Go back to article: From 2D to 3D: the story of graphene in objects

Kostya’s razor

Figure 4

Colour photograph of a cut throat razor belonging to Kostya Novoselov

Cut-throat razor belonging to Kostya Novoselov, 1997. On loan from Professor Konstantin Novoselov

This razor is an unlikely way in to discussing the thorny issue of expertise. Although the word ‘playful’ has been used to describe Geim and Novoselov’s approach to science, Geim especially is wary of the dangerous connotations and doesn’t like to describe his approach as play. As explained by Lewis, ‘He prefers “curiosity-driven research”, “adventure”, a “Random Walk to Graphene”’ (Lewis, 2014, p 161). If these two scientists do play with science, it is in the sense that a master pianist plays the piano. ‘When a musician says that someone can play, it means they are skilled, responsive and nimble; the person knows how to harmonise or offer dissonance when it’s right’ (Lewis, 2014, p 155).

This razor represents the tacit skills often developed by technical experts – in this instance development of the physical ability to manipulate microscopic, even nano-scale, samples.[1] As a student, Novoselov bought this razor to develop steadier hands. He admits that it was ‘quite a painful and bloody experience at the beginning’ (Novoselov, 2010b), but it worked, and he has used this razor ever since. He suggests that physical, tacit skills such as this are something that each scientist must develop personally: ‘Universities teach us physics, maths, chemistry and tens of other disciplines, but each of us has to work out for himself how to do science’ [author’s italics] (Novoselov, 2010a, p 126).

Novoselov’s awareness of skill development extends to art as well as science. He is interested in Chinese painting which like creative science requires, in his words, discipline, dedication and awareness. We included in the exhibition this Chinese painting by Novoselov himself to demonstrate the influence art has had on him as a scientist.

Figure 5

Chinese brush painting of bamboo by Kostya Novoselov

Chinese brush painting by Kostya Novoselov

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/181004/007