Monday, December 5, 2011

Climateer Line of the Day: Gecko Tape Edition

I know it's early but this is going to be tough to beat.

"Most surprisingly, failures sometimes failed to materialise. 
Gecko tape is one such example…"

The writer, Andre Geim is probably best known for his success at levitating frogs.
That experiment won him an Ig Nobel prize in 2000.

In 2010 Mr. Geim picked up some hardware for his work on graphene which led to one of the great science headlines of the decade century all time: interviews Physics Laureate Geim about his Ig Nobel
See also: "The 2010 Nobel prizes: Physics--Graphene Researchers Geim and Novoselov Win"

Here's the latest on Geim, quoted at Improbable Research:
Already in Nijmegen, I started using lateral ideas as under- and postgraduate projects, and students were always excited to buy a pig in a poke. Kostya Novoselov, who came to Nijmegen as a PhD student in 1999, took part in many of these projects.
They never lasted for more than a few months, in order not to jeopardise a thesis or career progression. Although the enthusiasm inevitably vanished towards the end, when the predictable failures materialised, some students later confided that those exploratory detours were invaluable experiences.
Most surprisingly, failures sometimes failed to materialise. Gecko tape is one such example…
While preparing for my lecture in Stockholm, I compiled a list of my Friday night experiments. Only then did I realise a stunning fact. There were two dozen or so experiments over a period of approximately fifteen years and, as expected, most of them failed miserably. But there were three hits: levitation, gecko tape and graphene. This implies an extraordinary success rate: more than 10%. Moreover, there were probably near-misses, too….
The passage appears on pages 75 and 76 of Andre Geim’s autobiography. Andre Geim is the only person who has been awarded both the Ig Nobel Prize in physics (in 2000, for using magnets to levitate a frog) and the Nobel Prize in physics (in 2010, for discoveries about the substance graphene).
I don't know if one can plan for the failure of failure to materialize but one should be aware of the possibility.
The mess in Europe comes to mind.

Here's Wikipedia on Gecko Tape:
Gecko tape (with directional adhesion) is a new material still at the development stage. Directional adhesion refers to the ability of an adhesive material to grip a load in one direction and to release its grip when the direction is reversed....MORE
And here are some of Improbable Research's greatest hits:

"Apples and Oranges — A Comparison"
"The Sleep-Retardant Properties of My Ex-Girlfriend"
"Kansas Is Flatter Than a Pancake"
"Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass"