Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Wednesday's's a real thing....DNA origami. It is quite possibly the most exciting thing ever! where to start - you build a structure within a software program and then after bringing together the material (DNA, staples, salts etc) mixing, filtering and pipetting (lots of pipetting) - the material appears to 'slot into' or 'follow' the system you have set up because of the inherent functionality or quality of base pairs bonding - I think I might understand self assembly! there is a lot of measuring and cleaning involved and again you don't actually appear to look at the thing - you look at material which informs you of the location of thing. I love this idea of evidence of activity. Onto an idea....... first 'find out' the DNA sequence of a person and then create a structure through DNA folding that in some way represents or symbolises that person - it could be conceived as a form of portraiture.
and 2 lectures with 2 very different approaches to the delivery of information; the most relentlessly brutal informationally intense PowerPoint ever and a whiteboard of equations. 1 - the theory behind AFM -  due to a previous practical I was actually able to grasp what was occurring - surface morphology, issues around calibration, the problems associated with the tip bluntness, decisions around pixel density, the creation of clarity through both the choice of tools with which to examine specimens and image manipulation. 2 - bands and band engineering appeared to be about determining what something (metal, semiconductors and insulators) was dependant on its atomic makeup (there was a lot of maths - I think it was maths). That was about the level of my understanding  but the language used was quite beautiful and as ever when in the room it feels like an experience or world beyond the actual subject or space is being describing. It reminds me of a poetry reading, the language's meaning slips between the liminal boundaries of specific states, not quite metaphor but defiantly transitional .  

I am asked to conceive of something dimensionless
looking for an electron to achieve balance      but         low energy states are filled
balancing always balancing                            but         systems are governed by symmetry
making and filling gaps                                 but         looking for balance  
representing electrons in a solid                       but         suspending is restricted
there are always empty states above full ones   and         insulators restricting jumping      
the electron could be anywhere                       and        everywhere
the wave travelling moving                       and        unimpeded
we are converging on one answer

                                                                              is this possible?


I'm fascinated by the role of belief within the Science experiment (experience) - how much trust in the unknown is needed to enable science to move on or even exist?  When does trust becomes truth? In the lab the balance between acknowledging what is known and recognising the new is underpinned by experience. But there could be the issue of actively looking for something to the exclusion of being open to possibilities. This intention could inform the observation and that which is then labelled is the thing you are looking for. Is it possible to actually alter an object by rethinking it?

When creating objects one recognises that each individual object has many narratives; each one delivers the viewer new contexts and presents new possible functions. The individual brings their history, their own narrative. It could be argued that an object’s functionality is something that is constructed in the mind through collective use and understanding. If the functionality of an object can change in the mind each action or activity, changes our perception of and relationship to the object. Every object has an infinite number of stories attached to it and each personal truth illustrates multiple connections. This accumulation of knowledge maps our relationship to what and how we value the objects around us. The reference point for engaging with an object has the potential to change with the intention behind each individual viewing. Does this experience in some way physically change the object? 

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Fridays practical, solar cell construction, was a demonstration of the repetitive actions involved in the world of science. spin coating.....clean, clean, dry, drop coating, spin, drop coating, spin, drop coating, spin, drop coating, spin... the speed of which determines the curvature..... the hand eye coordination required to undertake these tasks does not appear to be supported by visual clues on any of the apparatus within the process. It really does rely on practice and experience - each action supporting the development of one's knowledge - feeling the way forward towards an understanding - a practice.
Light transfers into power but then light is power. making modelling measuring - more tools to enable chemists working in a physics department thinking like an engineer. There were so many 'distractions' - or maybe they will become the project. The main one  is the paraphernalia that enables the experiment - pipettes, lab coats, gloves, goggles, lint free plastic paper all of which I have encountered before. But arm protectors used in conjunction with the enclosed safe places that are glove boxes were new to me - the fetishisation of all this is something to consider but I am wary of falling into a science version of the archive ‘trap’ written about by Victoria Lane of becoming ‘fascinated with what might seem to the outsider to be the esoteric props of the archivist's trade: the white cotton gloves, the cushion........?’ The Artist in the Archive. All this stuff. Archiving the Artist (2013).
But I was fascinated by the choreography undertaken by users of the glove boxes and thought that it would be exciting to try and use it to manipulate my tools for the imagination, structural bookworks.

