Testing My Limits

If the early bird really does get the worm, I’m in trouble. I’ve never been a morning person. Ask my wife, it takes copious amount of coffee to get me going and even with that added caffeine boost, I wouldn’t say I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Which brings me to my latest feat – a.m. television.

Last week, I traded my usual morning housecoat for a white lab coat as I showed the very peppy Bridget Ryan from CityTV’s Breakfast Television around Ingenuity Lab, here in Edmonton.

Apart from the early start, I must admit that it was wonderful being able to show Bridget and our city residents a thing or two about nano, nature and networks.

For those of you who missed the segment on Monday, we had a lot of fun. Bridget even lost a little hair in all the excitement…well sort of. We had her pluck one from her head in the name of science so I could show her what it looks like at the nanoscale.

After careful examination, I was happy to give an evidence-based compliment, confirming that her strand of hair was indeed ‘average’, measuring between 80,000 to 100,000 nanometres wide.

Over the course of the morning, Bridget was quite a sport. She not only did us the favour of testing out our decontamination shower, she served as my handy assistant, helping me share some of the fundamental building blocks of emergent and novel technologies.

Together we applied liquid nitrogen (always a crowd pleaser) to a superconductive material to change its properties. Although initially there was no attraction between our two props, once cooled the transformed superconductor repelled the magnet and as the cameras zoomed in, viewers could see it floating in the air.

In the spirit of reality TV, I also got to reveal a secret that nature has been keeping under wraps. Despite their delicate reputation, eggs have incredible strength. To illustrate this, I had Jeanine, one of our lab technicians, walk barefoot across nearly 100 raw eggs on live television. She broke just one.

It is indeed surprising that these seemingly fragile structures can support the weight of a grown adult. Especially since the tension of an egg is such that the beak of a tiny chick can crack through during hatching. But it is true and our ‘eggsperiment’ demonstrated something we at Ingenuity Lab have known for some time – nature has a beautiful way of doing things.

All around us there are examples of important relationships that contribute to enhanced functionality and performance. At Ingenuity Lab, we are using these emergent and novel technologies to examine these connections closely.

As we delve deep into the unique properties and specific arrangements of matter at its core, we are getting a better understanding of just how we can engineer solutions for the future. It’s exciting and I hope that by sharing some of the wonders of nanotechnology with the breakfast television crew and viewers, I have inspired others about the science that has been my passion for many decades.