Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Nano and nan at NNI

Somebody in the National Nanotechnology Initiative made a mistake and accidentally let me attend its From Vision to Commercialization conference. I guess they didn't see my picture on the "do not admit under any circumstances" leaflets tacked up on the bulletin board.

So, I caught a flight to Washington, D.C., this morning and -- as I was to find out later -- my garment bag apparently decided it would rather hang with the Spring Breakers in Tampa. I don't blame it, but I'd rather have it back with me so I don't have to wear the same outfit for three days. I'm a rumpled journalist, but that's going a bit too far (although I am wearing my

today, so spills do not worry me). Northwest Airlines assures me the bag is on its way to D.C. I'm curious to look at the photos it must have taken with the digital camera I left in one of its pockets.

Anyway, a few hours into the conference and it's already surpassed my expectations. I passed UCLA nanoprof Jim Heath on the way to the conference center. He seemed relaxed, leaning nonchalantly against a wall, talking on his cell phone. He's the guy Small Times called the "rock star of nanotechnology" a year or so ago -- largely, I suppose, because of his long ponytail. However, I saw no evidence that nanogroupies, among the mostly male crowd, were fawning all over him.

I went inside, grabbed my badge and ran into Sean Murdock, executive director of Atomworks, a Chicago-based nanotech coalition. Without missing a beat, Sean and I seamlessly continued a discussion we had begun last December on the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology, and Europe's preoccupation with the

Sean's a nanobusiness person who is also a thinker. We don't agree on some issues, but I enjoy debating with him. I hope he continues to enhance his profile as a spokesman for the nanotech industry.

Then, I entered the conference hall and noticed Zyvex founder Jim Von Ehr sitting in a corner, looking very unassuming for a billionaire who has invested more of his personal fortune into nanotechnology than any other single human on the planet. We made eye contact and exchanged friendly nods. Later, I approached him after his talk and expected to get just get the usual response when a reporter shoves a notebook in his face and asks questions. So, I was surprised when he not only agreed to an interview, but would do it right then, and over lunch.

Apparently, Von Ehr is unfamiliar with the streets of Washington (I suggested that perhaps that's why his particular vision of molecular manufacturing has placed him outside of mainstream nanothought and outside the halls of power. He laughed. More on this idea later). Anyway, a rumpled journalist with only one outfit (temporarily) to his name is wandering the streets of D.C. with a billionaire venture capitalist and the founder of one of the first nanotechnology companies, looking for a place to have lunch.

We finally broke nan at an Indian restaurant, where our half-hour interview turned into an hour-long conversation about many, many issues -- including a few that regular NanoBot readers would be very interested in. Yes, Von Ehr is still a believer. Yes (as evidenced by some of the questions he was asked during his presentation earlier regarding "sticky fingers"), he is still considered outside the mainstream when it comes to his belief in true, bottom-up molecular manufacturing. But Von Ehr is staying out of the limelight and refusing to put up his dukes in the Drexler/Smalley nanoschism. Instead of talking, he's doing -- with or without government blessing. It's good to be Jim Von Ehr.

He's a fascinating guy, but I'll write more later. I should head back to the conference. I'm not sure if they'll let me back in, though. I think I left my badge back at the restaurant.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Slippery NanoSlope

    "Safety aside, what the heck is a 'nanoparticle'? And what has the, as far as I know so-far-non-existent, but perhaps soon-to-actually-exist, nanotechnology got to do with these waxes (other than possibly some BS in promotion)?" More here

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Nano-engineered intelligent flagellum?

Here's a comment from "Intelligent Design" advocate

in Christianity Today that would boil the corpuscles off of any red-blooded Darwinian nanoscientist:

    "Now, with intelligent design, you can look at certain biological structures. We're arguing that they are intelligently caused. The most popular one that's been investigated is the bacterial flagellum. It's a little bi-directional motor-driven propeller on the backs of certain bacteria, marvel of nano-engineering, and so we've started to analyze systems like that and argue for their intelligent design." More here

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Monday, March 29, 2004

GMO is so '90s; Make way for AMO

Just when I was beginning to wonder what happened to the ETC Group ...

Scientists Prepare to Use Nanotechnology to Poison Us All?
Jazzing up Jasmine:
Atomically Modified Rice in Asia?

