Why I like looking at metal surfaces

I like hanging out on this website of the Technical University of Vienna which shows how atoms are arranged on metal surfaces (I can see a new breed emerging: the ‘nano voyeur’…). What do I find so fascinating about these images? 

1. It’s atoms! (well, sort of…)

2. These atoms arrange themselves in amazingly intricate and regular patterns – like fabric weaves or labyrinths.

3. The atoms in these images look like sweetcorn!


What I also like is the commentary accompanying these images. First of all, there is an Angela-friendly animation of how the machine works that obtains these images for us (it’s kind of like a record player basically). Then, an enthusiastic scientist tells us how atoms ‘bounce’, ‘get stuck’ or ‘wander about’ and engage in all sorts of other activities. There are also good examples of how these images help explain how things work in ‘our world’!


Sunflower Fragments 02 by Cris Orfescu

Another website I keep coming back to is the NanoArt site of the scientist/artist Cris Orfescu. My reasoning is that the next step after ‘nano voyeurism’ must be that you either want to obtain your own images from that scale – or want to be even less passive and mess around with ‘nano-matter’ (is that how a ‘nanoscientist’ feels? ;D). Well, you can kind of do that on the website, where Orfescu each year provides ‘the public’ with a series of nanoscale images, which you can manipulate in an artistic fashion and enter into a ‘NanoArt’ competition. Orfescu sees this process as a way of engaging people with the nanoscale or, more specifically, nanotechnology, which he believes will have an enormous impact on our life in the future. He invites questions in the form of artwork, but also seems happy to answer e-mails about his work as either an artist or scientist. Guess what I’ve been up to today… ;)


One thought on “Why I like looking at metal surfaces

  1. yes! this will be quite useful for me as well. i was happy to see that you’ve also run into chris orfescu’s work a number of times! he was one of the first people who came up under ‘nano art’ – wish i could interview the guy…

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