Annie Bananie en Europe

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Art in scientific research, part 2

The fact that I use AFM a lot at work is obvious. Some colleagues joke around (or maybe it wasn’t a joke) and say that whenever I’m in the lab, I’m ALWAYS on the AFM, and that was quite true for a period of time. AFM is such a useful scientific technique for my field of research, yet it can get SO DAMN FRUSTRATING sometimes. You might spend half a day calibrating the apparatus and get a weak signal without any useful data on any given day, but when the AFM is in a good mood, you turn it on and BOOM – sweet, sweet data. And data is like food and water in academia – publish or perish, and without data, be ready to perish.

I’m not going to explain the nitty-gritty details about how an AFM (which by the way stands for atomic force microscopy) works and how you can get funky information about the composition, elasticity, roughness, force, etc. of a surface. It is a pretty neat technique that basically allows you to visualize a surface at the nano-scale…i.e. very, very, very small…

…but the point is you get pretty pictures. Maybe not exactly what you expected to see or wanted to get, but it’s art, doubtlessly. Sometimes images containing useful data are actually those that look quite plain and boring, but in the process of acquiring those images, you end up with some unexpected “noise” that is rather…interesting, shall we say. I’ve already shown you some of them in part 1, and since then I’ve gotten many more scans that are worthy of being in my “scientific art” collection. Let’s see whether your interpretation of the following images agrees with mine 😉

 
This is really one of my favourites – a nano-turtle (left)! Well, zoom out a bit and you can actually see a family of turtles (right) – the father, the mother, and the son 🙂 Indeed I have some friends who are crazy about turtles and they would be happy to know that turtles are taking over the world…even the microscopic world of nanotechnology!

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