The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1996
Robert F. Curl Jr., Sir Harold Kroto, Richard E. Smalley
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1996, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1997
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1996
After the "eventful" two week period in September 1985 at Rice my whole research strategy changed essentially overnight. Instead of spending my weekends on graphics as I had always intended, I started working even harder on science than before. At my request Rick agreed that I must come back to work with his group to try to prove our conjecture. In the event I returned some nine or ten times over the next 1½ year period from September 1985 to April 1987, each time for a period of 2-3 weeks. The original structural conjecture was probed exhaustively during this period by joint Rice/Sussex experiments, by the independent Rice studies and also independent experimental and theoretical work by our group at Sussex.
It is important to realize that there are occasional moments in the life of a scientist when one has to be bold and I and the Rice team were conscious that this was one of those moments. We had proposed a possible structure to explain our discovery of a stable molecule with sixty carbon atoms but really had only this number to go on – and our intuition. I had the strong gut feeling that it was so beautiful a solution that it just had to be right. I do not remember during this early period thinking it could be wrong. I am sure that the other members of the team who had also lived through the exciting period of discovery had the same feeling. I decided however that I certainly must be ethical about this. I had a strong desire to work as hard as I could to prove the conjecture was right, but more importantly if it were not correct I definitely wanted to falsify the conjecture myself – I really did not want anyone else to prove that we were wrong. During the five-year period 1985, when we discovered C60, and 1990 when the Krätschmer and Huffman team extracted it, I worked with the Rice team, the Rice team worked independently and we worked independently at Sussex to assemble as much experimental and theoretical evidence as possible for the veracity of our original structural proposal. Indeed at Sussex we were only just pipped-at-the-post in confirming the structure unequivocally by the beautiful paper of Krätschmer and colleagues.
My attitude over this was strongly coloured by some earlier interactions that I had had with (Sir) Fred Hoyle over his claim that he had found evidence for bacteria in interstellar space. In earlier times Hoyle had been a well-known and well-respected scientist, especially in the UK, and had often been on radio and TV pontificating on scientific and other issues. It has been argued that his original prediction of the reasons that there is enough carbon in the Universe for Life to exist was worthy of a Nobel Prize – arguably (and I would argue it) the only so-called "Anthropic" conjecture of any value whatsoever. However as time evolved he had, over many years, published some highly contentious conjectures which had received widespread publicity because of his reputation based on the excellent early work on the synthesis of the chemical elements in stars by nuclear fusion.
At least three of his conjectures were surprising, to say the least, and ran counter to arguments based on highly reliable scientific understanding. One of his proposals was that the archaeopteryx fossils were fakes and a second was that some epidemics were caused by bacteria which had been injected into the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. Both proposals were strongly criticised by leading paleontologists and epidemiologists respectively. I had noted this from the sidelines and not taken a particularly strong interest in Hoyle’s odd proposals until he ventured into my own field, spectroscopy, and published a claim, with a colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe who was a professor of mathematics, that a single broad and almost featureless infrared band was evidence for bacteria in space! It seemed to me at the time that he was trying to find evidence to support the fundamental idea behind a very popular science fiction book he had written many years before entitled "The Black Cloud" which I had read as a student and enjoyed. I studied the claim which was also published in a book entitled "Proofs that Life is Cosmic" carefully and found that it was based on fit between a bone fide astrophysical observation, which consisted of a stellar spectrum published with a linear wavelength scale, and Hoyle’s laboratory data on freeze dried bacteria with an original scale linear in cm-1. In correlating the two spectra, which differed mainly in the fact that wavelength is proportional to 1/cm-1, an error had somehow occurred. Furthermore the error bars on the astrophysical data indicated that the fit in the comparison plot was some 1000 or more times better than could be expected, even if bacteria were responsible for the astrophysically observed data! When I carried out the comparison analysis I found the fit was statistical and that comparison only supported the existence of some mix of C/N/O/H-containing species, as conventional wisdom based on copious radioastronomical data suggested. The errors unequivocally falsified the claim and my attempts to publish my findings were not accepted for publication and curiously vanished.
