Wednesday, July 9, 2008

That's Not Paisley, It's a Crystal Structure!

On my last day in Britain, I decided to save the $10 for a tube day pass and walk from my hotel near Paddington Station to the British Library (2.5 miles up Marylebone Road, thanks for asking). On the way I passed the Wellcome Centre, and thought it would be worth a stop-by when it opened. Inside was an exhibition about a brief fad in the design world when artists took crystal structures of minerals and proteins and put them on plates, ties, wallpaper, and lineoleum. Above are plates based on aluminum hydroxide and beryl. Imagine, there was wallpaper on a restaurant wall that was a version of insulin, the protein actually being deployed in the patron's bloodstreams in response to the sugar being ingested at those tables. China clay's atomic arrangement is a particularly nice combination of hexagons and triangles. There even was a white evening dress of "Beryl Lace" made for Alice Bragg, wife of Sir Lawrence Bragg, one of the founding fathers of crystallography. At first it looked like a wedding dress, but I don't think even Lady Bragg would have worn that to her wedding ...

I'm sure Laurie thanks her lucky stars (and her pocketbook) that none of those ties or fabric patterns was actually on sale. Instead I spent 20 pounds on a full-color book listing it all! You can find most of the pictures in the Wellcome gallery at the link above.

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