Eric J. Heller Gallery-Where Science Inspires Art and Art Informs Science

Eric Johnson Heller (b. 1946) lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Physics and Chemistry faculties of Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D. in 1973.

“Art has a unique capacity convey insights, intuitively and emotionally, about complex subject matter. If there is a short circuit to wisdom, it is through art. I try to exploit the powers of art to relate secrets of Nature only recently uncovered. A key element in my work is exploitation of Nature’s almost narcissistic self-similarity, her repetition of pattern on vastly different scales and in radically different contexts. Consider, the motion of the planets around the sun and electrons orbiting a nucleus, or waves on water and electron waves in a semiconductor. With such repetition, Nature provides her own windows into otherwise secret worlds.”

(Eric J. Heller Gallery)

A factory of one’s own

According to MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld, the digital revolution is over, and the good guys won. The next big change will be about manufacturing. Anyone with a PC will be able to build anything just by hitting ‘print.’

(Fortune Magazine) — Imagine a machine with the ability to manufacture anything. Now imagine that machine in your living room. What would you build first? Would you start a business? Would you ever buy anything retail again? According to MIT physicist Neil Gershenfeld, it’s not too early to think about these questions, because that machine, which he calls a personal fabricator, is not so far off – or so far-fetched – as you might think.

Gershenfeld is director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), an interdisciplinary outfit studying the intersection between information theory and industrial design. He also teaches a course called How to Make (Almost) Anything.

Five years ago the National Science Foundation awarded the CBA $14 million to build a manufacturing lab full of futuristic hardware. That includes a nanobeam writer that can etch microscopic patterns on metal, and a supersonic waterjet cutter that generates 60,000 pounds of water pressure, enough to shear through almost any material. The CBA factory can churn out anything, from the tiniest semiconductor to an entire building.

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Neurons Used in Working Semiconductor

German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, Germany have constructed a working semiconductor that uses snail neurons.

Future hybrid neuron-semiconductor chips will consist of complex neural networks that are directly interfaced to electronic integrated circuits. They will help us to understand the dynamics of neuronal networks and may lead to novel computational facilities. Here we report on an elementary step towards such neurochips. We designed and fabricated a silicon chip for multiple two-way interfacing, and cultured on it pairs of neurons from the pedal ganglia of the snail Lymnaea stagnalis. These neurons were joined to each other by an electrical synapse, and to the chip by a capacitive stimulator and a recording transistor. We obtained a set of neuroelectronic units with sequential and parallel signal transmission through the neuron-silicon interface and the synapse, with a bidirectionally interfaced neuron-pair and with a signal path from the chip through a synaptically connected neuron pair back to the chip. The prospects for assembling more involved hybrid networks on the basis of these neuroelectronic units are considered.

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