Thursday, May 15, 2008

happy birthday atomium

One of the perks of being a chemist, of course, is that you're allowed to play with toys like the ball-and-sticks models used to recreate molecular structures. Now one architect took this occupation to a larger scale and the result was the Atomium which was created for the Brussels Expo in 1958 and thus turns 50 this year.

It represents a unit cell (cubic space-centred) of the crystal structure of alpha iron. Rather than letting the cube rest on one of its faces, as you would find it illustrated in textbooks, the architect emphasized the 3-fold symmetry axis (i.e. the space diagonal) by arranging it vertically. (Now if we could get the thing to rotate around this axis, that would be truly spectacular.)

The Atomium has been recently refurbished -- now it's so shiny that I even spotted it from the train, though I didn't know when or where to look! Celebrations of its 50th birthday will be running all summer.

atomium by night

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