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A Small Little Molecule

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Sabine’s profile.

So usually a post with this title, on this blog, would be about something one of our scientists saw through a microscope.

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Not today, my friends.

In her day job, Sabine Seymour tries to figure out how to stuff your clothes with one’s and zero’s so that they – your clothes – will do amazing things: change colors, tell you what’s happening inside your body so you can stay healthy, keep you warm, keep you cool, etc. etc. As Sabine says, her field of Fashionable Technology is located at the intersection of design, fashion, science and technology. And that’s a heady space – cutting-edge invention, looking fabulous in New York City.

A Small Little Molecule-sabine_on_mountain.jpg
You might be tiny, but you still want to look fabulous.

Albert Einstein, say hello to Manolo Blahnik.

But what about the “small little molecule”?

Sabine’s also a snowboarder. And she doesn’t do just any kind of snowboarding – she does “out of bounds” snowboarding, the kind where you have to create your own path down the hill. Sabine explains:

“’Out of bounds’ means no slope. It means that it’s basically terrain that is fresh, that is in nature. So basically, when you go up the mountain, you take your snowboard up on your backpack. You hike up with your snow shoes. You have to know the terrain. You have to know where to go. There is no signage.”

And it can take 4-6 hours to get up the mountain for that one precious ride down the mountain.

In other words, you ain’t wearing Manolos when you snowboard out of bounds.

Why is our chic scientist involved in what could be considered a borderline insane activity? (Well “insane” is actually too strong a word, but you do have to bring along something called an “avalanche beep,” and frankly that scares me… a lot.)


“You only focus on you riding down. So the only thing that counts is you, the terrain and your own movement. So you have full control over your own movements, still being able to acknowledge the massive power nature has. In the context of nature, we are very small compared to the mountains, the other animals. I’m a human, in terms of the way I think. So you understand the snow conditions and you really can analyze that. However, in the context of nature, you’re just a small little molecule. And you know, we’re not there for that long. Time is very precious. Wasting time on things that don’t really make me happy or that just irritate me – I am trying to avoid that as much as I can.”

So while fashionable technology – with all of its sparkle – might make you feel larger than life, “out of bounds” snowboarding can make you feel incredibly small. And after hearing from Sabine, I grudgingly admit that even with the need for an “avalanche beep,” that sounds like a pretty great experience to have.