Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
Center for Philosophy of Science of the University of Lisbon



Imag(in)ing the Nano-scale: Interactions between Science and Art
Head: Rasmus Tore Slaattelid

Projecto Internacional

em parceria com o Centre for the Studies of the Sciences and Humanities - University of Bergen





The last ten years has seen an explosive development in the potentially revolutionary field of nano-scale sciences and technologies (NST). While advances in NST have been accompanied by a considerable amount of research into social, ethical and legal aspects, research-based knowledge of cultural dimensions remains marginal. This proposal is meant as a contribution to filling this knowledge gap. This proposal describes a collaborative research project in which the relationship between art and science is explored through the case study of visualizing the nano-scale. The nano-scale (1 nanometre = 1 billionth of a metre) represents the scale of atoms and small molecules and therefore falls well beyond normal sensory perception. However, an ever increasing range of images of the nano world are emerging, both in the field of nanoscience and in the nascent field of nanoart. The aesthetic practice of rendering the nano-scale perceptible to our senses is being performed and informed by different forms of knowledge, which span C. P Snow's "two cultures" of the sciences and the humanities. However, due to the inaccessibility of this scale to direct sensory perception, all imaging done in the field involves some degree of creative imagining. In this project we therefore employ the term "imag(in)ing" to capture what we see as the dual nature of this process. This research project focuses on the aesthetic practice of imag(in)ing the nanoscale and investigates three key, interrelated, questions: 1. How is the nano-scale being made visible across the visual arts and the sciences? 2. What becomes invisible (or backgrounded) in particular imag(in)ings of the nano-scale? and 3. How are different imag(in)ings of the nano-scale assigned value across communities of art and science, both on their own and in interaction?



  Membros efectivos
Core team

Alexei Grinbaum
Astrid Schwartz
Brigitte Nerlich
Catarina Pombo Nabais
Chris Toumey
Chris Robinson
Fern Wickson
Liv Hausken
Olga Pombo
Rasmus Slaattelid - head
Rune Nydal
Sacha Loeve
Vincent Bontems



  • Workshop "Imag(in)ing the Nanoscale", Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, 5-6 Outubro, 2009 (See Program)
  • Souvenirs from the nanoworld: on the visual rhetoric of nano-images. Conferência de Rasmus Tore Slaattelid (Univ. Bergen, Noruega) no âmbito do Projecto A Imagem na Ciência e na Arte. 06 Julho 2010 - FCUL, Sala 8.2.03, 15h


  Bibliography of literature relating to images in nanoscience/technology
(collated by Brigitte Nerlich and Chris Toumey)

Allamel-Raffin, C. (2006). La complexité des images scientifiques. Ce que la sémiotique de l'image nous apprend sur l'objectivité scientifique. Communication et langages 149, 97-111.

Allouche, S. (2008). Des nanotechnologies et des hommes, n.º 62 Micro & Nano de la Revue Alliage (culture, science, technique), printemps 2008, sous la direction de Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond, p. 32-34.[http://www.tribunes.com/tribune/alliage/accueil.htm] Le numéro comprend une série d'articles provenant de la journée d'études... Anticipation, extrapolation, spéculation, fiction... ex.: les nanotechnologies, organisée le 11 avril 2005 dans le cadre de l'atelier SFPhi (Sciences, Fictions, Philosophie)]

Andréolle, D. (2009). Science for dummies? Media discourse and representations of the "nanorevolution". ILCEA: Revue de l'Institut des langues et cultures d'Europe et d'Amérique: http://ilcea.revues.org/index235.html

Baigrie, B. S. ed. (1996). Picturing Knowledge: Historical and philosophical problems concerning the use of art in science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Batt, C. A. (2008). Thinking small is not easy. Nature Nanotechnology 3, 121-122: doi:10.1038/nnano.2008.52.

Bontems, Vincent (2008). L'imaginaire des nanotechnologies : Nanomonde ou nanocosme ? Etudes, Tome 408, n°4, 2008.

