Tag Archives: Nicholas Bigelow

2015 daguerreotype exhibit follows problematic 2005 show

In 2005, curators had a horrifying experience when historical images (daguerreotypes) were deteriorating as the 150-year old images were being displayed in an exhibit titled “Young America.” Some 25 of the photographs were affected, five of them sustaining critical damage. The debacle occasioned a research project involving conservators, physicists, and nanotechnology (see my Jan. 10, 2013 posting for more about the 2005 exhibit and resulting research project).

A new daguerreotype exhibit currently taking place showcases the results of that research according to a Nov. 13, 2015 University of Rochester news release,

In 1839, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre unveiled one of the world’s first successful photographic mediums: the daguerreotype. The process transformed the human experience by providing a means to capture light and record people, places, and events. The University of Rochester is leading groundbreaking nanotechnology research that explores the extraordinary qualities of this photographic process. A new exhibition in Rush Rhees Library showcases the results of this research, while bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities. …

… From 2010-2014, a National Science Foundation grant supported nanotechnology research conducted by two University of Rochester scientists—Nicholas Bigelow, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Physics, and Ralph Wiegandt, visiting research scientist and conservator—who explored how environment impacts the survival of these unique, non-reproducible images. In addition to conservation science and cultural research, Bigelow and Wiegandt are also investigating ways in which the chemical and physical processes used to create daguerreotypes can influence modern nanofabrication and nanotechnology.

“The daguerreotype should be considered one of humankind’s most disruptive technological advances,” Bigelow and Wiegandt said. “Not only was it the first successful imaging medium, it was also the first truly engineered nanotechnology. The daguerreotype was a prescient catalyst to the ensuing cascade of discoveries in physics and chemistry over the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th.”

Blending the past with the future, the exhibition displays the first known daguerreotype of a Rochester graduating class (1853) alongside a 2015 daguerreotype of current University President Joel Seligman, created by Rochester daguerreotypist Irving Pobboravsky.

Both Bigelow and Wiegandt are mentioned in the 2013 posting describing the research project’s inception.

For anyone who’s in the area of New York state where the University of Rochester is located, the exhibit will run until February 29, 2016 in the Friedlander Lobby of Rush Rhees Library.  Plus, there’s this from the news release,

A special presentation about the scientific advances surrounding the daguerreotype and their relationship to cultural preservation will be led by Bigelow, Wiegandt, and Jim Kuhn, assistant dean for Special Collections and Preservation, on December 14 from 7-9 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library. For more information visit: http://www.library.rochester.edu/event/daguerreotype-exhibition or call (585).

There’s no indication that the special presentation will be livestreamed or recorded and made available at a later date.

American Assocation for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Chicago, Illinois (13 – 17 February 2014)

The 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will take place Feb. 13 – 17, 2014 in Chicago (one of my favourite places), Illinois. It’s always interesting to take a look at the programme and here’s a few of the items I found interesting,

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014  the AAAS has arranged a number of talks about ‘communicating science and, as usual, bloggers, etc. are confined to presenting under the rubric of social media:

9:00 AM-10:30 AM

Seminar: Communicating Science

11:00 AM-12:30 PM

Seminar: Communicating Science

Engaging with Social Media

To be more specific, here’s the list of presenters for the ‘Journalist’ talk (Note: I have removed links),

Cornelia Dean, The New York Times and Brown University
Carl Zimmer, Independent Science Journalist [Note: Zimmer writes for the NY Times and other prestigious print publications, as well as, being a blogger]

Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal

David Baron, Public Radio International

Paula Apsell, NOVA [science program on the US PBS {Public Broadcasting Service} network)

[emphases mine]

Meanwhile, we have this for social media,

Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin
Kim Cobb, University of Georgia
Navigating the Science-Social Media Space: Pitfalls and Opportunities
Danielle N. Lee, Cornell University
Raising STEM Awareness Among Under-Served and Under-Represented Audiences
Maggie Koerth-Baker, BoingBoing.net
What’s the Point of Social Media?

It’s nice to see Danielle N. Lee as one of the presenters. Her blog, The Urban Scientist is on the Scientific American blog network (she also featured as a whistle blower and more in the 2013 science blogging scandals [my first post on the topic was Oct. 18, 2013 towards the end of the scandals and I mused on the scandals and discussed  gender in an end-of-year Dec. 31, 2013 posting ) and there’s of course, someone representing BoingBoing, an online publisher,which was conceptualized as a magazine and has now evolved into a group blog.

My basic thesis is that blogs and such are emerging as part of the science media landscape and the types of sessions which isolate bloggers, etc.  do not acknowledge that fact. Yes, it’s true that Zimmer blogs but I can guarantee that the discussion will revolve exclusively around his high profile publishers such as the NY Times and how the participants can get their stories in front of mainstream media journalists and as for the social media session that’s going to focus on how scientists can directly approach their publics.