    "A nanotech research initiative in Thailand aims to atomically modify the characteristics of local rice varieties - including the country's famous jasmine rice- and to circumvent the controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Nanobiotech takes agriculture from the battleground of GMOs to the brave new world of Atomically Modified Organisms (AMOs)." More here

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'Bad bucky's' blog bounce

Everybody and his blogger has an opinion about the bass-brain-busting buckyballs.

    "Nonetheless, because of its worries about science-fiction-based fears where mature nanotechnology is concerned, the nanotechnology industry has mostly succeeded in exaggerating concern about shorter-term fears. Afraid that nanotechnology might be associated with lethal (and implausible) sci-fi robots in the public mind, it has produced a situation in which nanotechnology may come to be associated with lethal (and more plausible) toxic buckyballs instead."
    Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

    "The actual study is a bunch of hooey for tons of reasons and Prof. Reynolds and Mr. Lovy have done a decent job pointing those out."
    Daniel Moore, nanotechnology researcher at Georgia Tech

    "Buckyballs are the new asbestos?"
    Cory Doctorow, writing in BoingBoing

    "If they're smart, the Nano Business Alliance will capitalize on this opportunity to clean up their image."
    Phil Bowermaster, The Speculist

    "Wouldn't it have been nice if it had occurred to someone to test them for health risks before they started producing them?"
    Sysyphus Shrugged

    "Bill Joy warned us about this type of thing four years ago. Now, what if these nanoparticles were self replicating nanobots??? Oh well. Watch as these idiots keep fumbling toward oblivion."
    Kevin F., in

    "I thought 'Buckyballs' was an injury suffered by rodeo riders, like "Tennis elbow".
    "ozbird," writing in Slashdot


More fun with search terms that reach my blog

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Nano is a concept by which we measure our pain

Toxicologist Eva Oberdorster's new study on the effects of nanoparticles on aquatic animals deserves some thoughtful analysis, yet the Washington Post makes some strange leaps of logic in its reporting.

    The study, described at a scientific meeting Sunday, was small and has yet to be peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal. And although some companies anticipate making tons of the particles within the next few years, current production levels are relatively low, so the risk of exposure for humans and other animals is still quite small.

    Nonetheless, the findings underscore the growing recognition that the hot new field of nanotechnology, which federal officials have said will be at the heart of America's "next industrial revolution," may bring with it a number of old-fashioned trade-offs in terms of potential environmental damage and health risks.

    Other animal studies have already suggested that a related class of nanoparticles cause lung injuries when inhaled, raising concerns about worker safety in the small but growing number of nanoparticle factories.

Sorry, but the qualifiers "may" and "suggested" just do not do enough to counteract the impression left on the reader that nanoparticles cause lung injuries and threaten factory workers.

As I've pointed out before, the "animal studies" mentioned above concluded that if you pump rats' lungs full of nanotubes, they will suffocate. The toxicity of the nanoparticles was not conclusive and, in fact, it was suggested that the clumping was a good sign, since it prevented the nanotubes from reaching deeper into the lungs.

The vague idea of some future "factory workers" being endangered is mentioned once, then dropped.

While it would be foolish for nanotech businesses and advocates in government to dismiss concerns over "nanotox," all parties need to stick to the evidence as it's presented. This latest study is yet another small piece of evidence in a longer process of scientific discovery. Despite the tendency of the media to want to tell its readers what these small-scale studies mean by making all sorts of unscientific leaps in logic for them, don't lose sight of what is actually being presented.

Some better context can be found in The New York Times' coverage:

    "This is a yellow light, not a red one," Dr. Oberdorster said in a telephone interview last week.

    Vicki L. Colvin, whose laboratory at Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology supplied the buckyballs used by Dr. Oberdorster, was even more cautious about the results, which have not yet been reviewed by other scientists.

    Dr. Colvin said that the surface characteristics of the lab's buckyballs, which are not a form that is commercially available, needed further study. She said that they had not been coated, a process that is commonly used to limit the toxicity of such materials in applications like drug delivery.

Nanotechnology is such a young discipline that any issue for which the nano name is invoked is largely a reflection of a personal world view or political agenda rather than any overwhelming body of evidence. Nanotechnology advocates in business and government choose to focus on the optimistic leaps of logic, while those who see corporate conspiracies in the wallpaper can make just as many plausible or implausible leaps into the negative. As I told Neofiles a few months ago:

    A health advocate could say that once nanoparticles breach the blood-brain barrier, we're entering into dangerous territory, while another can say that breaching that barrier will enable a range of cures for various brain disorders. Nanotechnology, right now, is an unsettled wilderness that is either abundant with resources for the picking, or a vast frozen wasteland. It's a reflection of your own world view.