At some stage Hoyle and co-workers presented their "Bacteria in Space" claim at a Royal Society meeting on Halley’s Comet and in the ensuing discussion after I presented my analysis of their data Hoyle suggested that the shift that I and others had found must have been due to a "Draughtsman’s Error"! The organisers of this meeting refused to include this part of the discussion in the Proceedings Volume of the meeting. I felt this was not right and could only help to propagate unproven claims in the popular press as having scientific validity when they had not. I feel this sort of thing is starting to be a serious general problem at the interface between the scientific community and society as the pressure to justify scientific results and funding by highlighting results with "hyperflated" application claims in radio and TV science programmes, magazines, newspaper articles, interviews and research reports becomes more and more common. I must point out that I did not criticise the concept of bacteria in space, I criticised only the claim that there was evidence to support the claim. From then on I felt that if one ventured a hypothesis, one was bound by ethical principles, as a scientist, to do everything possible to prove or disprove the hypothesis oneself, and not suggest falsification is for the critics, especially in the case of highly contentious proposals. Of course this is a much more general issue as scientists are in the vanguard of the champions of natural philosophy who must face the onslaught of the purveyors of mystical concepts who claim revelation as the basis of truth.
The 4 out of 5 Rule Days
A few days after the C60 discovery paper was sent off to Nature, the first experiments yielding confirmatory evidence started to arrive. Within another two weeks Martyn Poliakoff sent me an article by David Jones in which I found some simple and highly convincing theoretical supporting evidence for the cage structure. Very soon, and even before the paper was published, we had enough evidence to consider the structure not just plausible but, using one of Rick's favourite adjectives, "compelling". Within a few months we had assembled sufficient circumstantial, experimental and theoretical, evidence to indicate that we must be correct and our structure became highly convincing to any scientists "disinterested" enough to carefully scrutinise all our evidence. A number of groups did not seem to fit into the "disinterested" category and published papers suggesting that not only was our structural conjecture wrong but even that our experiment was in error - in particular that our result that C60 was special was an experimental artefact.
My view was that if C60 were not a cage then the conjecture would have fallen at the first (conjectural and/or experimental) hurdle. During this period I developed what I call my "4 out of 5 rule":
If one makes a new observation, then develop a hypothesis to explain it. Then carry out several further experiments – five would be a good number – to check it out. If 4-out-of-5 confirm your hypothesis then you are almost certainly right; if only 1-out-of-5 fits, you are almost certainly wrong – in both cases the accent is on almost.
In fact statistical analysis suggests that if only one experiment doesn't fit, there is a ca 99.98% probability that you are correct. Within about a year the amount of evidence that indicated we were right was overwhelming, at least to the discovery team whose reputation depended on it, and also to many other groups who contributed supporting theory and measurements. Contrary to the claims made by some, our proposal of the Buckminsterfullerene structure was fully justified. I am sure that anyone who had as we had, carried out such an exhaustive set of exciting experiments and then alighted on, to our complete amazement, the soccer ball structure as a possibility, would also have been similarly bowled over by the idea and proposed it as a possibility in the original paper. Had any of our numerous studies either experimental or theoretical, during the next five years, falsified the conjecture, we would have withdrawn it – all in fact supported the proposed structure. Perhaps one might argue that the title of our paper, "C60: Buckminsterfullerene", was a bold act, if so I take full responsibility.
Experiments at Sussex between Sept 1985 and Sept 1990 Based on the Work of Hintenberger et al
Several interesting and important developments took place at the University of Sussex between September 1985, when C60 was discovered with the Rice Group, and September 1990 when the brilliant paper on its extraction was submitted to Nature by Wolfgang Krätschmer, Lowell Lamb, Kostas Fostiropoulos and Donald Huffman. During this period a parallel series of experiments to those of Krätschmer et al was carried out at Sussex.
A key reason for carrying out the experiment at Rice in the first place was an intriguing set of results obtained by Hintenberger and colleagues between 1958 and 1963 that showed, by mass spectrometry, that carbon species with as many as 33 carbon atoms were produced in a carbon arc discharge. At Sussex, after the initial C60 discovery in 1985, I had a hole drilled in an old carbon-arc evapourator we had, so that we could deposit carbon on a silica wafer at various argon pressures. The idea was to follow up the Hintenberger et al experiments by recreating roughly the same conditions, that we had achieved with the Rice nozzle as cheaply, as simply as possible with an electric arc discharge. At this point I conjectured that as the argon pressure was increased we might be able to use the electron microscope that was available at Sussex to see the formation of roundish carbon particles which I conjectured might provide some circumstantial evidence for C60 formation. I thought that the assembly processes that created C60 might also lead to the formation of large spheroidal soot-like carbon particles. What we found was that the smooth carbon coating obtained under very low pressure changed, more-or-less suddenly, at ca 70-80 µm pressure of argon creating an undulating blistered rough surface of the kind I vaguely expected.
