A Journey Into The Nanoworld

Jennifer: After having blogged last week about the travelling nanotech communication centres in Germany, I embarked on a virtual journey into the Nanocosmos via the interactive German website, Nanoreisen.de. The website offers “adventures beyond the decimal”. Visitors to the website can “check in” and then choose between three destinations- the human body, via the “Ego-Trip Route”, the laptop computer, via the “Bit-Land Route”, or the car (most probably a Volkswagen), via the “Bright Spot Route”.

The virtual suitcase is packed with equipment necessary for a journey into the nanocosmos- a scaling system, offering comparisons between the macro, micro and nano worlds, and a route planner, which depicts features of each destination. Using the planner on the Ego-Trip Route, the traveller becomes progressively smaller and smaller and can make stops at different areas of the human body. I began my journey in “the tropical hair forest” and then experienced “rush hour in the capillary system” before “snorkelling in the gene pool”.

At each of the fifteen stops on the Ego-Trip Route there are in-depth explanations of their various features. At the third stop, by clicking on a scanning electron microscope image of a human hair, I found out that follicles are created in the sixth week of pregnancy and that a human being can grow a maximum of 5 million hairs. I then travelled through the epidermis and into a blood vessel of 0.1 millimetres in diameter. The scale bar in my travel guide informed me that the difference between 0.1 millimetres and one metre is proportional to the difference between the width of the Rhine River Bridge and the diameter of the earth.

My journey ended after I had been shrunk to the size of a femtometre (one femtometre to one metre is like the diameter of a protein molecule to the diameter of the earth). This final stage explains the twelve fundamental particles of our cosmos, as well as the concept of dark matter.

I re-entered the macrocosmos with reluctance, and have every intention of journeying back into the nanoworld to explore the electronics of a laptop computer via the Bit-Land Route as soon as possible. I will even be able to send a personalised e-card to friends while on my travels, proclaiming “Greetings From the Nanocosmos”.

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