Sunday, November 07, 2004

You ain't seen nano yet

This Associated Press story and this list of products all illustrate the wonderful new chemistry that is now coming of age, with our ability to tailor nanosize particles to perform specific tasks to make our lives better.

But to name this "nanotechnology" is akin to striking two flints together and labeling the spark a "supernova."

I'm not knocking or mocking nanopants. I think it's a great product. I spent more than three years helping to create the buzz surrounding nanoproducts. I own the pants, I've road-tested the socks, I've assigned product reviews of the nano-riffic cosmetics and tennis equipment and I played a key role in building a news organization that grabbed a disparate collection of businesses that deal with small stuff and called them an "industry"

And there, too, I have no regrets. The profit motive can and will help move nanoscience forward.

An entrepreneurial cave man can take his sack of flints on the road and, for a small fee, dazzle the locals with the spark. He can call it a fire or a thermonuclear explosion or whatever he wants, and the spark will seem wondrous. But in reality, it's still not yet a fire.

Advanced chemistry, business models and five-year profit plans are fascinating subjects to write about and to read. They certainly cannot be dismissed, since they are useful in keeping basic nanotech concepts in the public eye. And, of course, God bless the entrepreneur who's got his own.

But as for me, I remain curious about nanotechnology.

I want to know who's creating it, how far away are they, who's supporting it, who's not (and why), who's thinking about long-term implications and whether the U.S. government and Pentagon really know what they're doing as they guide nanotech's development with a tiny piece of my money. I just can't seem to find anything substantial anywhere on that subject in any of the publications I read. So, you'll find more and more of it on NanoBot.

Yes, I've drunk the Kool-Aid, chugged it all down. Yet, here I am, pink mustache and all, surviving to tell the story. I suspect -- actually, I know -- more than a few businesspeople who would like a window into not only the possibilities of real-deal nanotechnology, but also to be informed of the work going on to make it happen. Who are the visionaries -- the old, but especially the young -- that serve as the true thinkers and innovators of our age? Watch this space.

You think you've seen nano? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

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