Right now, the general public is being bombarded with some amazing predictions of how nanotechnology will completely alter almost every aspect of their lives. To many, the claims seem not only fantastic, but implausible. Nanotech proponents in government and business are just as guilty of promoting selective logic as the neoluddites of the environmental movement when they ask the public to believe positive implausible scenarios and not to pay attention to the negative.

It's a difficult concept to describe. I was asked by a reporter for NPR's "Marketplace" last week to define nanotechnology. I gave the usual explanation (under-100-nanometers, special-properties, etc.), and then I struggled to explain how nanotechnology right now is more of a concept than anything else. We've created the building blocks and dumped them on the floor. What we create with them now, and how safely we do it, is yet to be determined.

So, there is nano the science and nano the business, and they're moving along quite nicely as they take their baby steps. But when it reaches level of public debate, nano often loses its solidity to become neither science nor business, but a concept that is a reflection of the human imagination.

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Saturday, March 27, 2004


Lev Navrozov, the usually entertaining Sinophobe, mentions "the magazine 'Howard Lovy’s NanoBot,' " in his latest travels down paranoia's silk road. Navrozov was referring to my reporting on the National Nanotechnology Initiative's attempted uninvitation of Eric Drexler from a recent NNI-sponsored conference.

Navrozov believes that while the NNI is trying its best to bury the idea of nanobots, China is on its way to developing them. The sentiment sounds a bit too Cold War-ish for my taste, but I'll let the military experts decide whether the writer has a point.

The best review of Navrozov's essay, though, come from TNTlog, run by Tim Harper of Cientifica.

    While the grasp of any science is shaky at best (the evidence for the assembler seems to have been inferred from the completion of a Chinese Academy of Sciences study on nanobiotech) it is fun to see Eric Drexler, Howard Lovy, Einstein, Mark Modzelewski and Michael Crichton all referenced in a series of articles that do for Sino American relations what the Institute of Nanotechnology recently did for transatlantic relations.

Not sure if Harper wrote that entry, but if he did, it looks like he still has some spark despite the loss of a key communicator at Cientifica and some tense moments at his Madrid office during the recent terrorist bombings. Glad to have Tim's voice back in the nanomix.

Read the rest here.


Nano on the 'Perimeter'

From Gamesmania, comes this preview of a nanotech-themed game from Codemasters, scheduled for release in May:

    Perimeter is a ground breaking real-time strategy game which brings, a range of fresh ideas to the RTS genre. Use strategic Terraforming to acquire resources, project a impenetrable perimeter force shield to protect from attack and marshal your forces though manipulation of nano-technology.


    Units can be transformed into different units on the battlefield, giving the player powerful tactical opportunities to adapt combat units to a particular situation. Not all units will be effective in all situations and base units must be built tactically, either to focus on a sole function or to be adaptable.

Here's the official Web site.

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The newest anime and all the classics too @ TFAW!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Nano gambli ... er, investment, club

A "Nanotechnology Research and Investment Group is being launched. Here's a description from a Yahoo! nanotech newsgroup:

    The club will begin operations on April 1, 2004. will be used to handle all of the club's accounting, tax, and performance issues. We've established an intranet to do online voting and collaboration. We have approximately 20-25 members so far, mostly from the Maryland and Virginia area, but many new members are joining from all over the country. We simply want to start investing as a group in nano and MEMS companies. We are not nano scientists or engineers, but a group of ordinary folk. However, our backgrounds include computer scientists, CPA's, bank managers, federal employees, and so on. More here.

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The Investor's Guide to Nanotechnology and Micromachines The Investor's Guide to Nanotechnology and Micromachines

This guide introduces the reader to the future of nanotechnology from an investor's point of view

The Asperger/Nano Connection


Congratulations on the new baby. I've been meaning to write for some time and tell you how much I enjoy your blog and Small Times.

I've followed the nanotech world since I read a paper many years ago by some fellow named Drexler. Your writings became more personal to me recently when you talked about the MMR concerns a few months ago (I'd been following that on my own too), as my son has lived with Asperger Syndrome all his 15 years, and was diagnosed not long after that series of shots as a baby. He's blessed to be incredibly bright along with the social difficulties. He has a strong interest in applying himself to the nanotech world (I can't figure out from whom he could get such an interest :)

As a high school junior his test scores are very high and he's getting all sorts of high-quality colleges sending him letters (I know *I* never got letters from Ivy League schools).

