Oct 11 2010



The objective was to create an interactive timeline for events in Nanotechnology. I wanted to tailor the content and design in the timeline to school children and people who have some idea about science but not much idea about nanotechnology. For interacting with the timeline, I wanted to make it more playful, so I started with this idea where users could interact with the nanobot on the timeline to navigate. Also, there was a section on the right of “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Why”, “Where” questions that show text or images on hover or clicking on them.

I got feedback from the critique in class, most important being that I had a lot of whitespace to handle. Using that and also trying out an idea I had initially of putting the timeline in perspective with either events in history or events in Space Exploration (a subtle hint of scale comparison) , I came up with the wireframes below.

Since the timeline on the right giving too small an affordance to the user, I decided to bring in the center, where it will be more clear and easy to use. This led me to think of the idea where the interactive timeline can be like a book which the user reads through. Hence, the events could also be navigated through using the tabs of the pages (something like tabs in a diary/journal). The timeline in the center could act as the divider of the pages in the journal.

An interesting problem with the design above was that , the timeline in the center was sort of an anamoly. The tabs would help the user flip through pages from left to right. However the timeline in the center contradicted this because the user has to move the nanobot vertically to interact with the timeline. Also in general we perceive the increase of time from left to right. So I decided to keep the design simple and removed the timeline with the nanobot in the center.

Also, I decided to have an equivalent event in the history of space/astronomy on the right page which would put the importance of the nanotechnology event in some perspective. This content would initially be grayed out and the user can click on the link to highlight it.

The final design looked like this

The link to the timeline – http://naduism.com/design/nano-timeline.html

Works Cited:

1) Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org

2) Timeline of Astronomy, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_astronomy

3) History of Nano http://www.discovernano.northwestern.edu/whatis/History/HistoryPopup

4) Nano Werk http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology/introduction/

5) Nature Nano August 2010 Volume 5 No 8 Cover Photo

6) The Foresight Institute, http://www.foresight.org/nano/applications.html

7) The Van Duyne Group, http://chemgroups.northwestern.edu/vanduyne/research_overview.htm

8) Camp Internet, Home School Campus, http://www.rain.org/homeschool/chemistry/img/atom1.jpg

9) Highlights in Chemical Technologies, http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/ChemTech/Volume/2008/05/nanoscale_detection.asp

10) IBM Research History Highlights, http://www.research.ibm.com/about/top_innovations_history.shtml

11) STM Image Gallery, http://www.almaden.ibm.com/vis/stm/gallery.html

12) Fraunhofer IKTS

13) TopNews.in http://www.topnews.in/artificial-black-hole-lab-generates-hawking-radiation-225323

14) C60 Molecule, iStockphoto.com/David Freund

15) Biological Applications of AFM, http://www.chembio.uoguelph.ca/educmat/chm729/afm/applicat.htm

16) PhysOrg http://www.physorg.com/news141920703.html

17) Astroprof’s page http://astroprofspage.com/archives/1100

18) StarChild, http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/whos_who_level2/gagarin.html

19) Nanotech Web, http://nanotechweb.org/cws/article/tech/32707

19) Nanotech Companies, http://nanotechcompanies.us

20) Thompson, Michael “Latro: Algae Powered Lamp” http://www.miket.co.uk/images/Latro.pdf

Sep 17 2010



Wikipedia defines Nanotechnology as

Nanotechnology is the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures sized between 1 to 100 nanometer in at least one dimension, and involves developing materials or devices within that size. Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale.

In this blog post and the next, we discuss and analyze some images related to Nanotechnology drawing from Roland Barthes’s “Rhetoric of the Image” (32-51) and Bruno Latour’s article: What is Iconoclash? Or is there a world beyond the image wars? in the book Iconoclash (16-40).



The first glance of the image above can make us think in different directions. We can imagine this to be an image for boots that can take the shape of our foot. Can these be socks? But then socks are not so sturdy. Can this sock be worn directly as we wear a shoe? This creates curiosity and we want to know more about the image. From the first glance one can understand that there is a person who is trying to put their foot in the sock-lookalike object.
Different interpretations can be drawn by the viewers of the image based on their cultural background and lifestyles. These different interpretations of the “signified”, (in this case the strange looking sock) is termed as Slippage.
The sock and the feet are objects in the image that we are familiar with. Also we know that socks do not have the property of being sturdy. All that is needed to understand this is the knowledge bound up with our perception. According to Barthes, this is a non-coded symbolic message (36)


The above image was the winning entry for the Nano Supermarket Contest held this year (Next Nature). This image communicates its central idea more clearly. The text supporting it enables it to do so. The text attached to the message serves 2 purposes –

  1. It tells us what the product is about – NANO SOCK
  2. What is particularly special about the product – Socks that are self dressing

The large font size of the caption NANO SOCK stands out when we see the image. This provides us the anchorage (to avoid slippage) to our interpretation of the image. We begin to understand that the Nano Sock is robust (as it can take shape and stand straight). Since it is robust, we do not need to bend over and wear it. That is a huge advantage for old or disabled population.

The Nano-Sock is designed in such a way that it eliminates the need for the user to bend over and put on his socks. Different types of nanotechnologies enable the sock to sense the human foot and pull itself up. The sock dresses itself (Next Nature).

The depiction of the sock resembles a shoe in this image. This is very useful in driving home the concept of self dressing. There is still some stability that we can attach to the person standing even though he/she is on one foot.
Awareness about Nanotechnology is growing (Maynard) and is is also facing some challenges (Devitt). As it happens with every emerging technology, people take time to become comfortable with it. Nanotechnology, in the example above, is shown as something that’s simple and calm. The image gives a feeling that such a technology can solve simple everyday problems. This impression would go a long way in helping people get over the initial skepticism and embrace nanotechnology.


Latour would argue that this image would not necessarily fall in the category of a “scientific image” since it is not a part of a series of images trying to explain a scientific observation. Also, as a standalone image, it pretty much conveys everything that it can, but no scientific observations.


Barthes, Roland “Rhetoric of the Image.” Image, Music, Text. Ed. and trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. 32-51

Latour, Bruno “What Is Iconoclash? Or Is There a World Beyond the Image Wars?”. ICONOCLASH: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art.

Nelson, Nicolas “Nano Sock” http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/nano-supermarket-%E2%80%93jury-report/”

Next Nature, “Nano Supermarket – Jury Report” http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/nano-supermarket-%E2%80%93jury-report/

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org

Devitt, Terry “Study: Religion colors Americans’ views of nanotechnology”, University of Wisconsin-Madison Newshttp://www.news.wisc.edu/14773

Maynard, Andrew “What do people think about synthetic biology?” Nanotechnology News Portalhttp://www.nanovip.com/what-do-people-think-about-synthetic-biology.html