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Vesna found the collaboration between herself as an artist and Gimzewski as a scientist to be quite natural. “He was very enthusiastic, and also very understandable,” she says. “A lot of times, science can be off-putting. You feel you need a translator. But Jim is very visual; the visuals he provided gave me a way to experience some of the ideas he was talking about.”

The core of their partnership, “Zero@wavefunction: nano dreams and nightmares,” premiered in August at the Biennial of Electronic Arts in Perth, Australia. To make the invisible nanoworld visible in a metaphorical sense, Vesna and Gimzewski, in a true collaboration based on their genuine interest in each other’s work, crossed the boundaries of their own disciplines to together create Buckyball Shadows, a playful projection of giant-sized, glowing, computer-generated buckyballs — ball-shaped carbon molecules reminiscent of a geodesic dome. Casting giant shadows against the wall, people can reach out to “touch” the images, which contract and move just as one can imagine molecules might when manipulated by a nanoscientist using a scanning tunneling microscope.

This key instrument, with its probe made of a single atom, allows nanoscientists to perceive the presence of atoms, not by sight, but by touch, says Gimzewski.

“Fingertips replace eyes in the nanoworld,” he says. “I hope these projects will give people a sense of the wonderment and interactivity we experience in science.”

http://notime.arts.ucla.edu/zerowave

— Cynthia Lee

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