Take care,
Billy Harvey


Thank you very much for your kind note. Sounds like you have a great kid! I'm proud of mine, as well. She's a bit awkward, socially, but always amazes me in how brilliant she is in other areas.

Good luck with everything.


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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Echoes from the NanoBot

James Pethokoukis of

picks up on my NNI/Sci-Fi posts from last week in his column: Why the feds fear nanobots:

    "Thus it seems the government views nanobots as a sci-fi fantasy with only dangerous implications, further implying in the FAQ that the only reason someone would want to create nanobots would be for destructive purposes."

Pethokoukis goes on to quote "nanobot advocate" Eric Drexler and his visions of evil "laptop computers with a billion times more processing power than modern machines, or sheets of tough, flexible solar-cell material suitable for reroofing a house or repaving a driveway, or 3-D video wallpaper, or parts that snap together to make a new nanofactory."

The columnist concludes: "Nothing dangerous sounding there. Actually, it all sounds pretty cool."

Amen, Brother James.

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1 year, 52 issues


    "Nanotechnology is breaking out all over the planet. So it's not a case of the rich western world going into these other countries. South Korea, India and China are leaders in the nanotechnology field and they're the ones that Canadians have to compete against."


    , quoted in


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Nanomatic for the people

Lisa Napoli, senior reporter for public radio's "Marketplace" did an admirable job of injecting a wide range of ideas about nanotechnology in such a short amount of time in Tuesday's report. (Here's a RealOne Player link.) I told her so, and she responded, "That one was a bear!"

During our 30-plus-minute interview last Friday, Napoli was almost apologetic about how radio is such a superficial medium and she's sorry that her report could not go more in-depth. Personally, though, I think it takes a lot more skill to condense complex ideas into a three-minute radio story than it does to write a 3,000-word essay on the same topic – if the story is aimed at a wide audience.

Those of us who are deeply and daily buried in the minutia of nanobusiness, nanoscience and nanopolitics might pooh-pooh those kinds of radio reports, yet I'll bet more average citizens (and eventual consumers of nanotech products) learned more about nanotechnology through those sound bites than they could have in any of the thousands of white papers and reports floating about.

One particular part of the report that I'm proud of is Napoli's focus on Bruce Baughman (aka, "Mr. Bionic Crotch") and his nanotech-enhanced mesh device for hernia surgery. Small Times reporter Jeff Karoub, the man who also found a Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center techno-hero in the C-Leg, again did something that is lacking in lab- and business-heavy nanotech reporting – he found a real person whose life is measurably better because of nanotech's ability to improve on a medical device. My wife mentioned that Jeff's story was one of the few she's read in Small Times that seemed to resonate into everyday reality. And "Marketplace's" Napoli correctly picked up on that connection and ran with it.

If you sneezed, you would have missed my sound bites, but basically I provided the "industry expert" analysis. We talked about quite a bit more, so here's a brief rundown of other points I had made that were left on the cutting-room floor.

She had asked me why so much venture capital money was going into nanotechnology these days. Small Times' reporter David Forman, who follows the VC trail, had briefed me on some points the day before, so I came prepared. I said that one thing to remember is that, for the past couple of years, venture capitalists have been hanging on to their money. They haven't been investing it into anything, across the board. So, now that VCs have sufficiently recovered from the '90s hangover, they have more money to spend.

One thing we discovered in looking at the numbers, though, is that while the dollar amount went down in 2002, the numbers of deals stayed steady. So, venture capitalists, at least the smart ones who have been following nanotechnology for years, are not just blindly throwing their money at it. They've been researching, carefully investing and now, with the economy picking up and some of the technology ready for the investment phase, you're seeing this increase.

But the impression that VCs are falling all over themselves to get in on the nano action isn't really true.

Government money, though, is a totally different story -- DARPA, NIST ATP, SBIR, the whole alphabet soup. It's really not the private sector that's boosting the industry right now. It's government spending. And that's a fairly normal phenomenon for an industry in its early phase. The government props it up, encourages it, gets R&D moving in the lab, helps it along into the startup phase, and then the Darwinian world of business kicks in.