Chang, T. (2006) Nanorevolution: Implications for the Artist. In Nanotechnology: Societal Implications – Individual Perspectives, edited by M. Roco & W. Bainbridge (Arlington VA: National Science Foundation), pp. 121-126.

Collins, G. P. (2007). Shamans of Small. Scientific American Reports. Special edition on nanotechnology 17(3), September 2007: 80-88. [NOTE: this article originally appeared in the September 2001 Scientific American special issue on nanotech.]

Daston, L. & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. Brooklyn NY: Zone Books.

Eigler, D.M. and Schweizer, E.K. (1990). Positioning single atoms with a scanning tunnelling microscope, Nature, 344, 524–526.

Elkins, J. (2008). Six Stories from the End of Representation: Images in Painting, Photography, Astronomy, Microscopy, Particle Physics, and Quantum Mechanics, 1980–2000. Stanford University Press.

Fogelberg, H. and Glimell, H. (2003). Bringing Visibility to the Invisible: Towards a Social Understanding of Nanotechnology, Göteborg: Göteborg University Press.

Frankel, F. and G. M. Whitesides (1997). On the Surface of Things: Images of the Extraordinary in Science. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Frankel, F. (2002). Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image. Harvard University Press.

Frankel, F. (2001). Envisioning and Communicating Nanotechnology to the Public. In Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, ed. by M. Roco & W. Bainbridge (Drdrecht: Kluwer), pp. 324-327.

Frankel, F. (2004). The power of the ‘pretty picture'. Nature Materials 3, 417-419. doi:10.1038/nmat1166.

Frankel, F. (2005). Sightings. American Scientist, 93(3), May-June 2005: http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/42560.
Frankel, F. (2008). Imaging the unseen. Review of James Elkins (2008). Six Stories from the End of Representation: Images in Painting, Photography, Astronomy, Microscopy, Particle Physics, and Quantum Mechanics, 1980–2000. Nature 452:697-698.

Gimzewski, J. and Vesna,V. (2003). The nanomeme syndrome: blurring of fact and fiction in the construction of new science, Technoetic Arts Journal, 1, available at: http://vv.arts.ucla.edu/ publications/publications_frameset.htm

Goodsell, D. S. (2006). Seeing the nanocscale. Nanotoday 1(3), 44-49.

Grinbaum, A. Bontems, V., & Klein, E. (2008). Nanosciences : les enjeux du débat. Le Débat, janvier-février 2008, pp, 65-79.

Hanson, V. L. (2005, ms.) Nanotechnology's molecular landscapes: Re-seeing the trope of invisible worlds. http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/ZIF/FG/2006Application/PDF/Hanson_talk.pdf

Hayles, N.K. (ed.) (2004). Nanoculture: Implications of the New Technoscience, Bristol, UK: Intellect Books.<

Hessenbruch, A. (2006). Beyond Truth: Pleasure of Nanofutures. In Joachim Schummer and Davis Baird, eds., Nanotechnology Challenges: Implications for Philosophy, Ethics and Society, London: World Scientific Publishing, 357-382.

Hoffmann, R. (2007). Blow-up: Images from the nano-world challenge viewers thinking. American Scientist. January-February: see also: http://www.roaldhoffmann.com/pn/modules/Downloads/docs/blow_up.pdf

Hvidtfelt Nielsen, K. (2008) Nanotech, Blur and Tragedy in Recent Artworks by Gerhard Richter. Leonardo, Vol. 41, No. 5, pp. 484-492.

Jones, R. (2004). The future of nanotechnology. Physicsweb http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/17/8/7 and: http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=193
Kemp, M. (2007a) Science in culture. Nature 430, 508(29 July 2004).

Kemp, M. (2007b). The molecular landscape. Nature (15 February), 445: 714.

KjØlberg, K. L. and Wickson, F. (eds.) (2009). Nano meets Macro: Social perspectives on Nanoscale Sciences and Technologies. Stanford: Panstanford Publishing.

López, J. (2004). Bridging the Gaps: Science Fiction in Nanotechnology. Hyle: International Journal For Philosophy of Chemistry 1(2), 129-152. http://www.hyle.org/journal/issues/10-2/lopez.htm
Milburn, C. (2002). Nanotechnology in the age of posthuman engineering: science fiction as science. Configurations, 10, 261–295.