Protecting the specimen within the experiment from us rather than us from it is an intriguing idea - these spaces that are created where objects are manipulated. Often within vacuums - contained, clean, dry (a non-space) (yes I realise that it's not 'non') and within this extraordinary space specific materials and situations are monitored - ready to be recreated, controlled to repeat. This repeatable idea butts up neatly with the concept of 'air' being problematic (I love that phrase) and I was reminded of Heraclitus not being able to step into the same river twice 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.'  It appears that science is constantly trying to create a time and space where the river is still.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


For myself the learning around the NanoDTC practical's operate in two ways - there is the 'oh now I understand the basics of nanotube growth' it's all about metallic substrates, interacting with gases, various pressures, temperature etc. Then there is the reflective or mirror effect - how the exposure to new ways of thinking informs my own practice. The conversations around the creation of material with qualities defined by a number of factors was informative, each ingredient delivers a number of practical possibilities which has made me think about the opportunity afforded by changing the structural possibilities within a material to effect different stresses and tensions at a 1:1 level. These ideas will in turn enable the objects I make to have certain parameters or physical abilities which I can then utilise. Girish Rughoobur ran the practical and brought his own research into the discussion, this mention of the creation of nanotubes  for sensors was informative - so that's what they're for...... but also Girish explained that their quality/functionality was dependant on the density, size, number of walls, length, speed of growth.........and created within pentagons which with their non parallel sides enable little or no resonance feedback and so are useful/strong .  Other shapes are not appropriate - the triangle has internal angles that are too acute and the circle at some scale has an element of it that is parallel. This information is another huge idea that I'm sure will find itself within new work at some point.

The practical's are also great fun - it's a pleasure to be putting myself in learning situations with such open intelligent interesting people, it's of not knowing. Ideas are firing around my head and connections between seemingly random issues are made. In my teaching capacity I find myself at the front, in theory leading and the expectation is of having answers but for me it's always about trying find opportunities to learn and develop collaborative ways of thinking even with my undergraduate students who have much to teach me.

Friday, 7 October 2016


another great day - the morning was all about Atomic Force Microscopy - the excellent practical session covered the many systems and the 'how to' of operating an AFM - it's all about calibration - there are lots of procedures to follow. It really is an extraordinary idea - working within a system of what is known and then measuring forces - the unknown becomes the known. I got excited about record players and needles and sound, thinking about the possibility of translating the output of the surfaces we were mapping into a soundscape.....
at lunch the journal discussion was an eye opener into how to actually read a science paper. It's deconstruction was extraordinary in its detail, again I'm impressed by the openness to new ideas and enthusiasm for learning in the room. In the end it was a lot about the need to publish and evidencing  your existence. For the next paper I might internet stalk the writers, checking out who they know, who they went to school with and which bakery they get their bagels from. (reference to Nobel Prize!) (an in science topology joke!)
In the afternoon I decided to latch onto a laser course - thinking there might be actual lasers but that was a mistake as it was a health and safety laser course .......... but it did yield a found text ...

local rules rule
its advised to align at low power but things only happen at a higher power
using mirrors, the tools for looking but there is a fear of stray reflections
looking back scattered controlling - is it light tight?
working within a failsafe- an invisibility laser
enclosing enclosed beams controlling controlled beam blockers
trapped light is spilt through escaped angels
the greatest fear is letting the beam go off to infinity - lost even to remote viewing aids.

do we have a crime scene?