Moving on, there’s a nanotechnology aspect to the following presentation, although you’d never guess it from the title,

 Preserving Our Cultural Heritage: Science in the Service of Art
Friday, 14 February 2014: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Acapulco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
In 2009 a group of chemists and materials scientists from a wide range of institutions came together for a workshop on “Chemistry and Materials Research at the Interface Between Science and Art,” co-sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation. One of the workshop conclusions was that scientists in academia need to be encouraged to collaborate with their peers in cultural heritage institutions, to both increase scientist knowledge of this heritage and also to develop the necessary tools and apply the science to be able to preserve it. The session covers different collaborations that are ongoing in this area, relating to different mediums of art and different technologies that can be applied. The session will also include recent results and successes in this process, both in better understanding of materials as well as in developments for their conservation. The discussion will also address what is needed for collaborations like this to continue to flourish and grow.

One doesn’t get to the ‘nano’ part until looking at the speakers’ list (Note: Links have been removed),

Nicholas Bigelow, University of Rochester
Leonor Sierra, University of Rochester
Nicholas Bigelow, University of Rochester
21st Century Tools for 19th Century Nanotechnology ‘[emphasis mine]
Richard Van Duyne, Northwestern University
Detecting Organic Dyestuffs in Art with SERS
Anikó Bezur, Yale University
Aiming for a Perfect Match: Pairing Collections-Based Scientific Research with Academia

The 19th Century nanotechnology referred to in the title of Biglow’s talk is the daggeureotype (a type of 19th century photographic process) which gained a lot of attention in the last few years when a display of irreplaceable pieces started showing signs of visible (25 pieces) and catastrophic (five pieces) deterioration. There’s more about this fascinating story in my Jan. 10, 2013 posting.

Saturday, Feb.15, 2014, Alan Alda will be at the meeting as a plenary speaker,

Alan Alda: Getting Beyond a Blind Date with Science
Plenary Lecture
Saturday, 15 February 2014: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Imperial Ballroom (Fairmont Chicago)
Alan Alda is an actor, writer, director, and visiting professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he helps current and future scientists learn to communicate more clearly and vividly with the public. In collaboration with theater arts faculty at Stony Brook, he is pioneering the use of improvisational theater exercises to help scientists connect more directly with people outside their field. Alda is best known for his award-winning work in movies, theater, and television, but he also has a distinguished record in the public communication of science. For 13 years he hosted the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, which he has called “the best thing I ever did in front of a camera.” After interviewing hundreds of scientists around the world, he became convinced that many researchers have wonderful stories but need to learn how to tell them better. That realization inspired the creation of Stony Brook’s multidisciplinary Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in 2009.

The last two sessions I’m highlighting are on standard nanotechnology topics. On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, there’s

Nanoelectronics for Renewable Energy: How Nanoscale Innovations Address Global Needs
Sunday, 16 February 2014: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Regency B (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Sometimes it’s possible to get a handle on the world’s biggest problems by thinking creatively on a very small scale—and advances in the rapidly maturing field of nanoelectronics prove it. Innovations that hold promise for broader and faster adoption of renewable energy technologies loom large against a backdrop of population growth, rapid industrialization in developing countries, and initiatives to decrease reliance on both fossil fuels and nuclear power. In this symposium, researchers from the U.S. and Europe will review the latest progress in nanoelectronics for renewable energy across a series of interrelated programs. For instance, new manufacturing approaches such as nanoimprinting, nanotransfer, and spray-on fabrication of organic semiconductors not only point the way toward low-cost production of large-scale electronics such as solar panels, they also enable and inspire novel nanoelectronic device designs. These device-level innovations range from ultrasensitive molecular sensors to nanomagnet logic circuits, and they are of particular interest in solar energy applications. Many lines of research appear to be converging on nanostructure-based solar cells that will be vastly more efficient in capturing sunlight (or even heat) and converting it to electrical power. In addition to outlining these promising paths toward higher-efficiency, lower-cost photovoltaics, the symposium will highlight some of the remaining hurdles, including needed advances in fundamental science.
Patrick Regan, Technical University Munich
William Gilroy, University of Notre Dame
and Hillary Sanctuary, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)

On Monday, Feb. 17, 2014,  nanotechnology features in the final plenary session,

John A. Rogers: Stretchy Electronics That Dissolve in Your Body
Plenary Lecture
Monday, 17 February 2014: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM
Imperial Ballroom (Fairmont Chicago)
Dr. John Rogers’ research includes fundamental and applied aspects of nano- and molecular scale fabrication. He also studies materials and patterning techniques for unusual electronic and photonic devices, with an emphasis on bio-integrated and bio-inspired systems. He received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. He has published more than 350 papers and is an inventor on over 80 patents and patent applications, many of which are licensed or in active use by large companies and startups that he co-founded. He previously worked for Bell Laboratories as director of its research program in condensed matter physics. He has received recognition including a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense, the George Smith Award from IEEE, the Robert Henry Thurston Award from American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Mid-Career Researcher Award from Materials Research Society, the Leo Hendrick Baekeland Award from the American Chemical Society, and the Daniel Drucker Eminent Faculty Award from the University of Illinois.
John Rogers, Ph. D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

You can find out more about registration and public events for the AAAS 2014 annual meeting here.

