Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 221: Lost symbolism

a screen shot of the apple's logo for "Genius" / Thousands of North Koreans displaying cards to form the image of an atom last year

I couldn't help but be a little weirded out by the atomic symbol being taken up in both of these very different contexts. Apple has taken up the atom as a symbol of genius in the realm of online music. The North Koreans have taken up the symbol in celebration of their nuclear (weaponry) aspirations. The North Korean display was included in an Times article last week, "North Korea Says It Has ‘Weaponized’ Plutonium". An excerpt from that article reads, "The North Korean military declared an “all-out confrontational posture” against South Korea on Saturday as an American scholar said North Korean officials told him they had “weaponized” enough plutonium for roughly four or five nuclear bombs."

Interestingly, the origin of this symbol dates to Ernest Rutherford's model of the atom created in 1909 and is called the Rutherford model. A more correct model was created years later by Neils Bohr and was named the Rutherford-Bohr model. Although, "Despite its inaccuracy, the Rutherford model caught the imagination of the public in a way that the more correct Bohr model did not, and has continually been used as a symbol for atoms and atomic energy". Read more on wikipedia.

So actually, the symbol may not be as accurate for either of the intended purposes illustrated above.

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