Babbage Nanopamphlets

Two million nanopamphlets were printed in elemental gold, higher in purity than 24-karat gold, by Cornell Univeristy's NanoScale facility. Each gold leaflet is 150 atoms thick and each letter 250 nanometers wide. The engraving was an excerpt from the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise by English polymath and "father of the computer" Charles Babbage, written in 1837. In the text, Babbage posits that the atmosphere is a vast repository of everything that has ever been said; that we could potentially "rewind" the movement of every molecule of air to recreate the voices of everyone who has spoken in the past.

During exhibition at the MUAC Museum in Mexico City, 250,000 copies were released into the Museum’s ventilation system so the public could inhale them. Gold is biologically inert so poses no health risk. The remainder of the pamphlets were displayed suspended in water in a small crystal vial with a magnetic stirrer. Documentary images of the development, such as electron microscope images of the pamphlets, were shown in a nearby display.

General info

Spanish name:
Nanopanfletos de Babbage
Year of creation:
two million nanopamphlets printed on elemental gold, C-prints, glass container, magnet, LED light
50W on 110-240V
Room conditions:
the piece works with natural or artificial light and is silent
each letter is 250 nanometers wide and 150 atoms thick
3 Editions, 1 AP
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art



  • Production: Sergio Clavijo, Carolina Murillo-Morales
  • Commissioned by: Stephanie Owens for the CCA Biennial
  • Collaboration with: NanoScale Science and Technology Facility at Cornell University (Michael Skvarla, Garry Bordonaro, Edward Camacho, John Treichler, Aaron Windsor)