It's not electronic, it's not a card and it's not Christmassy, but...

Another example of the convergence of the holy and the high-tech has just turned up. As part of a scheme to make young people more interested in nanoscience, researchers from the Haifa-based Technion research institute - or Israeli Boffins as The Age has them - have put an image of the entire Old Testament in Hebrew onto a 0.

Another example of the convergence of the holy and the high-tech has just turned up. As part of a scheme to make young people more interested in nanoscience, researchers from the Haifa-based Technion research institute - or Israeli Boffins as The Age has them - have put an image of the entire Old Testament in Hebrew onto a 0.5mm square chip of gold-plated silicon.

From The Age:

""This is the world's tiniest Bible," Zohar said. "The Guinness Book of World Records has a Bible 50 times bigger."

The scientists managed their feat by sending focused beams of tiny particles, called gallium ions, onto the surface of the silicon chip.

"By sending a particle beam towards various points on the substrate, we can etch any pattern of points, especially one that represents text," said Zohar, a physics doctoral student."

Ion beam deposition is one of the older techniques at the micro-engineer's disposal and there are plenty of machines that will indeed take any pattern you like and zap them into a substrate - so there's no particular challenge to doing this: it's publicity, pure and simple.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anything that does get people thinking about the nuts and bolts of developmental tech is a good thing, and we need more of it.

However, the choice of subject is revealing. One of the various interesting problems facing Israel over the next few years is demographic: the secular and traditional Jewish population are having much smaller families than the Orthodox (or, indeed, the Israeli Arabs. But that's another story). Moreover, the Orthodox are exempt from things like military service and have segregated state-funded schools which concentrate heavily on religious studies.

Run the numbers on this, and it turns out that sometime in the not too distant future there will be a severe shortage in the non-Orthodox workforce - with all sorts of consequences for a modern, technological and highly militarised state that relies on such things to survive.

No wonder the recruiters for all things nano are tuning their message. It helps that the hyper-analytical, rules-based yet lateral mindset inculcated by Talmudic studies is by no means the worst thing to bring to the game of making physics jump through nanometric hoops. However, students of the scriptures may detect some potential issues in PR and marketing....

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