VSL:SCIENCE // YouTube for nanoscientists

Nanotation’s “What is ‘Nano’?” video contest collects dozens of very short videos about very small things; most are long on geeky charm.

“Introduction to Nanotechnology” informs us that a nano (or one billionth of a meter) is the distance your fingernails grow in a single second. “Delicious New Solar Cells” features a lab that makes solar cells out of doughnuts, vodka, and passion tea. And “History: Nanoparticles existed before nanotechnology” estimates that humans first used nanotechnology 5,000 years ago, when someone thought to cook up the mineral rutile, extract its nano-size bits of titanium oxide, and turn those bits into a rudimentary tattoo ink. (Fifty centuries later, NASA scientists used the same substance to paint the Saturn V rockets.) These shorts are all made by scientists, and none have stars, but that’s part of the appeal; at their best, the videos are like a cross between Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Gong Show.

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