Two Cultures

Science  03 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5765, pp. 1239d
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5765.1239d

Larger Than Life. In college, Ivan Schuller decided that physics was easier than acting, his original major. Decades later, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), professor has found a forum for his inner ham in a television show about nanoscience.

When Things Get Small is a half-hour program about the physicist's real-life quest to develop the world's smallest magnet. Created through a collaboration between Schuller (above, left), UCSD-TV producer Rick Wargo, and actor Adam Smith (above, right), the show uses humorous gimmicks to explain concepts from the nanoworld. In one scene at a baseball stadium, Smith buys a bag of peanuts from John Moores, owner of the San Diego Padres, before explaining that the number of atoms in a single human hair equals the number of peanuts needed to fill all 30 major league baseball stadiums.

Schuller also illustrates the minute nanoscale by yanking hairs from the actor-host's head and going nose-to-trunk with a shrunken elephant. “We want people to go away and think that science is fun, entertaining, and maybe a little bit useful,” he says. The show will premiere this month on the University of California's public satellite broadcast service.

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