Tag Archives: Sci-Tube

1.21 Gigawatts: Sci-Tube – A Bit of Microscopic Magic

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-Sarah Keartes

“We can look up at the sky and see the stars, and nebulas, and other galaxies with a telescope and be excited by the strange interesting patterns that the universe forms, but we can also look the other direction—down towards the small and see new, and strange, and exciting patterns that are formed by these pieces of the universe that we’re all made out of.”Christopher Lutz, IBM Research

#1 A Microscopic Music Video


Art, music, and science—not a triad of words you see together often, but this is exactly the type of discipline mash-up that The Creators Project searches for.

“We seek to inspire new and emerging artists by showcasing the infinite possibilities presented by the advancement of modern technology,” they said.

“Immunity,” one of their most recent projects, brings these words to life in an epic three-way collaboration. The music video, which is soundtracked by UK musician Jon Hopkins’ new album, is made completely of images produced by artist Linden Gledhill.

A trained biochemist, Gledhill is now a photographer who specializes in creating abstract images by photographing the microscopic world.

The 10,000 images needed for the Hopkins collaboration were shot using a 5D Mark II fitted onto an Olympus BH-2 research microscope between 200 and 1,000 times magnification. Each track of the video features a different chemical reaction, which thanks to art director Craig Ward, seamlessly fits the music.

“Jon’s music is organic and flowing, yet with a hard and rhythmic electronic edge,” Ward said. “The idea of delving down to explore chemical interactions under a microscope felt like the perfect solve to create the album imagery and our video for The Creators Project features much of the same—various immiscible liquids, dyes and chemicals interacting underneath the watchful eye of my collaborator on the project.”

The result is a captivating array of color, music, and science that you don’t want to miss.

#2 “A Boy and His Atom”: The World’s Smallest Movie


It might not look like much at first, but this stop-motion animation is far from something you’ve seen before. It was made by researchers at IBM and stars the world’s tiniest actors: individual atoms. The movie, verified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest, can only be seen when magnified 100 million times.

The ability to manipulate individual atoms is crucial for the IBM team, who specialize in atomic memory advancement. Atomic Memory, sometimes called “atomic storage,” is a nanotechnology approach to computer data storage that works with bits and atoms on the individual level.

The atoms are moved using a variation on how the atoms are seen in the first place, IBM research scientist Christopher Lutz said.

Because atoms are so small, they cannot be seen using a light microscope. A Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), a type of electron microscope that shows three-dimensional images of a sample, was used to capture the frames for the animation. By using the STM, researchers are able to move single atoms across a tiny piece of copper.

“We have a surface that we put an atom on so [that] it holds still, and then we take a metal needle close to the atom and in essence, sense it’s presence by measuring an electric current that flows. In order to move atoms, we bump into them under control,” Lutz said.

“By moving the tip close we start to form a chemical bond between the tip and the atom such that the atom likes to follow the tip around on the surface. That process repeated over and over is how we have created most of these structures.”

Live long and prosper little atom man—IBM hasn’t stopped there.  In the wake of their theatrical debut, the team has created some serious Trekkie fan art using the same techniques and equipment as for the world’s smallest movie. Their intergalactic masterpieces include images of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Star Trek Logo, and the Vulcan Salute (which they call the “live long and prosper sign”…come on people).

“Even nanophysicists need to have a little fun,” they said.

For Nobel Swiss Physicist Heinrich Rohrer, the pairing made perfect sense.

“[Star Trek’s] claim to fame is that they’re dealing with the final frontier, with space. What we’re doing is dealing with the final frontier of engineering. The finest thing you’ll ever deal with in engineering is atoms. There’s nothing beyond that point,” he told Wired in an interview.

“The best thing that we can create is an interest in the general public, in kids, for science,” he said.

Rohrer, who co invented the STM, died May 16, 2013—just days after the interview. He is remembered not only by his family, but through research like this which would not be possible if not for his work.