Monday, 3 October 2016


working with notes made last week - a 'found' text.....

nano structures often process a large degree of fabrication randomness

Who are we?
We are atomic force microscopy.
We are fluid analytics looking for equity for value.
We are biomechanics exploring mechanical stress transfer.
We are the orbital angular momentum of light but it's okay because graphine is not conductive and we can get from hydrophobic to hydrophilic using UV light to change and monitor, its a controlled release, the gas sensors  detecting plasmodic enhancement.
We are a growing Penrose tessellation, an idea before its time like raman scattering spectroscopy before it.
We are an arrangement of macromolecules, themselves  molecular crystals with DNA, these are optically driven like the structure of scientific revolution.
Our plasmodic responders create meta materials which lead to nano particle jewellery, nano knitting needles or a self cleaning fabric with luminescent down shifting with hydrophobic or even superhydrophobicity containers self emptying, it's a solution based problem.
Looking for a reason we use paperbased polymers, a nano substrait or maybe we need to explore the lithium market to create a clean box or water filtration, its sustainable insect technology .
Thinking can we get a functionalised electromagnet, a nanogenerator possibly made with hierarachical carbon nanotubes using advanced bio-nanomaterials.
We are interested in fundamentals this is why we are here.
We are looking for tangible results in the crystal growth of novel nanomaterials whilst experiencing ambient vibrations in the piezoelectric materials which are creative and innovative.
We acknowledge the Von Neumann bottleneck.
We are often genetically engineered by mimicking hierarchal natural structures.
We balance toxic substrates creating active spaces like nanometer cubed using nanophotonics and single molecule chemistry but remembering that efficiency is not the same as effectiveness. It's  like an e-skin integrated by weaving hetero structures developing a technological readiness level  from basic principles to operational.
We are involved in bionano engineering,  where bio meets inorganic? But what happens when a virus meets a nano particle? DNA is a polymer often extracted and connected using photochemistry in optofluidic microreactors exploring lightmatter interactions.
Often photonic scattered light interferes through a hollow core, the  photonic crystal fibre celebrating optofluidic through the creation of tools enabling the ability to measure things through light, leading to reaction monitoring - designing optical appearance with natural polymers.
It's important that we review progress constantly engaging in self reflective thought supported by our gantt charts that we update daily. If we haven't found a problem we haven't tried hard enough. We often experience glorious failures which are underpinned by hard work and when looking at the space between often cell morphology and substrate stiffness generate acoustic waves.
We worry that we don't have the bandwidth to do this task sensing using acoustic waves, possibly using a floating control which utilizes frequency tuning  and magnetic acoustics.
It has to be neurological,  neurofunctional where micro fluidic or artificial photosynthesis, self assemble exhibiting algal bacterial mutualisms, from unbalance to balance its microbial using micro dots or quantum dots.
We simplify to understand our role, providing solutions and storytelling often using micro electrical mechanical systems and optomechanofluidics.

all this is underpinned by serious fiddling about 

Sunday, 2 October 2016


Wow - back and beginning to reflect on the week - there will be more thoughts later - I was party to so many wonderful conversations - one story told to me has stayed - i loved the reason why she became a scientist  -  looking at a book, feeling its surface, looking at it, really looking - getting a microscope - the microscopes became more powerful - this to an exposure to ideas of quantum physics and then an understanding of electro-static repulsion between electrons and the phenomena that we never actually truly touch anything.... truly mind blowing and then one of the many questions after my presentation - if we take the premise that as humans we are all books and if we are alive the book in question is unfinished. What format would you use to represent this phenomena? this why I am here.......already I have so much to think about. The assumption that science is a block of knowledge was quickly broken down after a few conversations - it transpires that I was surrounded by people that also had little or no understanding of what is being spoken in the numerous talks - the specifity of the individual fields has atomised the world we inhabit. When typing up my notes most it is challenged by the underlining red line of disbelief that is spell-check - its as if the archaic framework of words even within the technology of word processing  is yet to approve of the new frontier like Zeno's paradox attempting to catch up with science. Entering into a world of science has enabled a degree of reflection on my own practice. Science rather than being about magic appears to be all about making sense of the natural world around us whilst the arts and the world I have evolved in is involved in the creation of imagined places which we inhabit and then tell stories from within. The making of tools to map, examine and explore is at the core of what nanoDTC appears to be involved in. I'm looking forward to making tools to navigate this new world.