So, co-blogger Diandra was visiting over the weekend, and we ended up partying with UCLA physicist David Saltzberg -- also known as the "Neutrino Whisperer," not to mention the tech consultant for The Big Bang Theory. (Check out his brand new blog about the science behind each episode: "The Big Blog Theory.") David made latkes in honor of Hanukkah, and we conducted an impromptu experiment with the high-tech wine decanting device he'd just received as a gift. Naturally, this required consuming much wine, because of course we had to have control experiments, too. The end result? No blog post this weekend, although Diandra's got a fantastic one in the works about our wine experiment. She just needs to "do a few more experiments." Wink, wink.
In the meantime, in Diandra's honor (she works with nanoparticles for cancer treatments in her day job, and swears adding "nano" to your grant proposal doubles your chances of funding), check out this fantastic nanoscale version of the world's tiniest snowman, courtesy of the UK's National Physical Laboratory. It's part of their "Educate and Explore" initiative, apparently. Not only is Nano-Frosty pretty darn cute and appealing to the public, but he's helping the NPL scientists fine-tune the cantilevers used in atomic force microscopes, among other practical research benefits.
This isn't the kind of holiday decoration you can make at home. According to their Website, Nano-Frosty measures about 1/5th the width of a human bair, and is made from two tin beads that are typically used to calibrate electron microscopes suffering from astigmatism. (Who knew microscopes could have astigmatism?) More details:.
The eyes and smile were milled using a focused ion beam, and the nose, which is under 1 µm wide (or 0.001 mm), is ion beam deposited platinum.
A nanomanipulation system was used to assemble the parts 'by hand' and platinum deposition was used to weld all elements together. The snowman is mounted on a silicon cantilever from an atomic force microscope whose sharp tip 'feels' surfaces creating topographic surveys at almost atomic scales.