Thursday, July 21, 2016

Week 5: NanoTech + Art

               Most of the time, the sciences and arts are categorized as visual experiences. Scientists need to see proof from their experiments, whereas artists have to interpret artworks and performances visually. However, this week’s lectures have shown that nanotechnology is changing this perception by introducing a new medium that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

A scanning tunneling microscope such as the one pictured gives people a look into the nanoscopic universe[1][2].

               Although the idea of nanotechnology may have been thought of by Richard Feyman in 1959[1], the real geniuses who brought this small world into reality are Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer. Their scanning tunneling microscope (STM) uses touch rather than sight in order to detect atomic structures[2]. In many ways, this duo can be credited for the revolution of nanotechnology. With this microscope alone, a new world opened up for scientists and artists alike. As Vesna and Gimzewski perfectly describe it, the STM is a “paradigm shift from seeing, in the sense of viewing, to tactile sensing[3].

               When hearing about the STM in lecture, I instantly remembered a movie called A Boy and His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie that my electrical engineering professor showed me last year. Before this time, I did not even realize that the experience of “seeing” atoms was possible. In this movie, though, real atoms are moved around using a STM to create fluid images of a boy doing various activities[4]. Even though the images are childish at best, the fact that art is being made out of atoms is truly remarkable. It is even more astounding when one realizes that these atoms are not being seen in the typical sense. This brings the experience to whole another level, giving an illusion that atoms can be easily manipulated by human beings. Similar to the boy in the movie being able to do just about anything, the real message from this movie is showing that there are endless possibilities when it comes to nanotechnology.

A team at IBM made this short video with atoms[3].

               Innovation with nanotechnology does not just stop with art. It can also be used in the field of medicine. From quantum dots that locate diseases to nanotubes that kill tumors[5][6], nanotechnology is a driving force behind better treatments for patients. However, like all nanotechnology, it cannot be seen in a physical sense. This might be actually more beneficial since it makes these type of instruments less intrusive. Rather than having a hulking machine harm the body, nanotechnologies can seamlessly blend in with the body’s natural composition of cells and proteins. This natural change associated with nanotechnology can be the key to curing all sorts of difficult diseases like cancer.

A digital image showing how nanotechnology can be used to treat diseases[4].

               In summary, the arrival of the STM in nanotechnology made it possible for new advancements in the arts and medicine. Despite the fact that these innovations may never be physically looked at, their impact can still resonate within a person’s body and mind. Sometimes, the true beauty of art and science lies in what is unseen rather than what is seen.  


1. Gimzewski, James K. "Introduction to Nanotechnology for Artists: Part 1." YouTube. uconlineprogram, 21 May 2012. Web. 20 July 2016. <>.

2. Gimzewski, James K. "Introduction to Nanotechnology for Artists: Part 2." YouTube. uconlineprogram, 21 May 2012. Web. 20 July 2016. <>.

3. Gimzewski, Jim, and Victoria Vesna. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science." Victoria Vesna. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016. <>.

4. A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie. YouTube. IBM, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 July 2016. <>.

5. Gimzewski, James K. "Introduction to Nanotechnology for Artists: Part 4." YouTube. uconlineprogram, 21 May 2012. Web. 20 July 2016. <>.

6. "Nanotechnology in Medicine - Nanomedicine." Hawk's Perch Technical Writing LLC, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.


1. UTA NanoFab. The Scanning Tunneling Microscope. N.d. IBM 100. IBM. Web. 21 July 2016. <>.

2. Schematic View of an STM. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., n.d. Web. 21 July 2016. <>.

3. A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie. YouTube. IBM, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 July 2016. <>.

4. Murray, James J. Nanoparticles to Cure - And to Kill! Digital image. Prescription for Murder. N.p., 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 July 2016. <>.

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