Nicholas Bigelow, University of Rochester
Leonor Sierra, University of Rochester
Nicholas Bigelow, University of Rochester
21st Century Tools for 19th Century Nanotechnology

Richard Van Duyne, Northwestern University
Detecting Organic Dyestuffs in Art with SERS

Anikó Bezur, Yale University
Aiming for a Perfect Match: Pairing Collections-Based Scientific Research with Academia

Daguerreotypes*, history, and nanoengineering

Can you imagine anything more horrifying for a curator at a museum to open a show with priceless examples of an art that is no longer practiced to find that the materials are deteriorating as you watch? Daniel Grushkin in his Dec. 12, 2012 article [full article is behind a paywall, link to preview] for Scientific American magazine sporting two titles: The Case of the Disappearing Daguerreotypes or Nano-Scientists Attempt to Save Disintegrating Artworks describes just what happened at the International Center of Photography’s (based in New York City) “Young America” exhibit of dageurreotypes in 2005 and the aftermath,

… These were the works of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, the Rembrandts of daguerreotypy — the first practical form of photography. A demure bride in white silk crepe fingered her ribbons; the stern and haughty statesman Daniel Webster glared from behind his brow. When the “Young America” exhibit opened in 2005, its 150-year-old images captured American icons at a time when the nation was transitioning from adolescence into a world power. “Each picture glows on the wall like a stone in a mood ring,” the New York Times raved in its review.

Yet after a month on exhibit, the silver plate-bound images began to degrade. … By the end of the two-and-a-half-month show, 25 daguerreotypes had been damaged, five of them critically.

Where daguerreotypes are concerned there is only an original as copying the image is not possible,

The vanishing images suggested that any daguerreotype could spontaneously crumble. Collectors feared they would lose their million-dollar collections. Conservators feared these windows into the 19th century might simply cloud over.

Taking action led to some unexpected places,

“I’ve been a conservator for nearly 30 years, and this object stands apart,” he [Ralph Wiegandt, a conservator at Eastman House who had designed the lighting and cases for the “Young America” exhibit] says. “Its entire meaning is in a molecular layer or two.” Because of the complex physics on the silver surface of daguerreotypes, the crisis called for an unlikely collaboration.

Wiegandt needed to partner with physicists. And in the course of their quest to understand the fading images, he and his partners would uncover surprising new molecular effects at the nanoscale. In doing so, the accidental relics of a 150-year-old technology may perhaps inspire the future of engineering.

Here’s what the researchers (Wiegandt and Nicholas Bigelow, physics and astronomy department chair at the University of Rochester) discovered,

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, a Parisian artist and showman, introduced the medium in 1839, after a decade of searching for a way to fix an image on a silver plate. One day, the story goes, he accidentally broke a thermometer and absently put it in a cabinet with his silver plates. The following day he found that the mercury vapor had somehow made the image permanent. Daguerre had discovered the chemistry of image making. “What was really going on was self-assembling nano-structures,” Bigelow says. “Whether or not he meant to, he was doing nanoengineering.”

As noted in Grushkin’s article there are many reasons why daguerreotypes are fragile from above and, surprisingly, below,

… In collaboration with researchers at Kodak, Wiegandt’s team punched a 30-micron-long rectangle through the surface of sample daguerreotypes using a focused ion beam. They then examined the layers in cross section. To their surprise, they saw 300-nanometer-wide voids just under the surface — a network of tunnels running just beneath the image.

The voids could explain why some of the daguerreotypes in the exhibit showed damage. Over the course of 150 years chlorine or other contaminants might have seeped into these voids. When the pictures went on display, light may have triggered subsurface reactions between the chlorine and silver, causing the images to sprout spots from below.

Unfortunately, the damage cannot be repaired but Wiegandt and his colleagues will be able to use the information to help preserve remaining daguerreotypes. Grushkin’s article does not speculate about how these discoveries might be applied to nanoscale engineering but I imagine that would entail another article.

*’Dageurreotypes’ corrected to ‘Daguerreotypes’ on Nov. 16, 2015.