Sunday, 27 November 2016


Friday saw a morning of probing at a probe station, a tool within a sealed box within a room. The idea of trying to manipulate and measure with rules and laws to the fore, scraping off polymers to reach gold, to test voltage, checking resistances and marvelling at how the small (the very small, it always is) differences in the thickness of the polymer results in a range of colours that relate to light waves....

I gave a short presentation to share initial thoughts and some ideas I have been working on - a mini 'this is what I've been up to' presentation - I have slotted in youtube links to the moving image work. It was nice to share as everybody has been so thoughtful and open, supporting and enabling. Here is a link


The first intervention - trying to create a folded piece that starts to explore the idea of restriction, tools, spaces and manipulation. The film shows the progression of the idea, it's a combination of intention (creating a structure that looks at the restriction of the glove box) and 'going with' the process of folding (working with the materials and the natural laws of their materiality). I distributed them within the Maxwell Centre shared spaces and gave one each to the 1st years, it is not in its finished state, the material needs to be stiffer with the box like structure made more obvious by delineating its volume. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016


a day of huge machines looking at tiny things - the Electron microscopes are great photo opportunities. They are colossal science fiction like machines with great names and lots of wires and knobs. They are the stuff of old school 'real' science, enabling you to access information about matter that is so beyond the naked imagination.  Alignment is all with calibration taking time and I was struck by the masculine nature of the language used around the process.

you looking at me?

what are you looking at?
establishing what is wanted determines how you look.
where room stability is crucial
in stillness and silence a planet sized plinth steadies the space
viewing an energy filter beam star like images
a focused probe
the language of imaging in a light field talk of high angles under a dark field is oddly masculine
rough pumping the turbo, gun tilt adjustment, a chamber core of negatives, recovering a vacuum, contrast at the expense of resolution, optimum conditioning for imaging, beam damage and sample drift.
going back to real space there is awe
fear of damaging the sample by observing it.

Saturday, 19 November 2016


what started out today as a mistake became a fascinating experience. turning up a week early for a practical meant that I was obviously in the wrong place - but I decided to take part in the same practical as Wednesday - this time with a different group of students and a different demonstrator. The idea of science craft and nano folklaw is now firmly in my mind - very specific tasks were undertaken in a completely different way - the end results were the same but the particular way in which to undergo this activity will now be practiced and passed on - thus the individual is enabled and celebrated, their presence  becomes embedded within the craft. This idea of our interconnectedness with each other through small incremental exchanges is a reminder of my own relationship with the students I encounter or indeed the concept of legacy beyond physical presence. I often find myself reflecting on an action I have been taught or enacting a process that is 'second nature' but sometimes I am unable to recall the moment of initial learning and the names and faces are a distant hazy memory but this seems okay because it feels as if they are still there moving my hands through time. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


I never cease to be amazed during my time at NanoDTC - the generosity of spirit I encountered today was breathtaking - to start....clean room madness and yes I got to have a go wearing the gloves in the box - it was so difficult to manipulate the samples - I have seen and engaged in the tasks that are repetitive pippet work and spin coating before but actually doing it through 3 layers of gloves within a nitrogen pressured space whilst just sweating was another experience. More than ever I want to try and manipulate my structures within this space. There were some excellent 'minimal' structures created to enable currents to flow through which will go on to inform the shapes of the devices I want to make. The work around the hand gestures continues and I made many short videos that I will work on later. It's obvious but each person's personality comes through the movement as well as the content of the information conveyed. The afternoon was the NanoDTC showcase - 30 presentations of individuals who would like to become associates. There were some familiar faces in the audience from the Autumn School which felt like I had some form of extended connection. It was fascinating watching these bite sized moments of humanity, again incredibly professional and worthy (in a good way). But - do we judge the science or the person? What will be the best fit? I enjoyed their general commitment to making the world a 'better' place and reflected on the practical aspects of that. There were some good attempts and actual examples of a commitment to communicating science to a wider community and this expansion of knowledge is something to consider both here but also to discuss later. They will also have to be a conduit between the wide range of students but there is a desire on most people's part to engage with others. When you are in the presence of a good presentation it actually lifts you, even though the full content isn't fully understood. Presentations of knowledge transfer next - some examples of existing projects and some that wish to be considered. Again the range of applications is vast and worthy. I am left thinking about a comment in an earlier practical about how to determine your PHD direction - the idea of deciding to explore a reproducible/replicable process and that of a more 'one off' theoretical process that might be derived from one afternoon in the lab and the data collected in that session. There is so no right answer. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


the cleaning of surfaces that are already super smooth - ultra smooth - the concept of a master copy - the calibration of material to specific frequencies - using heat and light to print and more cleaning, always cleaning - the stripping of surfaces of unwanted unknown information in preparation of the addition of the known. Everything is considered in respect to something else.

