If we are talking smaller things like Nanotechnology, sometimes works gets harder! Nanotechnology research is hard because we are working with things we can’t see! It takes hard work to be able to find ways to characterize and work with such small things. On the other side, Nanotechnology is very appealing because it can make things (for example computers) work better and faster, and it can make technologies (like personalized medicine or disease diagnosis microchips) less expensive!
It is often easier on a practical level to work with bigger things, you’re right. However that’s not always an option! We either are working with things that are small in the first place, or needing to work with as little as possible as there isn’t much around.
I worked recently in a department where they are working on drugs that have just been discovered. That means there is very little of them around. So whereas in my day to day job I would use about 10g to do an experiment (a small tablespoon), they use 5mg (a couple of grains of salt)! It makes work very fiddly, and reminds you that you shouldn’t waste any (or drop it on the floor…)
From my point of view the smaller things are the more careful you have to be because a small mistake can be more expensive to fix.
For example if you were building a bridge and you made something 1mm too short, it wouldn’t be a big problem at all because there would be enough wiggle room to make it fit – however if you were working on a small device to go into the human body, like a heart valve, a mistake of 1mm could be disastrous. There would be no room for error and could be potentially fatal.
Big things use a lot more material than small things, so every part is more expensive – but smaller things often require a lot more work and skill to make them the right size.
Sometimes the work can get a little bit hard, but that’s how we keep on learning new things.
Once I have done them a few times it gets a lot easier and engineering is all about making things better and easier. So the harder it gets, the easier it gets eventually and this makes things cheaper (more efficient) and we can find things out more quickly, because we have got so much better than we were before.