Even there, though, startups can live to see another day primarily through government grants. And right now, the military is where the money is at. Shop your nanomaterial around and tell a VC that your superstrong, superlight nano-enhanced polymer would be useful for garage doors, and you might be shown the door. But go to DARPA and say it can help reinforce tank or aircraft or cockpit doors and can stop a speeding bullet, and you might have an easier time getting some dough.

The difference now, though, is that public relations people have taken over the business of nanotechnology, and so there's a perception that VCs just can't seem to stop blindly throwing their money at anything with the n-word as a prefix. That's what creates buzz and gets nano names in the news during evening drive times.

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Onions of Creation



Human Nanofactory in Four Dimensions

fourdee1   fourdee2
Secret notes from my extra-super-top-secret experiment in bottom-up molecular manufacturing using human test subjects: Month Seven.

Using state-of-the-art 4-D imaging technology, I can see how the subject has used self-replication methods at the cellular level to evolve from a fish-like creature to an entity that resembles a human infant. While I believe a couple more months of secret development is needed before the subject can be unveiled to the world, I am now thoroughly convinced of the feasibility of molecular nanotechnology.

Also, if I do say so myself, the developing male creature does appear to be unusually handsome. I can't really put my finger on why I believe this, but the subject does certainly resemble -- if I may be so bold -- myself. I'll need to run further tests to determine why these self-replicating nanobots have, in the aggregate, grown to resemble the project's chief scientist. I suspect it might have to do with the double-helix I've discovered embedded within.

fingerOne more observation. When I mentioned this resemblance out loud, the subject appeared to react to the notion with some hostility, as you can see in the photograph at right.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Nano report on 'Marketplace'

I was featured in a couple of sound bites on Public Radio's "Marketplace" today. If you have RealPlayer, click here. The nanotech report is toward the end. I'll write more on it later. Time to walk my dog now.

Update: Here's a RealOne Player link to the nanotech story only.


Get out of your mom's basement and get a job

Take a look at what those scifi wacko "Drexlerians … and other denizens …" are up to now. They've helped launch a nanotechnology jobs, education and career site: Working in Nanotechnology.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so I asked Christine Peterson, chief of that nonprofit cabal, the Foresight Institute, just what her band of merry futurists thought they were doing.

She said that Foresight's partner on this site is "especially strong at assisting with international contacts, which is vital in a global field such as nanotechnology. Employers want the best, regardless of nationality, and employees are often willing to relocate to join a top organization." She said that Foresight's primary role is to "help get the word out so that nanotech employers and potential employees give it a try."

Well, good luck, you bunch of dreamers. But you really should just stick to your nanobots – creatures that the National Nanotechnology Initiative says remain "in the realm of science fiction."

Besides, don't you know that there's already an alliance that's giving the industry the business? Take a look at the trade organization's state-of-the-art jobs site, punch "nanotechnology" into the search engine and take your pick among the hot nano jobs.



    "But the core of the new knowledge economy continues to lie in science and technology. Vast new industries are taking shape around the convergence of information technology, biotechnology and nano-technology, in fields like proteomics, biosensors or the next generations of interactive entertainment - and it is essential that we can compete."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a speech on the economy to Goldman Sachs

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Plaque-Attacking Nanobots

From in Utah comes confirmation that nanobots are, indeed, scaring our children ... by forcing them to brush:

    nanobotkidsThen the boys hit upon the idea of using retainer trays, like those used for teeth, combined with nanotechnology to replace the toothbrush.

    It's entirely feasible, a local dentist told them.

    The Mouth Magician would be a tooth tray containing tiny plaque-attacking "nanobots." A user would fill the trays with a fluoride gel, mouthwash, bleach and anti-bacterial agents. Nanobots would spread the gel on the teeth, rinse them and return to an airtight area on the appliance. The Mouth Magician then would vibrate, telling the user it's done. The process would take about five minutes.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Know your enemies ... and friends

Michigan Small Tech leaders explore collaborations at MISTA event (Michigan Small Tech)

    “Do you know where your competitors are? Yeah you do. But more importantly, do you know where your collaborators are?” Fred Grasman, a business development manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., asked a breakout session on homeland security. Small tech entrepreneurs, Grasman said, are “way out in front of the marketplace.” Survival, then, depends on forming the partnerships necessary to move products along the research and development chain. More

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"One piece of advice Dr (Jeffrey) Matsuura gives is that everyone involved should have a consistent message. If investors are told a technology will change the world, someone who is concerned about the risks cannot then be told that the same technology is no big deal. It strikes a false note to say that something can be both revolutionary and nothing to worry about, he says. Such inconsistencies will breed public mistrust and fear."

