"The Edge of the Rainbow," by Irene Tsai, polymer science and engineering.
Ordinary light is made up of light of many different colors. You can see these colors if you bounce the light of a thin film on a highly reflective surface. Oil slicks show this effect, where you see a whole spectrum of colors that result from the light reflecting off the surface of the oil and whatever is underneath. Here, a thin polymer film is receding across a highly reflective silicon substrate, leaving behind small droplets in its wake. The different colors tell you the thickness of the film, and, as you can see, it changes as you go across the film. The droplets form because the polymer doesn't like the surface and tries to bead up, just like water on a nonstick pan.
This image was included in an exhibit titled "VISUAL: Ventures in Science Using Art Laboratory," shown at the National Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Arlington, Va., April 2006 through June 2007, as part of The Art of Science Project. The Art of Science Project was conceived and implemented by a cross-directorate committee of NSF staff. Its purpose is to bring to NSF, original works of art that visually explore the connections between artistic and scientific expression. (Date of Image: 2000-2006) [One of 13 related images. See Next Image.]
More about "VISUAL: Ventures in Science Using Art Laboratory"
Just as beauty lies in the natural world, it also lies in the natural phenomena that scientists capture every day in the experiments that bring them closer to proving scientific theory. VISUAL, an outreach effort of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Polymers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (an NSF materials research center), attempts to bring the two worlds of art and science together, not only to allow people to discover the beauty of this scientific imagery, but to inspire a wider range of interest in science through the visual arts. This effort has resulted in programs that use visual arts to promote materials science research on polymers for students in grades K to 12, as well as to the general public. These captivating images, each a direct result from research conducted on the UMass Amherst campus, have been displayed throughout the community. From exhibitions at local museums to displays at the public library and the department of motor vehicles, VISUAL reaches many sectors of the community, exposing people to materials science and educating them about the research happening in their own backyard.
The core mission of the VISUAL program is expressed in the simple maxim, "the eye is not satisfied at seeing." The beauty of the imagery draws viewers to look more closely at the image, inspiring them to want to know more. Thus begins the inquiry-based journey of learning about the origin of the image and the means by which it was captured. This link between the image and scientific understanding distinguishes VISUAL from other image-based programs. Accompanying each image is a non-technical explanation about the science underlying the image and the methods used to obtain the result, as well as a potential application of the science. By conveying the science in common, understandable terms, the scientist imparts to the viewer an appreciation of the importance of the science, in addition to the beauty of the image. [This research was supported in part by an NSF CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development Program) award, DMR 03-49078.]