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1.21 Gigawatts: Sci-Tube – Five Videos That Will Blow Your Mind

-Sarah Keartes

#1 Crying in Orbit?


In his recent mid-orbit vlog entry, Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrates the physics of crying in space.

“Your eyes will definitely cry . . . but the big difference is, tears don’t fall, so grab a hanky,” Hadfield said. It is earth’s gravitational force that causes our tears to fall. In a micro-gravitational environment, tears collected in the eye are unable to flow downward. Instead they pool together, forming a “ball” of water which will sit on the eye until it reaches a larch enough size and will break free and float around.

Even more interesting is that space tears can actually sting your eyes. The reason behind this is unknown, but NASA has long studied the effects of space travel on human vision, which include flattening of the back of the eyeball, changes in the retina and optic nerve, and problems with both near and distance vision.

#2 The Prince Rupert’s Drop: Unbreakable Exploding Glass


Do not be afraid of this video’s seven-minute playing time. Stop what you are doing and tune in to this incredible high-speed video. Correction: high-speed video of explosions. Correction: high-speed video of exploding glass—that you can’t break with a hammer. What?

Destin of “Smarter Every Day” (with a bit of help from Orbix Hot Glass in Fort Payne, Alabama) explores the physics behind the Prince Rupert’s Drop. The drop, also known as “Prince Rupert’s Balls” or “Dutch Tears,” is a tadpole-shaped glass object that is created when molten glass is dripped into water to cool.

The resulting structure possesses mind-boggling physical properties: the head of the drop can be bashed and beaten to the heart’s content without breaking, but even the slightest nick to the glass tail causes a large release of stored potential energy resulting in microscopic fractures from tail to head. In other words? Boom goes the dynamite.

#3 00-Robots? University of Pennsylvania Quatrotors Go “Bond”


The James Bond theme has been covered thousands of times on Youtube, but to my knowledge, it has only been covered once by a fleet of autonomous flying robots.

Birthed from U. Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences GRASP lab, the tiny robots, dubbed “Nano Quadrotors,” can be programed with a series of points that must be reached at a precise time. Amazingly, the direct path is chosen by the bots, which are able to pick up the locations of fleet members using infrared technology.

GRASPLAB members are working with scientists to improve their robots by mimicking the swarming behaviors of birds, fish and insects—the Quadrotors operate not as a swarm, but much like a flock.

#4 The World’s Cutest Frog


Forget cats. This tiny, slimy squeak-toy which looks more like a character from Pokémon than an earthly creature, is the Namaqua Rain Frog (Breviceps namaquensis), and it may be the cutest thing I have ever seen.

Unlike many of its amphibious relatives, the frog, filmed here by nature photographer Dean Boshoff, is a desert resident. Native to the Namaqualand coast of South Africa (and adjacent sandy inland areas), the Namaqua Rain Frog is a burrowing species which surfaces only when ample rainfall brings a plethora of insects to feed on.

Should that blood-curdling, utterly terrifying, well, “peep” not do the trick; the frog will inflate itself to its full girth when threatened.

#5 “4D” Printing: Transformers Anyone?


SJET, LLC is a research-based practice founded by architect, designer, and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits. Combining tools from architecture, design, fabrication, computer science, and robotics, SJET focuses on creating self-assembling structures using “4D”printing technology. In other words, they are working to build things that build themselves without external guidance.

“What we’re saying here is, you design something, you print it, it evolves…it’s like naturally embedding smartness into the materials,” Tibbits told Wired in an interview.

How does it work? Each piece of the structure is molecularly altered—embedded with patterns of elements that attract each other through negative and positive interactions when the correct amount of energy is added (here through shaking). Tibbits and SJET see the application of this technology in the creation of large scale smart structures in extreme environments such as space and the ocean.

“The self-assembled structures of the future won’t just be large; they will also be smart. Every brick, beam, and bolt may one day compute and store digital information about the building, environment, and construction to aid assembly,” Tibbits said.

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