updated 4/7/2005 10:09:21 PM ET 2005-04-08T02:09:21

Physicists in Spain are celebrating the 400th anniversary of publication of "Don Quixote" in a very small way: they wrote the first paragraph on a silicon chip in letters so tiny the whole 1,000-page book would fit on the tips of six human hairs.

The feat — just for fun — shows off a data-storage technique developed years ago by the Microelectronics Institute of Madrid, part of the government's top scientific research agency.

It uses a device called an atomic force microscope, which runs a ceramic or semiconductor tip over a silicon surface in much the same way as a phonograph needle scans a record.

Using water vapor in the atmosphere and an electric charge, that tip basically etches out tiny letters on the surface, lead researcher Ricardo Garcia told the newspaper El Pais.

The technique can be used to make computer chips and so-called electronic paper, thin flexible sheets that can store and erase information.

Garcia's team added a high-tech element to a year of celebrations honoring the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes' novel "Don Quixote." Other commemorative events include conferences, readings, adaptations, theater works, films and concerts in Spain and across the globe.

In English, the 10 lines written on the silicon chip read: "In a certain village in La Mancha, which I do not wish to name, there lived not long ago a gentleman — one of those who have always a lance in the rack, an ancient shield, a lean hack and a greyhound for coursing."

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