The Front Lines of Creativity

Thomas Thundat, a man you'll meet in this week's magazine, has an unusual job title. He's a surface physicist, which means not that he has failed to probe deeply in his experiments but just the opposite. He brings a passionate scrutiny to the forces at work when one molecule comes into contact with another--when a gas seeps onto a sheet of silicon, for instance, or when a pair of large biological molecules collide and grapple. What Thundat sees in such collisions is more than academic. It has produced a new generation of microscopic sensors, based on tiny levers, that could put...

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