Pa. Man Crafts Tiny Hologram of Lord's Prayer

By Colin McEvoy | The Easton Express Times
|  Saturday, Oct 5, 2013  |  Updated 5:53 PM EDT
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Pa. Man Crafts Tiny Hologram of Lord's Prayer

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A human hair is about 100 microns wide. And for Frank DeFreitas, that's more than enough space to write a 68-word prayer.

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The 57-year-old Allentown man has used a laboratory laser to write what he believes is the smallest version of the Lord's Prayer ever written.

"I like to tell people that it took me 30 years to make it, because everything that I've learned along the way in my career has been put into doing it,'' DeFreitas said.

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DeFreitas, who lives near 8th and Allen streets, had submitted his creation to Guinness World Records last week, but a new ``World's Smallest Lord's Prayer'' category does not exist and they have determined they cannot make one.

Nevertheless, DeFreitas is confident it is the smallest of its type ever made: it is invisible to the human eye until the hologram is oriented properly and a laser beam is used at a specified angle.

DeFreitas has worked for 30 years as a holographer, meaning one who uses lasers and other equipment to record the light scattered from an object and present it as a three-dimensional image.

"I've been working with lasers and holograms most of my adult life,'' he said. "As I come toward the end of my career in holography, I thought I'd like to do something that would carry over after I'm gone.''

And while creating the world's smallest Lord's Prayer might sound like an unusual choice, it actually has a long history that far predates the field of holography.

Engravers and sculptors have been making tiny versions of the prayer since the 1800s. DeFreitas himself owns a tiny metal casting that was hand-cut on a pantograph machine by engraver Charles Beeler in 1921.

More recently, in 2010, an engraver from Birmingham named Graham Short inscribed the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin measuring 2 millimeters in diameter, according to BBC News.

Two millimeters equates to 2,000 microns, which is 20 times larger than DeFreitas' creation.

He made it right in his Allentown home, writing it on a light-sensitive photopolymer material on a table that floats in the air to avoid vibrations.

That was necessary, he said, because if the table surface vibrated more than a fraction of a wavelength of laser light, it would be destroyed.

"I live right in downtown Allentown, so every 20 minutes a bus goes by,'' DeFreitas said. "I've got to isolate everything from it, because if there's even the very slightest vibration, it's useless. That's the microscopic nanoscale that this is done in.''

Guinness World Records spokeswoman Sara Wilcox said the company has received DeFreitas' submission and would considering whether to open a new category.

But DeFreitas was contacted by Guinness on Thursday and told they could not accept the proposal because each record they verify must be "standardisable,'' which they did not believe would be possible in this case.

While no such record currently exists, a similar one is the world's smallest book, a 30 micro-tablet book etched using an ion beam on pure crystalline silicon pages that measures 70 microns by 100 microns, Wilcox said.

DeFreitas spent the first 15 years of his career at Rodale Press in Emmaus, working on Runner's World and their bicycling magazines before becoming a full-time holographer.

One of his current projects is encoding the scripture into a hologram so it can be sent overseas to places where the Bible is banned.

"Nobody could reconstruct the hologram unless they had a laser pointer and knew exactly where it was,'' he said. "It's almost like stealth technology.''

He has exhibited his Lord's Prayer at several locations, including at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., where he teaches. It was also featured at the New York Hall of Science earlier this month.

During that exhibition, DeFreitas said he was approached by one person who questioned why a religious prayer was being shown in a science museum.

"There's a little bit of tension between science and religion, of course,'' he said. "But I told him, the Lord's Prayer has been shown in science museums and exhibitions for hundreds of years. This isn't the first time it's been approached as a science.''
 

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