This observation was encouraging as it seemed to be some sort of confirmation the idea might be valid and that C60 might be forming. Here I made a fundamental mistake – and not for the first time! I assumed that C60 would only be formed in minuscule amounts and only detectable, if at all, by the most sensitive analytical technique available i.e. mass spectrometry. After all, how could C60 be easily made when it had avoided detection until nearly the end of the 20th century, and then only fleetingly, when its two more famous siblings, diamond and graphite, had been known since time immemorial. It is now hard, more than twenty five years later, when C60 is in every school science textbooks to realize that C60 was, prior to 1990, considered by some to be highly suspicious character and indeed by some (see above) even an imposter. Indeed some still claim to this day that we had no right to make the claims contained in the Nature paper (see "Candid Science" by Istvan Hargittai).
A Funding Problem
During this period together with my Sussex colleague Geoff Cloke, an expert in metal vapour deposition, I tried to obtain funds for an in-situ quadrupole mass spectrometer to monitor the electric discharge process directly and see if C60 could be detected. Having already obtained significant support from EPSRC to build a Rice-type cluster beam system with another Sussex colleague Tony Stace, I had to go elsewhere for the £12k I needed for the mass spectrometer. (NB: I had by the way tried to get Rick to buy one to monitor alternative possible C60 creation experiments that Jim Heath and I had been probing – but to no avail). In the event this modest proposal was turned down by Shell, BP and also the Royal Society. All indicated it was an interesting proposal but none was prepared to cough up £12k.
The Royal Society committee was so impressed it suggested we apply to EPSRC! We did have some funding from "British Gas" that a former student Steve Wood had managed to obtain for us to probe the idea I had that C60 must be a key constituent in a sooting flame. It is interesting to point out in this context that Mitsubishi now makes C60 in bulk quantities commercially by combustion of methane! Our small group had a lot of work on its hands! Unfortunately we did not get the quadruple MS which had unfortunate consequences for us at Sussex.
Krätschmer et al Enter the Scene
Then at some point a photocopy of a conference presentation abstract was sent to me by the astrophysicist Michael Jura a friend and colleague at UCLA. Michael had been to a conference in Capri where Wolfgang Krätschmer had presented a paper in which he and his colleagues presented intriguing evidence that they had detected four vibrational infrared bands of C60. At the top of the copy Mike had written, in his inimitable scrawl, "Harry, do you believe this?".
I must admit I found it very hard to believe. If Krätschmer and colleagues were correct I had "screwed up big time". Instead of the minute amounts, needing the mass spectrometric sensitivity, that I had assumed were being formed in our evaporator, we must have already been making samples in which ca 1% of the deposit was C60; enough to detect by infrared spectroscopy! At just this moment, as luck would have it, Jonathan Hare was working for a DPhil with me. He had come to work on astrophysically related experimental problems. We immediately wheeled out the old modified evapourator and Jon started to make carbon films in an attempt to repeat the Krätschmer-Huffman experiments. On 22nd November 1989 we saw the first IR spectrum of C60 in his films at Sussex. Unfortunately then Jon had to spend time rebuilding the ancient apparatus. By the 5th March with UG project student Amit Sarkar he had worked out how to reproduce the IR spectrum reliably and we realized we must have some C60 in our hands!
Then Jon wrote to Krätschmer to tell him that we had reproduced his results. I felt we were honour-bound that Wolfgang should be made aware that we were working on the problem. Although we had gone back to it because of their results it did not seem unethical as I had already been exploring this avenue and had been thwarted by being turned down for funding as indicated above and furthermore they had published their preliminary observations.
Fleeting Sightings of C60, the Orson Welles Character of the Third Form of Carbon Story
The dream I had always had was to prove our C60 conjecture by detecting the single 13C line NMR spectrum that C60 should exhibit as all sixty carbon atoms are equivalent. I had a quite a consistent track record in one-line assignments: In the 1970's we had identified CH2=PH on the basis of one microwave line, then also HC5N, HC7N and HC9N all on the basis of single radio lines and of course C60 on the basis of one mass spectrometric line. I understand that these breakthroughs had led to my being called "One-Line Kroto" by the Monash microwave group! I took it as a complement, but I am not sure that that was the way it was meant! In July 1990 Jon gave a sample to Alla'a Abdul-Sada to check the mass spectrum and he obtained a 720 mass signal so we knew that we were on the right track. In discussion with Jon my thought was that as C60 looked like benzene from 20 angles (with its 20 hexagons) maybe it would be soluble in this solvent – not thinking of course that maybe the benzene line might overlap the C60 signal!
