Two Russian born scientists at the University of Manchester in England, Andre Geim (pictured) and Konstantin Novoselov, just won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their experiments with graphene (more on that awesome material later). One of the two, Andre Geim, also won an Ig Nobel prize (full winners list here) back in 2000 for levitating a frog using magnets. The Ig Nobels are given out each year by science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for studies they say “cannot, or should not, be reproduced”.
So what makes graphene even cooler than levitating a frog? It’s a carbon film which is only one molecule thick that’s stronger than diamond but can stretch like rubber. It can be used to make better data storage, higher-capacity batteries, more efficient solar panels, and flexible touchscreens. It might also eventually work as a cheap replacement for precious metals in some electronic devices. Also, in 2008 Geim and Novoselov used graphene to create a transistor that was one atom thick and ten atoms across, smaller than any silicon transistor could be.
So how did they discover this awesome material? By using pieces of sticky tape to pull away smaller and smaller layers of graphite until they reached a layer of just one atom thick. Which sounds exactly like something you’d try to do while stoned. Speaking of which, here’s a video of the levitating frog that won Geim an Ig Nobel: