Nanotechnology and Magic Libraries

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November 27, 2014 by libroshombre

“Your assumptions are your windows to the world,” Isaac Asimov once said. “Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” He was speaking of being open-minded about present and future possibilities. Keep that in mind as we consider the Mini Lisa, and that a micrometer is a millionth of a meter. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology “painted” the famous Featured imageMona Lisa image onto a “canvass” one-third the width of a hair, or thirty microns. They used an “atomic force microscope” to create teensy colored pixels by heating the surface of a substrate surface to varying degrees. As the ScienceDaily.com article explained, “More heat produced the lighter shades of grey, as seen on the Mini Lisa’s forehead and hands. Less heat produced the darker shades in her dress and hair.”

Featured image            The Georgians are doing this as part of a worldwide effort to develop nanotechnological capabilities. When we’re taking nanometers, billionths of a meter, we’re talking small, like the quantum level. The Journal “Nature Nanotechnology” reported recently how scientists in Barcelona have used optical nano-tweezers to trap a single nano-object that’s micronic in size, manipulate it in three dimensions, and release it “without exerting any mechanical contact or other invasive action.” If that sounds a bit hocus-pocusey, the article goes on to state that in the 1980s Bell Laboratories discovered that, “by shining a laser light through a lens, it is possible to focus light in a tiny spot,” and this spot of light draws and holds tiny objects. It can’t trap objects smaller than “a few hundred nanometers,” and it couldn’t manipulate them, though, but the Georgia team has done so using “plasmonic nano-tweezers at the extremity of a mobile optical fiber, nano-engineered with a bowtie-like gold aperture. They trapped and manipulated particles like proteins and nanoparticles as small as 20-30 nanometers

Last week another ScienceDaily.com article, titled “Nano World: Where Towers Construct Themselves,” described how Viennese researchers are working with “mesoscopic crystalline structures,” that can build themselves with the proper stimulation. Don’t try to make sense of the bizarre-world of quantum physics. As the article states, what they’re doing corresponds “to building a tower or a bridge just by choosing the appropriate bricks and letting them self-organize into the desired structure.”

It’s not surprising that a Smithsonian.com article from last May reported that “most Americans view the technology-driven future with a sense of hope. They just don’t want to live there.” The study was conducted by the Pew research Center and focused on “public attitudes about future technologies envisioned in sci-fi movies and literature.” So we’re talking driverless cars, brain implants to get smarter, and meat grown in labs.”

Most Americans are still unclear on electricity and everything beyond that approaches pure magic, but “Any sufficiently advancedFeatured image technology is indistinguishable from magic,” as Arthur C. Clark pointed out. Magic can be delightful, however. Just watch the library’s copy of the DVD documentary “Make Believe” about teenaged magicians competing in the Teen World Championships at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. The practice and dedication of these youngsters rivals that of any striving musician or athlete.

Magic doesn’t come easy. That’s why magic libraries exist. No fooling. Few subjects are more arcane than illusionists’ tricks, and the magicians’ community is close-knit. For example, the Magic Castle is a members-only nightclub and clubhouse for magicians and their pals, so their library is restricted. The Conjuring Arts Research Center in Manhattan, however, “strives to maintain and develop the most expansive collection of conjuring related material in the world, and then to provide public and practitioners access to it. Its holdings include early conjuring books (500 printed prior to 1700), manuscripts and letters describing techniques and apparatus, and periodicals dating to the 1700s.

Having use of ample resources is invaluable to any aspiring student. Well-rounded education requires diverse perspectives and approaches to the world. That’s why the mere consideration of eliminating so many humanities at UAF is shocking. I hope it’s only for shock value, because a university without humanities isn’t much of an institution of learning. It’s sad that the Legislature’s underfunding has led to this,Featured imagebut they don’t seem to be listening. As the poet Patrick Rothfuss wrote, “Words have to find a man’s mind before they can touch his heart, and some men’s minds are woeful small targets.”

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