[ISEA2008] Victoria Vesna & James Gimzewski – Blue Morph: The Impending Surge of Nanotech and Human Metamorphosis



This paper will discuss an art/science collaboration that uses nanoscale images and sounds derived from the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly as the overarching stage for the human creation of flying devices. The sounds are recorded by measuring motion of the pupa surface with an atomic force microscope (AFM) detection set-up as it transforms from one stage of development to another. The nanoscale patterns inherent to the butterfly wing are revealed by “feeling” the surface structure with AFM and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Although we always imagine butterflies as silent, colorful creatures, they in fact generate intense inaudible noise and the color visible to the human eye is not pigment but rather an optical illusion generated by the very precise surface arrangement of the biomaterial which produces structural color via this nano patterning.

The most striking realization that the measurement of the sound of metamorphosis reveals is the fact that change does not happen gradually, it happens in surges followed by relative stillness. This prompts one to think of changes in consciousness of humanity in relation of major events. One could analyze personal events in terms of bursts – major events of life and death that change the course of your perception. To make this point we choose to remain within the 20th century and analyze events that had a major impact in the social and cultural sphere. Since we are using the metamorphosis of the butterfly as a metaphor and to further narrow our analysis that will lead us to the current development of nanotechnology, we will focus on the flying machines and objects. How did we as a humanity in the past one hundred years metamorphosize from no flying objects to air busses, rockets and satellites?

It is immediately clear that these surges in human history are directly related to major world wars that promoted faster innovation and development of (killing) machines which in turn created much destruction and death to be followed by rebuilding, shift in political powers and peaceful use of technologies developed. We analyze these patterns of surges and use the vibrations of the butterfly metamorphosis as the metaphor that connects the art and science of imagination and flight of spirit.



Victoria Vesna Biography

James Gimzewski Biography

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