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Scientists read comics, watch tv, and more

Page history last edited by frogheart@... 15 years, 5 months ago

Sometimes scientists use a pop culture reference or metaphor to convey their information, even if they have to stretchthe  metaphor to do it.



In describing work which explores adhesive forces, Professor Nicola Pugno, engineer and physicist at Polytechnic of Turin in Italy, used Spiderman as an analogy saying, "With the idea for adhesion now in place, there are a number of other mechanics that need addressing before the Spiderman suit can become a reality."


The scientist and his colleagues first solved the mystery about how spiders and geckos can stick to walls and ceilings. They concluded that van der Waals forces--a weak attraction that molecules have for each other (for more information about adhesion at the nanoscale, under Jump joints, click on Sticky and fast)--was the secret behind the creatures' sticking abilities. For example, the tiny hairs on a spider's feet attract molecules to a surface (even a glass surface) which act like weak magnets allowing the spider to exploit the adhesive quality while muscular strength can be used to break the attraction (detach), allowing the spider to climb up walls and move across ceilings while upside down.


With their theory established, Pugno and his colleagues are working on applications. They are looking at carbon nanotube-based technology to develop molecular hooks and loops in the manner of velcro. They have yet to figure out how to make the 'molecular velcro' self-cleaning and water resistant like spiders' and geckos' feet. After all, you don't want the 'molecular velcro' to clog just as you're crawling on the outside of your spaceship while orbiting Mars.[1]


Invisibility cloaks

While an article about Michael Bookstaller's and Krzysztof Matyjacszewski's work referenced J.K. Rowling's wizard, Harry Potter, and his cloak of invisibility, one shouldn't forget the Star Trek science fiction series of television programmes that regularly featured Romulans and a cloaking device which rendered their space ships invisible. The notion of an invisible presence whether a ghost, a god, an angel, or a human with a cloaking device has long been popular.


Carnegie Mellon University researchers, Bookstaller and Matyjacszewski, demonstrated that by controlling the size of a nanoparticle they could 'shrink' the visible size without affecting the real size.[2] They do seem to have stretched the 'invisibility' metaphor just a bit.


Jump back

Scientists play too


Jump joints

Sticky and fast


Jump points

Scientists eat junk food

Scientists get fashionable

Scientists get literary

Scientists get musical

Scientists get virtual

Scientists get whimsical


  1. Science Daily (August 30, 2007) Physicists Have Found The Formula For A Spider Suit. [Online article] (Accessed August 31, 2007 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829090146.htm
  2. AZoNano.com (March 7, 2008) Aerospace to Cosmetics Will Benefit From Harry Potter Inspired Nanotechnology Breakthrough of Invisibility Cloak for Nanoparticles. [Online news release] (Accessed March 7, 2008 from http://www.azonano.com/news.asp?newsID=6029)

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