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

Art / PhotobookPopular Science

By: Felice Frankel and GM Whitesides

160 pages, 58 colour illustrations

Harvard University Press

Paperback | Mar 2008 | #178233 | ISBN-13: 9780674026889
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £22.95 $28/€26 approx

About this book

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.

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. Newsweek 19971103 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. New Yorker 19980112 An eye-opening book. Harvard Magazine 19970701 The rich photographs and spare text of this engaging effort by, respectively, photographer Frankel and Harvard chemistry professor Whitesides rely on light and surfaces, and the way they interact, to describe the physics of the everyday on the micro level. Thus, the reader learns of the molecular-level travails of drops of water, colonies of yeast, rust, microelectrodes, prismatic soap bubbles, holographs, and such and how these phenomena constrains or advance the cause of modern technologies. Frankel's iridescent photos, from the Dali-esque Ferrofluid to the blue-and-white chaos of Mechanical Failure of a Thin Film, are beautiful, quiet, and often bizarre. Whitesides's writing, though brief, has a pleasant, poetic heft to it. -- Robert C. Ballou Library Journal 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 Science 19980123 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 Scientific American 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 Discover 19971101 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 Chemical and Engineering News 19980309 Up-close photographs of a wide range of objects and materials result in a spectacular volume of beautiful, often mysterious images. -- H. J. Kirchhoff Globe and Mail 20080712

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Felice Frankel is Senior Research Fellow at the Initiative in Innovative Computing, Harvard University. George M. Whitesides is Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University.

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