From The Economist, in Nanotechnology: Much ado about almost nothing


News in a NanoSecond

Step toward building tiny, molecular motors (Innovations Report)

    moleculeA step towards building tiny motors on the scale of a molecule has been demonstrated by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

    In an article appearing in the current issue of Science magazine, the researchers from the two institutions described how they were able – through light or electrical stimulation – to cause a molecule to rotate on an axis in a controlled fashion, similar to the action of a motor.

    The consequences of such an achievement could lead to the design of molecular devices on a “nano” scale (one billionth of a meter), capable of operating industrial or surgical processes that larger equipment could not handle. More

The First Nanochips (Scientific American)

    For most people, the notion of harnessing nanotechnology for electronic circuitry suggests something wildly futuristic. In fact, if you have used a personal computer made in the past few years, your work was most likely processed by semiconductors built with nanometer-scale features. These immensely sophisticated microchips--or rather, nanochips--are now manufactured by the millions, yet the scientists and engineers responsible for their development receive little recognition. You might say that these people are the Rodney Dangerfields of nanotechnology. So here I would like to trumpet their accomplishments and explain how their efforts have maintained the steady advance in circuit performance to which consumers have grown accustomed. More

In the papers 22 March (

    The Sunday Tribune says that Dublin nanotechnology company Ntera is close to finalising a funding round that could raise as much as EUR5 million. The new funding would bring the amount the company has raised since being founded in 1997 to EUR20 million.

    The same paper notes that rock group U2 have earned more than EUR4 million through the sale of rights to use the band's name on an official Web site for the past three years. More

How to remove misbehaving nanobots? (sci.nanotech)


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Fine Corinthian Nano brings us a road test of the 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-Class automobile. The exterior has, of course, been "nanosized."

    Mercedes does make a big deal of the fact that the exterior of the new C-class will look pretty much the same for a long time, since it's been covered in a new kind of nano-technology paint which resists scratches and stays shinier longer much better than anything else on the market. This could be an incredibly attractive part of the ownership experience for those folks who want a car to look as good as it can for as long as it can. More here.


Friday, March 19, 2004

Will radio kill the NanoBot star?

The following is an edited transcript:

Hi Howard,

I'm working on a story about nanotech for our show and would love to do a brief phone interview with you. If it was at all possible to have you go into the studio at your nearby public radio station, it would make the sound quality even better. Please let me know if you're game and if there's a convenient time in the near future.

Thanks in advance for your consideration,

Lisa Napoli
Senior Reporter
Marketplace Public Radio


Sure. I'm a 'Marketplace' fan. I'd love to do it. Maybe even through the magic of editing you can remove my "ums" and "ers" to make me sound slightly intelligent!

I live near Detroit (WDET) and work in Ann Arbor (WUOM). Either one would work for me. Early mornings are best.


Lisa: Howard, great, thanks---you know if you listen to the show that all ums and ers get erased! Could you do it Friday morning. And you are on Eastern time, right?

Howard: Yes, I'm on Eastern Time. I usually wake up very early. Anytime between ... um ... 6 and 10 a.m. would work for me. Whenever you get a chance, let me know what you'd like to discuss so I can make sure I'm prepared. Thanks.

Lisa: Just a general state of the nanotech universe for the layperson, with an eye toward the money side of things--why does it seem so much is being invested, what the heck is nanotech, etcetera? That okay?

A day goes by. The interview happens. I was in a scary room with lots of dials and switches and a big microphone.

Howard: Lisa, Thanks for your patience while I rambled on. Now I remember why I never went beyond my college radio station in the broadcasting business. I hope I gave you something you can use. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you'd like any more information ... or more nano-meanderings!

Lisa: Howard, you were great. Thank you so much for your time. I'll keep you posted as this comes together--now I hear it has to run next Wednesday, so I've got to move quickly after interviewing Mr. Bionic Crotch later today.

Howard: That's great. I'm glad Mr. B.C. will get his 15 minutes! (or, in radio time, 15 seconds?). Do you mind if I tell my blog readers that I was interviewed?

Lisa: Not at all!


Marketplace, 1-Month Subscription Marketplace, 1-Month Subscription

Marketplace is the only national series on public radio devoted to business, the global economy and finance.

Cars, Health Care and Kerry?


