Scientists seem to have all the fun. They get to play with nano-bubbles, nanocrystals and measure things in nano-meters – the words alone are mind candy. If you have young children, explaining objects of ordinary size can be daunting. Take a walk with a three years old and the questions are endless. Why this, how that. But explain the Nano world to them? Nearly impossible, you say. But guess again.
It’s a Nano World (smaller than a spot on a ladybug) opens at Discovery Center September 21st and the newest BIG EVENT is about things VERY small. Think tinier than tiny, invisible-to-the-naked-eye small. This hands-on exhibit allows the 5 – 10 year old minds to fathom the beauty in all things small, and helps them understand that just because you cannot see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there! At Discovery Center, visitors will try out different strengths of magnifiers to study shells, rocks, fabric and more, see highly magnified photos of common objects, sort ‘cells’ in a cell sorter and measure themselves in nanometers. There will be sixteen stations for hands-on fun.
What is Nanoscience?
Nanoscience comes from the Greek “nanos” (or Latin “nanus”) meaning “dwarf” paired with the word “Science.” Nanoscience is the science of the small. In the metric system, the nano prefix refers to the 10-9 power, or one billionth, of any unit of measurement. A nanometer is a length of measurement equal to one billionth of a meter. For example, one strand of hair from your head is about 100,000 nanometers thick. Our ability to examine life within a tiny droplet has opened up an exciting new realm – one that has always been there – but that we are finally being able to see through the development of powerful new microscopes.
Why is Nanoscience suddenly a BIG DEAL?
Since the 1930’s, scientists have used scanning electron microscopes, the transmission electron microscope, and the field ion microscope. More recently, scientists have developed the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope which allow for imaging and then manipulating atoms at the nano level.
A few uses of Nanotechnology:
1 – New batteries are being developed using nano-materials. These new batteries will have much longer shelf-lives and recharge far faster than today’s batteries.
2 – Nanotechnology can make the production of fuels from low grade raw materials more economical and efficient..
3 – Medical Researchers are developing customized nanoparticles to deliver drugs directly to diseased cells in the body. When it’s perfected, this method should greatly reduce the harmful side-effects of treatments such as chemotherapy.
Scientists have fun doing research at the nano-scale, come visit the Discovery Center and have some fun yourselves! In the meantime, for a great Nanobot game online, go to DragonflyTV.
This traveling exhibit was created by Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York in partnership with the NanoBioTechcnology Center at Cornell University. Creation of the exhibit was funded by the National Science Foundation. Many thanks to the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation for sponsoring the exhibit which runs at Discovery Center Sept. 21 through January 6, 2014.
By Billie B. Little, Founding Director, Discovery Center