This week, when writing a review of the Sylvain Chomet animated feature “The Illusionist,” it occurred to me the difference between Pixar-style animation and traditional hand-drawn animation lies largely in the level of spontaneity the latter allows. It’s not just in the storytelling, but in the application of the actual physical image to a surface. For as much as I fuss over the masonry of writing — each word a discrete unit plucked from a finite galaxy, eyeballed, blown off, polished on my shirttail and then nested among its cousins — I lightheart giddythump at spontaneous imagery. Anything arranged may be arranged a second time, or a third; anything captured at the moment of inspiration owes only to the moment. Every moment dies as surely as a living thing. Moreso than a glossy Buzz Lightyear conceived on a Mac hard drive, the look of watercolor and pencil on a screen gives me more of a feeling of shared experience with humans.
Vermeer plays with that contrast in “The Lacemaker.” Across 98 percent of his canvass, the old Dutch master arranges each brushstroke with the care of a surgeon. Yet compare the divine filament of thread the woman draws through her work with the smattering of thread that suppurates from her kit. The red and white of that thread isn’t purely Vermeer’s intellect. Rather, it is a moment at which he gave his wrist permission to feel for him what that thread should be. Every time I see this painting, that gout of red strikes me like a yowl in a chorale. The rest of the painting is Vermeer for the ages; that burst of color is Vermeer at that single, defiant heartbeat. Had he painted that thread five minutes later, how different it might have been.
All of this is entree to a few snapshots a friend of mine sent me of the solar cells she’s painstakingly nurturing on the way to a chemistry Ph.D. By way of description, I’ll include excerpts of our Google chat on the photos. They, too, are evidence that some of nature’s finest images owe to marvelous happenstance, and a willingness to accept time and events as they find us.
me: It's like the eye from "Lord of the Rings" crossed with a pile of marijuana.
Laura: i know, right! the pot of mordor. our best guess: a skin cell that acted as a nucleation site
Laura: pretty freakish
me: So a skin cell falls on your solar cell ... and what happens?
Laura: creates a big defect. the first pic is of the MOSFET; the 3 gold rectangles are gold contact electrodes.
the second is a pn junction solar cell; the "fish bone" pattern is also a gold conducting contact. the third is of an array of MOSFET devices (the far away shot of image 1) on a probe station.
as for the defects...not entirely sure how they form. or what they are.
likely our solvents didn't evaporate off the area, and burrowed in during heating or casting an overlay. in general, where the eye of mordor arises, you have a worthless cell. ah, and the overlay grid is 70x70 microns, to give you scale
me: Holy shit. How big is that? Period-sized?
Laura: you wouldn't be able to clearly see a period that size. it's around the width of human hair.