Today I have been thinking about extending the idea of a nanocraft into a nanofolk-law - the act of passing on stories - every profession has its insular language - assumed knowledge - known known's but when standing inside another world which is outside one 's own the realisation of this is heightened - the series of practical's are a rich time where students are exposed to the creation of words and phrases that have in themselves been passed on -  knowledge is built but where did it come from originally? Today I was aware of the mass of chemistry - there was a 'wall of chemistry talk' - it was wonderfully impenetrable and a joy to watch/listen to. This transmission, this transfer of knowledge is observed in the demonstrators who run the practical's, their urgent, constant need to find ways to communicate the ideas they are working with. The hand gestures today were fascinating within the clean rooms of Scalable Nanofabrication, Nanoimprint. In electro deposition the concept of self limiting - an idea that a material 'knows' when to stop - the actions of a material are embedded within it and it can react no more or/and these reactions can be constructed and defined in accordance with the wishes of the maker - calibration and optimisation. As a child I have a dim memory of electroplating a copper penny with 'something' all with material my Dad 'borrowed' from work! but today there was something alchemic in the dark room as the mundane was tarnished with gold. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


graphene growth and transfer - the clean room really is a space of possibilities - a place for the performance of science - its all about the surface - creating new ones and using old ones with extraordinary properties - slippage - nonstickness - stretchiness - tension - relaxing metals at high temperatures - inert gas as spacer - the slippage of words, the idea that atoms have choice of where to go and always framing the science into the 'real' world. enjoying watching the craft of nanoscience, it's hands-on-ness. thinking about the scale of the graphs when monitoring and presenting evidence and how it can alter perception.

Sunday, 6 November 2016


Friday's practical - gas absorption - appeared to involve very expensive equipment that was very fragile. Apart from the obvious (the ability through building metal-organic frameworks to calculate the surface area of solid matter at a very small level) my lack of ability to engage in what was happening within the technical and expensive grey boxes meant that I started to almost start to observe from another part of my brain - I watched the demonstrator 'explain' some of the overarching concepts, processes and outcomes with hand gestures - I became mesmerised by this and an idea started to manifest itself - a thought .... would it be possible to use the hand gestures that explain scientific theories as a way or system to manipulate or handle the objects I am going to make?
This would enable me to explore the relationship between a thought, a gesture and the tools used for thinking.

The rigorous nature of optimisation is compelling - the complex relationship between the optimised moment and the notion of the beautiful and perfect - the unsaid notions of beauty and perfection - what makes something perfect? - Is there an excel spreadsheet somewhere containing the formula's that I can use to calculate this? like the use of BET isotherm to determine the surface area of a solid?

working within stability - the spaces that are created to work in have super restrictions. The limitations are important to enable the focus to be on material not on the space - this space is often noisy and needs to be made to seem quieter.
the specific methodologies around particular science activities at this level appears to be highly complex - just the idea of how the stages in the process were developed - from the mixing of a particular metal and linker to the machinery created to monitor seems both incredibly focused and random (I understand that this latter feeling is due to my lack of knowledge). the number of options seem limitless and possibilities are afforded by  the level of knowledge of material properties - this is the key.
and afterwards.....
searching for the right answer which appears to be found within balance - the creation of beautiful arcs from the data by focused reduction and data manipulating/handling.

and then again words and their meanings became filtered - my lack of understanding meant that their meanings were translated, changed enabling a reread/rethought. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016


thinking about the language of science especially about the microscope - I love that the area where specimens are placed to observe is called the stage - there are many parallels around the spaces created for both science and art to be acted out and observed - the white space of the white cube feels very similar to the controlled spaces created to make science in. here are some more specimens from that place.  

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


todays practical was confocal microscopy - looking at the microbial community - the dynamics of species and their interrelationships - wow - my notes boil down to the idea of chemical logic - there is a knowledge that a material has a functionality that at some level is understood - this functionality is used or exploited to explore the characteristics of that material or another material at a deeper (smaller) level - knowledge is used to make more knowledge, a form of leverage. I was struck by the mechanical nature of nature of the natural world.
seen under the microscope the images were really physical, realisable in the mind as what Science looks like - this was supported initially when creating the sample to observe by the use of glass wear, filters and the pipette. I spent a lot of the time in my mind translating the conversation into my world of cameras, focal length and aperture. The idea of digital and optical focus, weighing up the various tools to decide how to observe and measure - size versus detail. When using the 3D software to almost freeze the material in time it was like diving through space - as ever the idea of the gaps - the spaces in-between became interesting and that at the smallest level it always looks like the largest - space and the universe.  

I came away with the extraordinary idea that one could extrapolate the symbiotic activity of algae and bacteria towards a discussion around and within social science. The behaviour of microbial ecology could be used as models for human systems of activity - government, education, the organisation of any activity simple or complex -  the art of logistics........