In the event one Monday morning (6th August 1990) Jon placed a small phial containing benzene in which his soot sample had been washed. It was a deep burgundy red.
I was apprehensive and wondered whether a suspension of essentially invisible tiny microscopic particles might scatter and give the appearance of a red solution. On the following Thursday (9th) we tried to obtain a mass spectrum of the extract but our sampling procedure needed to be refined.
Black (and Red!) Friday
The next day - Friday August 10th, (Black Friday) I had a call from Nature – that's the journal - Philip Ball asked me if I would referee a paper by Wolfgang Krätschmer and colleagues on C60. Without really thinking I said of course I would as I felt I was as expert as anybody else on this issue. One never realizes that a hurricane is coming: A fax arrived at 12.10 and as I read the title "Fullerite, a New Form of Carbon" my heart sank, then as I read further down the abstract – it got worse - I saw the words a "wine red solution" glaring at me from the fax and there in front of me on my desk was the Jon's phial with the wine-red solution staring me in the face. They also had a fantastic photograph of C60 crystals together with some all-important X-ray data that showed that they had obtained crystals consisting 1nm diameter spheroidal molecules – it was all totally convincing. I knew instinctively that it was correct.
I wondered whether to commit suicide or go for lunch. What the hell - as any student knows - there is not a lot of difference between lunch in a university canteen and suicide – so I went for lunch. After lunch on returning to my office I called Philip at Nature to tell him that this was proof positive that they definitely had C60 and asked him to call Krätschmer and say I waived anonymity and congratulate him and his colleagues. Philip asked who else did I recommend as a referee and I suggested that Bob Curl, the Rice Group's consilieri, would be the best. I consider this paper one of classic chemistry papers of the 20th century in that they had conjectured they might have C60 from earlier electronic spectroscopy studies of carbon particles and then had used the four infrared vibrational modes that Group Theory indicated would be fingerprint bands as the key step in tracking it down. I think their study should be used in all chemistry courses as an iconic example of the way Group Theory can be a powerful tool in science – indeed I doubt there has ever been a more important or perfect example. One might think that the Group Theoretical derivation would be difficult but it turns out to be fairly straight-forward as almost all terms cancel out.
The Single NMR Line
Anyway, what to do now – if anything? We had been so close and I felt that we had really been thwarted by the funding system. It would have certainly been unfair to Krätschmer and colleagues had we won this race but I felt it had certainly been unfair to us too in the circumstances of not getting the support I needed to probe the electric arc avenue. However, as I carefully re-read the paper I thought about the fact that there was no mass spectrum in the manuscript and we had a 720 signal and in particular there was no NMR line – my dream-line! I subsequently learned that Krätschmer et al did have the crucial mass spectrometric data but there had been some understandable problems associated with presenting it. My friend and former Sussex colleague Ken Seddon had encouraged me long before to just go all out for the nmr line – if only I had heeded his advice! In the event after all the trials and tribulations, especially failing to get the financial support I needed for essentially the same experiment as Krätschmer et al., I felt that we were justified in continuing. I decided we must drive on to obtain my coveted NMR line – after all coming in second to Krätschmer et al's brilliant work was not that bad especially as Jon had made the most important breakthrough ever made in my laboratory by extracting C60, one week prior to the arrival of that fateful fax from Nature.
One Line to Prove it All beyond Reasonable Doubt
Jon gave all of his precious sample to my Sussex colleague Roger Taylor who, with the help of Jim Hanson, developed the chromatographic technique that is now the standard procedure for separating members of the fullerene family. Roger found that Jon's red solution contained at least two molecules; C60 and C70. The sample was red because of C70, though present at significantly lower concentration, had a stronger spectrum and its colour masked the stunningly beautiful delicate magenta of C60.
The precious single line nmr spectrum of C60 and the confirmatory five lines of C70 were detected by Tony Avent - who should have been a co-author of the resulting paper.
In our preliminary manuscript one of C70's five lines had not been identified correctly as it lay very close to the benzene line; this was however corrected in the final manuscript that was published.
