Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Truth and Beauty at the Nanoscale

Toumey, Chris

Journal Information:
Vol. 42, Num. 2


Much like David Goodsell in the previous issue of Leonardo, Chris Toumey here is concerned with the visual representations of nanotechnology, specifically the Quantum Corral picture that appeared on the cover of Science in 1993. Toumey decides to take a more precise approach to this particular photo than Goodsell did when he mentioned it, crafting his article around the shot and its relationship with cubist thought of the early twentieth century. He points out that the limitations of scanning tunneling microscopes (STM) and the nature of atoms bars humans from ever truly seeing one in the way we see the subjects of a photograph, but that the approximation the STMs make are the best available. The cubist element enters when Toumey points to their early notion that art need not be constrained by space and time, which is very much the problem scientists have in trying to accurately depict atoms. The addition of temporal, color and tactile perspectives to the nanoscale renderings of the STMs is what Toumey finds to concretely place these products in early modernist schools of thought. His final point is that, as the truth of these pictures remains in doubt, the beauty and utility they provide the general public need not.