman: "He brings this invisible world to life with very easy to understand analogies from our macro world."
Peter Forbes is the author of Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage (Yale UP), which won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing.
Giants of the Infinitesimal
Magna, Sheffield Road, Rotherham, S60 1DX From May 5, daily 10·5pm, £9.85/£8.05 child. visitmagna.co.uk
Interviews with Professor Rasmita Raval
Marcus Tomlinson, April/May 2012
Does science matter?
Prof. Rasmita Raval talks to Marcus Tomlinson about the importance of science and how she became inspired to be a scientist.
What is chirality?
Prof. Rasmita Raval explains the importance of chirality to Marcus Tomlinson
What is surface science?
Prof. Rasmita Raval talks to Marcus Tomlinson about her work.
These interviews formed part of Marcus's work towards the Primary Leaders Award for STEM 2012.
Prof. Rasmita Raval is a leading chemist and Director of Liverpool's Surface Science Research Centre. University of Liverpool .
Interview with Prof Moriarty
BBC Radio 4, You and Yours
Prof Philip Moriarty interviewed by Kevin Mousley at the Giants of the Infinitesimal Exhibition, MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry), Manchester, on 2 November 2011.
Full programme at BBC iPlayer (starting at 0:41:06)
Philip Moriarty is a Professor of Physics and an Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham .
'Sculptors bring nanoscience to life in new exhibition'
Creative Boom, article by Katy Cowan
A sculpture of the beautiful honeycomb lattice of graphene – the super-strong material which led to last year’s Nobel prize – is part of a new exhibition which premieres at MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester) this week, alongside sculptures of carbon nano-tubes and porphyrins (the working component in chlorophyll and red blood cells).
In Giants of the Infinitesimal (Running until 31 March 2012), renowned sculptors Tom Grimsey and Theo Kaccoufa have worked with top nano-scientists from the Universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield and Glasgow to make the invisible visible by creating large-scale versions of nano-particles which visitors can manipulate in the same way that scientists do in the laboratory. It shows how this exciting new area of science will radically improve many fields, from computing, to energy, to waste reduction.
Art meets science in this fascinating revelation of the minutiae of nature, from a hands-on interactive showing an enlarged version of the tiny chains of nano-particles, known as nano-wire (which are expected to make computing 1000 times faster than current machines), to models showing the constant movement of atoms, and the self assembly of atoms at the nano-scale.
Read full article at the Creative Boom
12 October 2011
The Mancunian, Manchester
The sculptors Theo Kaccoufa and Tom Grimsey show an exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry to celebrate university Professors’ research.
Photo: Jennifer Ho.
Image: Theo Kaccoufa (left) and Tom Grimsey (right) with Graphene kinetic sculpture (above). Giants of the infinitesimal Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Read full article at The Mancunian
8 October 2011
'Join the Dots' / 'Coherent Millions Sublime'
A public art activity for the "The Big Draw" taking inspiration from the MOSI show "Giants of the Infinitesimal"
People will get the chance to work with artists and scientists. The project is to organize millions of random dots into beautifully coherent molecular patterns. Through this collaboration a spectacular "pointillist" picture should emerge.
Join the Dots: Molecular Drawing - using the Gallery as our base, help us place coloured sticky spots in this scientific drawing event that's on a very grand scale! This free participatory event will help create a huge pointillist painting where swirling chaos is resolved into structured patterned order.
15 - 16 October 2011, 12:00 to 16:00
Many thanks to the team at UK Labels Ltd for their generosity in supplying resources for this exciting event!
‘Beauty in Science and Art’
Art meet Science launch reception
An introduction to the exhibition by speakers including the eminent Nano-scientists and Artists who collaborated to create the exhibition.
Guest speaker is the artist Peter Forbes - author of 'Dazzled and Deceived' - winner of the 2011 Warwick prize for writing. Peter has special interest in relationships between art and science. Also in attendance will be scientists Prof. Rasmita Raval and Prof. Philip Moriarty and artists: Tom Grimsey and Theo Kaccoufa. There will also be an open discussion with input from Konstantin Novoselov, winner of the 2010 Physics Nobel Prize for his work on graphene at the University of Manchester.
6 October 2011 - 17:30 start
‘Meet the Scientists day’
Museum of Science & Industry | Part of the Manchester Science Festival
- For all the family
- Free hands-on event with informal lectures by nano-scientists.
- No booking required!
- Your opportunity to try nano experiments and quiz the scientists!
Charlotte from Sheffield, uses Ultra violet light to transform simple white beads in to a multicolour bracelet, unlike a magician, she explains how it's done.
Ben, a Ph.D student at Sheffield, explaining pressure and vacuum using marshmallows.
Photos by Ann Marks.
Part of the Manchester Science Festival
22 October 2011 - 10:00 to 16:00
‘Giants of the Infinitesimal Lecture’
Lecture by Tom Grimsey
5 October 2011 - 14:30
Geoffrey Manton Building
Lecture Theatre 3