If you have any interest in sci-fi you’re bound to have come across nanobots at some point: swarms of tiny machines that are invisible individually but come together in huge clouds to take on the shape of various objects or people. Sci-fi has predicted them for decades, and science edges closer and closer to catching up…but nature got there a long time ago. Inside our bodies are motors, pumps, springs, and levers made of just a handful of atoms. There are things that walk, climb, and swim around our bodies building and maintaining them. These are dwarfed by the huge factories that create them: the 10000000000000 or so cells in the average human body. We are the original nanobots.
If you keep seeing the same patterns appearing no matter how close you look at something, then it’s fractal. Like mountains, which look a lot like the rocks they’re covered in. Or trees, where each branch looks like a smaller tree with lots of even smaller trees sticking out of it, and even the leaves have their own tree pattern. Or a lake-shore, where the water finds smaller and smaller gaps to flow into, right down to microscopic cracks that look like giant valley’s if you look close enough. Fractals have some interesting properties, like having somewhere between 2 and 3 dimensions, or having infinite length and zero area.
Another great bit of the Irish coastline, this time in Waterford. It gets its name from a mining industry that is long gone, but with cliffs that colour I can see why they kept the name.
Nothing clever this week, just a painting from one of the nicest parts of the country.
Unsustainable (by Muse) is both a great song and one of the best descriptions of the 2nd law of thermodynamics I’ve heard. That is quite an achievement and just goes to show that there are other places to find a bit of science in your art.
Apatite is the mineral found in our teeth and bones, but it also comes in hundreds of other forms and is found in many types of rock. It gets its name from the Greek for “deceive”, because it is sometimes so difficult to tell what type of apatite you are looking at, or even if it is apatite at all. For example, what you are looking at right now is part of an x-ray diffraction pattern for fluorapatite, but it looks more like some mountains and trees.
During my research I have spent more time on x-ray diffraction than anything else. This is a Guinier powder diffraction camera, which is small enough to fit in your cupboard and uses x-rays to analyse the structure of crystals with an accuracy of 0.00000000000001 m. I think its quite cool.
This week I couldn’t decide whether to do a landscape or continue the diffraction theme, so I did both! Any time a wave meets an object about the same length as it, it gets diffracted and changes direction, and more objects means more diffraction. So in theory**, if you have a big farm and set your fields up carefully, you can do some serious messing with your neighbours radio reception. That particular example might not seem very helpful, but the same idea is used in all kinds of measurement systems, such as the electron diffraction in crystals from last week.
**Science tip: never trust a sentence that starts with “In theory”.
Take some electrons, accelerate them at 200,000 Volts, bend them into a tiny beam with electromagnets, fire them through some crystals, bend them again with some more electromagnets…and we see diffraction.
A slightly easier way is to look at the back of a CD, where the tiny lines on the CD diffract light and separate the different colours. Replace ‘light’ with ‘electrons’, and ‘tiny lines’ with ‘rows of atoms’ and we get an electron diffraction pattern that tells us a lot about nano-sized and even smaller structures, and gives a kind of fingerprint for each material. It’s worth the extra hassle, and some of the patterns can be quite beautiful too!
A form of wet precipitation more familiar to most people than “Wet Precipitation 1”, though it’s usually pronounced “rain”. That greenish blue under a big rain cloud is probably the best colour anywhere, which is why I’m one of the few people happy to see a forecast for thunderstorms. Also, this makes it three paintings in a row from right outside the front door…there’s always something new to see if you look up.