On the Surface of Things: Images of the Extraordinary in Science

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Overview


Using innovative photographic technology, Felice Frankel finds startling abstract beauty on the surfaces of objects all around us. Chemist George M. Whitesides explains each photograph, describing why and how each of these phenomena occur.
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Editorial Reviews

Newsweek - Malcolm Jones Jr.
Rust is not photogenic. Neither is an oil slick. Or so we thought. But look closer. No, closer. Meet the unlikeliest bunch of stars who ever primped for a close-up: migrating bacteria, molded plastic microfabric, ferrofluid...What's remarkable, especially since [the authors] haven't watered down the science, is how accessible the book is. Frankel's photographs may look like trick shots, but in fact they're just a reality we're not used to looking at. She's searching for patterns--in wine coating a glass, in strands of DNA. She makes you look, and look again. And Whitesides is a great discovery: a scientist who writes well...We tend to think of surfaces as superficial, but for scientists surfaces are where things happen. Frankel shows us how beautiful those surfaces can be; Whitesides, how revelatory.
Science - Katrina L. Kelner
In this wondrous book, the artist Felice Frankel and the chemist George Whitesides meld photography and science to create poetry, of both the visual and literary sort. A series of spectacular photographs--many from the laboratory and many of very tiny objects--are paired with descriptions that capture both the science and the beauty of the images.
Scientific American - Corey S. Powell
Materials science bears an unfortunate reputation for dullness, dealing as it does with the stuff of everyday life. A ramble through the pages of this poetic volume, however, exposes the field's underlying luster. A checkerboard of water droplets, a shard of broken glass or a swatch of plastic fabric reveal themselves as things of colorful, otherworldly beauty. The words are no less remarkable, balancing weighty concepts from the laboratory with a literate tone as light and elegant as a spider's web. A wonderful achievement indeed.
Discover - Polly Shulman
Ordinary objects can reveal remarkable patterns under a microscope or hand lens. And even without magnification, they can look like something you've never seen before--at least, they can once photographer Felice Frankel gets hold of them. No less remarkable are her photos of things you really have never seen before: an elastomeric stamp for microprinting, say, which looks like a rainbow mosaic, or the colorful rectangles that turn out to be diamond electron emitters developed for fancy display screens. Frankel and her collaborator, Harvard chemist George M. Whitesides, scrutinize the simplest and most sophisticated materials, explaining what makes them look the way they do.
Chemical and Engineering News - James R. Heath
Felice Frankel and George M. Whitesides have produced a science book that is unlike any other I've seen...[Frankel] has an eye for framing the beauty of the materials, devices, and physical systems that she photographs.
Globe and Mail - H. J. Kirchhoff
Up-close photographs of a wide range of objects and materials result in a spectacular volume of beautiful, often mysterious images.
New Yorker
A stunning collection of fifty-eight photographs with accompanying text, in which the authors--a photographer and a chemist, respectively--have given us remarkable close-ups of the things we find, make, and destroy. Here is an electron micrograph of a compact disk, a surface on which 'The Well-Tempered Clavier' and Led Zeppelin 'are both ruby glitters.' Here, too, is Shakespeare's signature, all swoops and smudges, which can be dated by the rate of migration of iron present in the ink.
Scientific American

Materials science bears an unfortunate reputation for dullness, dealing as it does with the stuff of everyday life. A ramble through the pages of this poetic volume, however, exposes the field's underlying luster. A checkerboard of water droplets, a shard of broken glass or a swatch of plastic fabric reveal themselves as things of colorful, otherworldly beauty. The words are no less remarkable, balancing weighty concepts from the laboratory with a literate tone as light and elegant as a spider's web. A wonderful achievement indeed.
— Corey S. Powell

Newsweek

Rust is not photogenic. Neither is an oil slick. Or so we thought. But look closer. No, closer. Meet the unlikeliest bunch of stars who ever primped for a close-up: migrating bacteria, molded plastic microfabric, ferrofluid...What's remarkable, especially since [the authors] haven't watered down the science, is how accessible the book is. Frankel's photographs may look like trick shots, but in fact they're just a reality we're not used to looking at. She's searching for patterns—in wine coating a glass, in strands of DNA. She makes you look, and look again. And Whitesides is a great discovery: a scientist who writes well...We tend to think of surfaces as superficial, but for scientists surfaces are where things happen. Frankel shows us how beautiful those surfaces can be; Whitesides, how revelatory.
— Malcolm Jones Jr.

Science

In this wondrous book, the artist Felice Frankel and the chemist George Whitesides meld photography and science to create poetry, of both the visual and literary sort. A series of spectacular photographs—many from the laboratory and many of very tiny objects—are paired with descriptions that capture both the science and the beauty of the images.
— Katrina L. Kelner

Harvard Magazine
An eye-opening book.
Globe and Mail

Up-close photographs of a wide range of objects and materials result in a spectacular volume of beautiful, often mysterious images.
— H. J. Kirchhoff

Discover

Ordinary objects can reveal remarkable patterns under a microscope or hand lens. And even without magnification, they can look like something you've never seen before—at least, they can once photographer Felice Frankel gets hold of them. No less remarkable are her photos of things you really have never seen before: an elastomeric stamp for microprinting, say, which looks like a rainbow mosaic, or the colorful rectangles that turn out to be diamond electron emitters developed for fancy display screens. Frankel and her collaborator, Harvard chemist George M. Whitesides, scrutinize the simplest and most sophisticated materials, explaining what makes them look the way they do.
— Polly Shulman

Chemical and Engineering News

Felice Frankel and George M. Whitesides have produced a science book that is unlike any other I've seen...[Frankel] has an eye for framing the beauty of the materials, devices, and physical systems that she photographs.
— James R. Heath

Newsweek
Rust is not photogenic. Neither is an oil slick. Or so we thought. But look closer. No, closer. Meet the unlikeliest bunch of stars who ever primped for a close-up: migrating bacteria, molded plastic microfabric, ferrofluid...What's remarkable, especially since [the authors] haven't watered down the science, is how accessible the book is. Frankel's photographs may look like trick shots, but in fact they're just a reality we're not used to looking at. She's searching for patterns--in wine coating a glass, in strands of DNA. She makes you look, and look again. And Whitesides is a great discovery: a scientist who writes well...We tend to think of surfaces as superficial, but for scientists surfaces are where things happen. Frankel shows us how beautiful those surfaces can be; Whitesides, how revelatory.
— Malcolm Jones Jr.
Globe and Mail
Up-close photographs of a wide range of objects and materials result in a spectacular volume of beautiful, often mysterious images.
— H. J. Kirchhoff
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674026889
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Felice C. Frankel is Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.

George M. Whitesides is Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

introduction 7
the sizes of things 9
light 12
form 36
order 62
change 84
disorder 102
illusion 120
notes and readings 138
acknowledgments 158
index of entries 159
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