Milburn, C. (2005). Nanowarriors: Military Nanotechnology and Comic Books. Intertexts 9(1). Available as pdf.

Milburn, C. (2008). Atoms and avatars: Virtual Worlds as Massively‐Multiplayer Laboratories. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, 2(1): https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/SpontaneousGenerations/article/viewArticle/4895

Muldoon, C. (2002). Iconic images. Physics World, November 1: http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/11360;jsessionid=2C469407C06185E0394BB831024377CA.
Nerlich, B. (2005). From Nautilus to nanobo(a)ts: The visual construction of nanoscience. AZojono: Journal of Nanotechnology Online: http://www.azonano.com/Details.asp?ArticleID=1466
Nerlich, B. (2008). Powered by imagination: Nanobots in the Science Photo Library. Science as Culture 17(32), 269-292.
Nerlich, B. (in press). The Visual construction of nanoscience. Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Society. Edited by D. Guston and J. G. Golson. London etc.: Sage.

Nordman, A. (2004). New Space for Old Cosmologies. IEEE Technology & Society, Winter 2004, pp. 48-54.

Ottino, J.M. (2003). Is a Picture Worth 1,000 Words? Nature, 30 January 2003, 421:474-476.

Robinson, C. (2004). Images in NanoScience/Technology. Discovering the NanoScale, eds., D. Baird, A. Nordmann and J. Schummer. Amsterdam: IOS Press, 165-169. http://cms.ifs.tudarmstadt.de/fileadmin/phil/nano/robinson.pdf

Robinson, C. (2006). Chasing Science Culture. Leonardo, 39(3):186.

Schummer, J. (2003) Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry, Special issue of Hyle, (editor with Tami Spector): http://www.hyle.org/journal/issues/9-1/index.html
Schummer, J. (2006). Gestalt Switch in Molecular Image Perception: The Aesthetic Origin of Molecular Nanotechnology in Supramolecular Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 8(1), 53-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10698-005-3358-5
Schwarz, A.E. (2009). Escaping from limits to visions of space? In: S. Gammel & A. Ferrari (Eds.): Visionen der Nanotechnologie - Zur (Selbst-)Fiktionalisierung der Wissenschaft. Berlin: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft 2009.

Shinn, T. (2009). Forma, epistemologia e imagem nas nanociências, with Anne Marcovich, Scientiae Studia, São Paulo, 7(1) 41-62, 2009. http://www.scientiaestudia.org.br/revista/PDF/v7n1a02.pdf

Stafford, B. M. (2007). Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Toumey, C. (2005). Narratives for Nanotech: Anticipating Public Reactions to Nanotechnology. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 8(2), available at: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/SPT/v8n2/

Toumey, C. (2007). Cubism at the nanoscale. Nature Nanotechnology 2, 587–589: doi:10.1038/nnano.2007.310

Toumey, C. (2009). Truth and Beauty at the Nanoscale. Leonardo, April 2009, 42(2):151-155.

Vicens, J. (2007). Aesthetics in chemistry. Journal of Inclusion Phenomena and Macrocyclic Chemistry 58(3-4), 327-328: doi: 10.1007/s10847-006-9161-7

Whitesides, G. M. (2006). Travelogues from Liliput. American Scientist: http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/53118


Wickso Wickson, F. (2008). Narratives of Nature and Nanotechnology. Nature Nanotechnology 3(6): 313-315

Some Helpful Web Sites

hnology Now Art Gallery:

IBM Almaden Image Gallery [Donald Eigler's STM images, etc.]:

Yale University Nano Pic of the Day [large number of pictures, with good scientific reference information for each]:

Nano: poética de um Mundo Novo [click on photo gallery to see scenes of exhibit];

Foresight Institute Nanomedicine Art Gallery:

Foresight Institute's list of “other sites with Nanotechnology-related images” [NOTE: Lots of sites!]:

NanoArt [short films with really lovely visuals and matching soundtracks]:

Felice Frankel in action

Início / Home