Just a quick check of my stats. Who says silly blogs are for kids?


Again, with the nanopants?

Another "Century City" review:

    Legal time warp: "'Century City' is at its best when it embraces the silliness of trying to forecast the future, like a plot from tomorrow night's episode where a jilted boyfriend accuses his ex of programming his personality into all of her clothes and appliances. Even if you remember nothing else of 'Century City' months from now, a line like 'Give me back my nano-pants!' may stick for a while." More here.

I'm really going to have to start watching this show. I can't help but wonder whether the show's writers read nanotech blogs?

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Lee Nano-care Double Pleat Casual Pant Lee Nano-care Double Pleat Casual Pant

Nano-care revolutionizes fabric technology, making these pants totally carefree! * Repels liquids * Minimizes stains * Wrinkle free * Comfort waist with relaxed seat and thigh * Traditional pleated front styling * 16 1/2 inch leg opening.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Frozen Down Under

From the Herald Sun in Australia:

    A son wants to freeze his parents after they die in the hope technology will one day be able to revive them.

    Philip Rhoades, 52, a member of the Cryonics Association of Australia, has spent almost $100,000 preparing an underground storage.

    ...  Mr Rhoades' mother, Dorothy, 72, a former maths and science teacher and his father, Gerald, 77, an industrial chemist, have agreed to take the slim chance they may one day be brought back from the dead.

    They believe there is a chance technology, especially in nanotechnology, will develop to a level where successful reanimation of dead people will be possible.

    Without religious or moral objections to the concept, they believe cryonics is worth trying.

    ... The Cryonics Association of Australia has about 30 members and 16 living people have signed on to be frozen in the US-based Alcor and Cryonics Institute, which typically costs $70,000. More here.

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Nano by the Bay

All things considered, I'd rather be in the Bay Area (rather than gray, frozen Michigan). This event tonight sounds fun:

    The Bay Area Nanotechnology Discussion takes place twice a month in the San Francisco Bay Area to provide a forum for the communication and exchange of ideas, brainstorming, napkin drawing and networking related to the developing field of nanotechnology. Experienced professionals and those with general interest are encouraged to attend. More here.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Beauty and the Nano Beat

For all the high-minded talk of nanotech curing cancer and creating world peace, do not underestimate the power of the true killer app: Vanity.

As this article shows, beauty is serious science as well as business.

    Growth in ethnic hair and skin care technologies is due to the fact that 35% of the U.S. population is non-Caucasian and 80% of the population outside the U.S. is non-Caucasian. Delivery systems that now play a dominant role in cosmetics and personal care products are micro and nano particles (core shell and matrix systems), porous micoparticles, liposomes and cyclodextrins. Nanotechnology is extremely important to future innovations in active ingredients used in innovative products. Nanoparticles, microcapsules and nanoemulsion technologies are the desired delivery systems for cosmeceuticals, color cosmetics and personal care products.

    ... Anti-aging treatments account for the lion’s share of growth in the skin care market. Consumers expect fast, visible results. To deliver these results there is a growing trend by companies to rely on the use of advanced technologies. Delivery systems play an increasingly important role in the development of effective skin care products. Nanoparticles can be subdivided on the basis of the encapsulating membrane structure into liposomes and nanoemulsions/ nanosomes/nanotopes. Read the rest.

Check out Small Times on Friday, by the way. Yes, the only nanotech news organization with its own sports correspondent will also introduce a reviewer on the nanobeauty beat. Correspondent, and part-time model, Jennifer Foss will report from the front lines as Small Times' nanocosmetics guinea pig.

Related Post:
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Military, Media and Mishpucha

I'm going through my notes from yesterday's Michigan Small Tech event and decided to go ahead and post the rest of the intro I gave before my panel on defense and security. Those who were there will notice some variation from what I actually said because, thankfully for the audience, I made some on-the-spot edits because this intro was much too long. I guess blogs are supposed to be ego- and well as news-driven, so I thought this might give the few people who care a glimpse into "my motivation" when it comes to military technology and the media. I haven't discussed military nano all that much, but I plan on writing more about it.

OK. There's probably just one of my regular readers who might really care about "my motivation." Hi, Mom.

