Episode 2: Atomic Fiction

In this episode we look in on the love affair between the science of atoms and fiction – from crystallographers’ most inventive models of the invisible sub-microscopic world to the atomic dramas chronicled in artist Tacita Dean’s film The Structure of Ice. We hear from Science Museum curator Boris Jardin, an expert not only on crystallography models but also on the relationship between art and science, and Emily reflects on the place of imaginative speculation in science and design with Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, an artist and designer who makes a career of walking the line between science and fiction.

Tacita Dean, ‘The Structure of Ice’ (1997) Commissioned by the Science Museum

still from Tacita Dean, ‘The Structure of Ice’ (1997) Commissioned by the Science Museum


Crystallographer John Kendrew’s plasticine model of a molecule of the protein myoglobin – the first ever model of a protein – made in 1957.

See more pictures of the ingenious, sculptural models Boris talks about on the show and find out about the Science Museum’s exhibition of crystallography models that he curated here.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Self-Inflating Antipathogenic Membrane Pump from ‘Designing for the Sixth Extinction’, Commissioned by Science Gallery, Dublin for Grow Your Own… Life After Nature, October 24 2013–January 19 2014.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsbery, ‘E. chromi
: Living Colour from Bacteria’, The Scatalog, in collaboration with James King & the University of Cambridge iGEM 2009 team.

Learn more about Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s ‘Designing for the Sixth Extinction’ project, ‘E.chromi’ and more on her website http://www.daisyginsberg.com. She has a new book out, Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature published by the MIT Press.

A version of Emily’s essay at the beginning of this show originally appeared in Tombolo, a journal of design and culture. Read it here.