The Third Key Paper in the Buckyball Saga
As "luck" would have it at just this moment I happened to be travelling to a conference in Freiburg and then was to go on to another conference on Brioni. With the preliminary manuscript in my hand, I felt I must stop off in Heidelberg to see Wolfgang Krätschmer and show him the manuscript as I wanted to make sure that he was comfortable with the wording in our manuscript. After all the trials and tribulations I of course wanted to claim as much credit as possible for our Sussex team without taking anything away from the Krätschmer-Huffman work: In particular we had obtained a 720 mass signal and solvent extracted C60 independently prior to the arrival of the heartbreaking fax. Furthermore we had chromatographically separated C60 and C70 and confirmed both the structures by NMR. Wolfgang was most gracious and said he was happy with the manuscript. In the event our preliminary unpublished manuscript, which gave full details of how to separate C60 and C70, as well as nmr data on C60 and our preliminary data on C70 propagated like wildfire. It found its way into the hands of others such as Robert Whetton and Francois Diederich, both of whom had in earlier times been critical of our Buckminsterfullerene structure proposal. They followed our recipe and, not surprisingly, confirmed our results.
The Aftermath … 1990 onwards
After the Krätschmer-Huffman breakthrough I decided to delay my aim of doing graphics more seriously and spend about five years researching the implications of the discovery. With Roger Taylor and David Walton I set up an intensive research initiative, the Sussex Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Centre, and proceeded to explore the chemistry and chemical physics of the Fullerenes. Of course as is well known Sumio Iijima explored the material produced in the K-H soot generator and found nanotubes were being created. These structures had been observed by Morinobu Endo and coworkers several years previously in 1976 but here suddenly was a way to make them in sufficient quantities to study them in detail. The Fullerene breakthrough had not only opened up a whole new area of chemistry, presently averaging ca 1000 papers per year, but a vast new area of nanoscience and nanotechnology as the nanotubes turned out to have fascinating electrical and mechanical properties promising new materials with exceptional strength and outstanding electromagnetic behaviour. At Sussex we played quite an important part as our group succeeded in making important contributions to the use of C60 and C70 as synthons. We also explored the ramifications of the nanotube breakthrough and made contributions to our understanding of how they were formed, especially in the presence of a catalyst and in condensed phase.
At the beginning of 1996 much to my total amazement I was offered a knighthood which I duly accepted and later that year in October it was announced that Bob Curl, Rick Smalley and I were to be awarded the Nobel Prize. From then onwards many things changed. I had always been heavily involved in educational initiatives but now the knighthood and the prize made it a bit easier to get the funding needed to explore the way new educational technologies involving the Internet might improve the general understanding of science. It also gave me an opportunity to represent the views of many in the scientific community more widely. I set up the Vega Science Trust which created science programmes - at first for TV and then to stream on the internet at www.vega.org.uk. Numerous great programmes can be found there including numerous interviews with Nobel Laureates.
In 2004 I retired from my position at the University of Sussex and took up a position at Florida State University. This was something that I had never thought about but of course one seldom makes relatively momentous decisions such as emigrating to another country unless one has to. In this case FSU was not only keen for me to continue research but also to explore new ways of using the Internet for educational outreach. This led to the creation of the GEOSET project (www.geoset.info and www.geoset.fsu.edu) which aims to create a globally distributed cache of educational material accessible free worldwide and created by the best teachers on the planet. As this project started, a wonderful bonus surfaced; this was the fact that our students are a great source of imaginative educational material. Not only that, their presentations have become part of their resumés and in particular the use of the URLs of their presentations, when inserted into references and applications, ensure that their individual abilities in presentation and what they find interesting and how they think become much more transparent than is possible when reading through a pile of arid paperwork. I suspect that these sorts of presentations will soon become "de rigeur" requirements – even just to make the shortlist for jobs, fellowships, awards and scholarships.
Ever since I had carried out radioastronomy research in the mid 1970s and had started to give relatively popular general lectures on astrophysical chemistry I had found that I had received quite a lot of invitations to lecture around the world. The conflation of astronomy with chemistry turns out to be an excellent recipe for teaching chemical physics in particular my research speciality spectroscopy. After the prize in 1996 the number of invitations multiplied until now they arrive at a rate of almost one a day. Particularly important are the Lindau Nobel Symposia where I always go when invited as I feel that many of the young people there will in the future attain positions of significant social responsibility and I always aim in some part of my presentations to make the audience think!
In general we try to accommodate as many student events as possible as I think it is important that young people realize that Nobel Laureates are no different from other people and in general no smarter and Lindau is one of the best places for this.
