Monday, December 17, 2007

Thomas Paul - Boundaryless Nanomorphologies

This paper investigates question of nanotechnological spatial boundaries by presenting the research gathered at the point of transition where the first atoms of skin meet the first atoms of gold. Boundaryless in the nano context means the opposite of having borders/boundaries, that develop an objectification of space.
Kate Marshall states that “The construction site of nanotechnology begins at the smallest level of the body and extends globally”. (Marshall 2004 p.157) The statement seeks to question; at what point do our bodies begin and how at atomic level do we define their boundaries? The borderless concept of transference that occurs at the body’s boundaries are an extension of the contemporary post human body. The space the body occupies and its humanistic boundaries can also be seen as being under threat through nanotechnologies. My investigation explores the architecture of our physical space at a nano level and our ability to comprehend the effects on scale and perception. Alfred Nordmann suggest that “This scientific way of relating to the cosmological image of nanotechnology abandons the claim of a privileged position for human being in a divine and externally fixed order”. (Nordmann 2004 p.50) As our preconceptions of space are reconfigured through the confrontation o!f Old World orders of spatiality via nanotechnologies the awareness of durational spatial boundaries is one of the most challenging study areas.
I will reference my own spatial investigation through the Midas project, which explores the space between at a Nano level creating a sonic visualisation of the transference occurring when humans touch a material. This research is achieved through the analysis of data recorded with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).
The research focuses on questions of what happens between the touch and touched? What is transferred between the two? How does one affect the other? At what point does one object end in space and the other begin? How do we conceive of this at a particle level?
How do we define the boundaries and who maintains these boundaries?
The Midas project research is based in collaboration with SymbioticA Lab, University of Western Australia and the Nanochemistry Research Institute, (NRI) Curtin University of Technology. The project investigates the trans-mediational space between skin and gold’s surface. The collaboration enabled me to gather data of the activity of a skin cell’s atoms when touched with gold. The recorded data gathered from the AFM force spectroscopy cantilever as it touches the cell is picking up the surface vibrations. (In a low-noise environment, the AFM has the sensitivity to measure local nanoscale motion of cells. Local Nanomechanical Motion of the Cell Wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Andrew E. Pelling, Sadaf Sehati, Edith B. Gralla, Joan S. Valentine, James K. Gimzewski * Science 20 August 2004: Vol. 305. no. 5687, pp. 1147 – 1150 DOI: 10.1126/science.1097640
These vibrations are then translated into sounds files to use as the main resource in the generation of a sonic installation. The Midas project makes the infinitely small, audible and palpable. The paper highlights the infinite smallness and the extent that our perception of scale is of major importance in defining humanity.
Marshall, K. (2004). Atomizing the Risk Technology. Nanoculture Implications to the New Technoscience. N. K. Hayles. Bristol, Intellect Books.
Nordmann, A. (2004) Nanotechnology's worldview: new space for old cosmologies. Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE Volume, 48 - 54 DOI:

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