“It is the largest thing we have ever built,” says Whitesides, “and we have assembled it from transistors–the smallest things we know how to make. It is a chrysalis we are forming around the planet…a table where we sit to gossip, a suq where we buy and sell; a shadowy corner for planning mischief; a library holding the entire world’s information; a friend, a game, a matchmaker, a psychiatrist, an erotic dream, a babysitter, a teacher, a spy….The best and worst and most ordinary of us reflected–and perhaps distorted–in a silvery fog of bits.”
–George Whitesides describing the Internet, in No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale.
There’s a great review of George Whitesides’ and Felice Frankel’s new book, No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale, in the Jan/Feb issue of Harvard Magazine. It’s definitely worth a look, not least because it’s accompanied by about a dozen beautiful photos. (I haven’t seen the book myself, but I have On the Surface of Things, Frankel’s previous book, and it’s lovely.)
The image at the top of the post is by Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University. B. Pokroy et al., from “Self-Organization of a Mesoscale Bristle into Ordered, Hierarchical Helical Assemblies,” Science 323 (2009): 237-240.