The response of young people in India, China, Japan and Korea when a Nobel Laureate is to give a lecture is often phenomenal and certainly should be a lesson to the West. At one venue in China the students stood 5 abreast all the way down the aisles of the lecture theatre during the whole presentation and some told me they had arrived at 7 am to get a seat for my lecture at 10 am! I also present Buckyball Workshops for very young children. Earlier ones were carried at British Association meetings in the UK with Jon Hare but many have been held all over the world: Florida, Texas, California, Sweden, Malaysia, India, Japan, China and even by Internet to Iceland and to 2000 kids across the whole of Australia.
I decided to do as many lectures as possible especially for schools as I gradually have felt it necessary to communicate with a significant group of young people who, on arriving at our Universities – which I consider oases of intelligence in a sea of ignorance - develop an astute analytical approach to all aspects of life. Richard Feynman in his small and interesting book "The Meaning of it All" discusses this group of students. When I first read this chapter I did not think it was as large a number as Feynman suggested, but latterly I have found it to be very large. Especially in my general science lectures I highlight the fact that Natural Philosophy (the basic cultural concept that subsumes science) "is the only philosophical construct we have devised to determine truth with any degree of reliability". I point out that the ethical purpose of education must be the schooling of young people in the ways of deciding what they are being told or what they believe is actually true. Without knowledge-based on evidence, anything goes. Indeed almost anything does go and as Bertrand Russell says "man is a credulous creature and without good reason to believe he is satisfied with bad" In fact I would suggest man is highly susceptible to being convinced that comforting mystical concepts, for which there is no adequate foundation, are true – even though a moment's rational deliberation indicates that they must be palpably false. As President Kennedy once said: "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
The complexity of living 9 months in the US and the 3 summer months based in the UK together with the feeling that I should speak to this constituency of young people has made life so complicated that my wife Margaret has shouldered the arduous burden of managing the logistical issues as well as the day-to-day problems of survival. Hardly a week goes past when we do not have to travel to a venue somewhere in the world. For several years now I have averaged some 70-80 lectures per year away from our home town and often in another country. I try to go to as many student events as possible because I feel able to give a measure of support to many students disconcerted by the way that analytical thought undermines the unsubstantiated, and unsubstantiatable, mystical dogmas that many have been brought up to accept before they have developed the analytical skills to ask questions about their veracity. As Abelard said "By doubting we come to enquire and by enquiry we arrive at truth". There is almost no widespread infrastructure available for freethinking young person commensurate with the plethora of churches, mosques synagogues, temples and shrines populated by the purveyors of mystical dogma. When disconcerting questions arise as they do quite naturally in the doubting mind it may cause complex problems both at an intellectual level for sensitive students and also on a day-to-day personal level especially within families for whom mystical issues may be very important.
I still find a bit of time to do what I feel most comfortable and able to do which is art and graphics – not as much as I would like and I really only have time to do the odd poster and logo when commissioned such as these recent ones for the Alliance Française Tallahassee, the Kroto Research Institute in Sheffield and an Internet Buckyball Workshop for 2000 small children across the whole Continent of Australia – earlier ones are at www.kroto.info.
In response to a request by Fuzambo, a Japanese publisher, we have produced a children's science book in Japanese entitled "Benjy and Bruno in Nanoland" (English translation), cover Fig 15 (translated into Japanese by Toru Maekawa).
Our younger son David created the characters of the little boy Benjy and his dog Bruno, my wife Margaret and our older son Stephen refined the storyline and I pulled the graphics together for publishing. The little boy and his dog become smaller by a factor of ten every time they encounter an object or animal that has a geodesic polyhedral structure in which pentagonal and hexagonal domains are involved such as in the case of a soccer ball, the eyes of a fly, viruses etc. They finally become so small that they end up swimming along the veins of one of Benji's friends. It is a book which attempts to give small children an idea of the scale in a similar way to various "Powers of Ten" efforts. It is to appear in English in due course.
At FSU where I have been since 2004-2005 I have been able to carry out interesting research in metal organic framework (MOF) materials and cluster science. I have also been able to plant GEOSET seeds in several institutions around the world. The gateway site is at www.geoset.info. Fortunately my new colleagues at FSU, in particular Naresh Dalal and Alan Marshall, have been great co-workers and Tony Cheetham now at Cambridge has also helped me in the daunting task of starting research off again. It is pretty difficult getting a research programme up-and-running the first time when one is young, but doing it a second time from scratch when you have the knowledge of how difficult it was the first time, makes it seem twice as hard.
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