Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Watching paint dry

Describing something dull as being as interesting as watching paint dry might be surprisingly innacurate at the small scale. If it were possible to take a video of polymers in the paint coming together and forming stable structures, and water molecules lifting off the surface, it would be fascinating to watch. Something like watching ice crystals growing on a window in slow motion or a flower blooming on a time-lapse camera. Previously, it has not been possible to watch and record atoms and molecules do their stuff in real time. Now, though, it is. A new machine from a company called Infinitesima allows this, and one of the first markets they expect for it is for companies studying the properties of drying paint. Subscribers to the Economist can read more: Not as boring as you thought, Jan 6th 2005.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Small wonders....

On December 30th at 8.30pm (repeated on January 1st), my radio documentary Grey Goo's Sticky Mess was broadcast. At the time of writing this programme is still available online here.... A programme transcript is also promised at some time in the New Year. If you are unable to get hold of either of these, please email me at nloder@yahoo.com.

On January 1st, my survey of nanotechnolog--called Small Wonders--was also published in The Economist. There is also a radio interview with me as an online link. I have a limited number of spare copies of this survey, so if you'd like to read it please email me your details at the address above.

Finally, two recent articles published, one in November about sorting sperm with optical tweezers.

Also coming up this week is another bit of nanowizardry in the form of a machine that can make videos of atoms and molecules, making it finally possible to watch paint dry in thrilling detail.

Virgin Galactic is ready for take off

In the Christmas edition of The Economist, check out an article about the incipient private space tourism industry. "One small step for space tourism..." is in the edition dated December 16th 2004. A little bit of overmatter on this article is that one of the plans for tourists paying for $200,000 flights is to actually mould each reclining seat to the individual passenger. (The seats will have to be recliners to reduce the effects of the G-forces of the spaceship.) Passengers will be given this seat as a souvenir to take home with them.