No small matter. Science on the nanoscale

No small matter. Science on the nanoscale

Felice Frankel and George Whitesides

Cambridge, US: Harvard University Press 2009 | 182pp | ?25.95 (HB)

ISBN 9780674035669

Reviewed by Mary Daniels


There have been many books published in recent years giving images in extremely high resolution, but this book is exceptional in that it combines insightful text by a master of nanotechnology, George Whitesides, with images by award winning photographer Felice Frankel. 

Whitesides’ excellent text, written in reasonably simple language, so that even a lay person can understand, takes the reader through a variety of subject areas from biochemistry and molecular biology to materials, energy and computers. He skillfully links the many subjects together and shows how the nanoscale is just an extension of higher scales - for example, he speaks of lichen on rocks which are clearly visible, the fine cracks which the lichen produces in rocks that it inhabits, and ends up speaking about the nanoscale structure at the tip of an individual crack.

Frankel, whose stunning images perfectly complement Whitesides’ text in this book, has worked closely with many scientists and engineers. She has published images in scientific journal articles and covers, and in various other publications for general audiences such as National Geographic Nature Science Angewandte Chemie Advanced MaterialsMaterials TodayPNASNewsweekScientific AmericanDiscover Magazine  and New Scientist,  among others.  

A visual index at the back of the book gives further information on the nature and source of each image. One criticism is that in some cases there is no indication as to the scale of the image or its important features - this would be useful especially to the lay reader encountering nano images for the first time. 

In this book we see the unseeable and at the same time understand the significance of what we are seeing. By reading and re-reading the text the reader can gain many new insights into the world of nanotechnology and can appreciate the relationship between the natural world and the scientific world of nanotechnology. 

This is a wonderful coffee table book with appeal to a very wide readership, and would make a perfect present for any inquiring mind. It certainly has the wow factor.