When last we left your humble narrator, he had just redefined the meaning of the word "joke." We'll pick it up from there:

"Just a brief introduction. I'm Howard Lovy, news editor at Small Times Media. I oversee a network of correspondents around the world who contribute news to Small Times' Web site and print magazine. I also oversee Michigan Small Tech's Web site and Small Tech Advantage, which is a subscriber-only news clipping service. I'm also a proud alumnus of Wayne State University, although I have to admit that this is the first time I've ever set foot in any building labeled "engineering." I mostly hung out over in the journalism and English departments.

"For many reasons, journalism and the military have experienced a tempestuous relationship since the Vietnam era. I'd like to think that I have a somewhat unique perspective because my father served in Vietnam from 1967-68 as a surgeon with the 101st Airborne. I grew up listening to my father grumble about how the media can distort and misreport military actions and policies based, largely, on ignorance of how the military works. I think my dad believes I'm still going through my teenage rebellion phase by going into journalism. But I do have an understanding of what the men and women in uniform face, and some of the special challenges also faced by people like my dad, whose job was not to kill but to try to heal on the battlefield. I also have a little brother who is now serving in the U.S. Marine Corp. Thank God he's in a relatively safe place now, serving in Okinawa.

"So, for me, issues involving safety of soldiers in the field is more than just theory, and that's one of the reasons I'm fascinated by the work being done by our panelists and others involved in using small tech in the quest to make our soldiers safer in the battlefield, and all of us safer in the war on terror here at home."

Related Post:
'Integration' and 'Vision' at Michigan Small Tech


The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 21st Century The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 21st Century

The authors make a brilliant case that the 21st century will be the American Century.

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Irish Nanotechnology Association

Molecular Electronics and Nanotechnology at Trinity College Dublin

Nanotec Northern Ireland

MWG Biotech helps create Irish microarray facility

Ireland's Allegro quick to seize opportunity in tiny liquid drops

Paper-Quality Chase: Dublin firm wants nanochromics to erase LCD

NTera Inc., Dublin

Belfast-based camera specialist eyes nanotech market

Ireland is a nanotech leader: expert

resooney magh

Fun with search terms that reach my blog

listing top nano stocks

nanotechnology+environment protection+ethics


pictures of nanobots in medicine

blood brain barrier +nano

'nano-dog' news

cave men with big heads


10 Quick Steps to Making Perfect Google AdSense 10 Quick Steps to Making Perfect Google AdSense

Audri and Jim Lanford reveal to you, in 10 Quick Steps, the quickest way to make money with your website and Google AdSense.

News in a NanoSecond

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Understanding European Union Institutions Understanding European Union Institutions

"Understanding the institutions of the European Union is vital to understanding how it functions. This book provides students with an introduction to the main institutions, and explains their different roles in the functioning and development of the European Union. Features and benefits of the text are that it introduces and explains the functions of all the main institutions dividing them into those that have a policy-making role, those that oversee and regulate, and those that operate in an advisory capacity."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

'Integration' and 'Vision' at Michigan Small Tech

An extremely successful Michigan Small Tech event today. It will take me a little while to sort through all my notes, but here are a few initial impressions. Well, first, let me try out an opening joke that completely bombed during the panel discussion I moderated on defense and homeland security.

    Thank you, and welcome to our breakout session on defense and security. All of you might feel a slight tingling sensation as our swarms of microscopic smart dust surround you. Don't panic. They're merely taking DNA samples. They're perfectly harmless ... unless you put up a fight.


No sounds but the mid-March Motown snowstorm raging outside.

I got a couple of pity chuckles when I added. "That was supposed to be a joke."

Yet another reason why I'm a PRINT journalist.

Anyway, things went much better after that. My panelists were Paul Decker of the U.S Tank Automotive Research and Development Center (TARDEC), Rao Boggavarapu of General Dynamics Land Systems, Uwe Michalak of Sensicore Inc. and Fred Grasman of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Among the many topics we discussed was the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems program that will completely transform the U.S. fighting force, from the vehicles they drive to the clothing they wear. Along the way, there are opportunities, through Small Business Innovation Research grants, for small tech companies to get in on the military spending spree. By the time the project is scheduled to end in 2015, companies that make nanomaterials, biothreat detectors and other small tech products will have had a piece of the action.

The technology isn't all there yet. The military is looking for a few good companies to supply them with nanomaterials and to help them catch up with the Japanese in robotics.

One audience member brought up an excellent point -- and one that I've heard many times in relation to the nanotech and other industries. Everybody is working on their own, proprietary technologies, but they are giving little thought to how they will work in tandem with one another. The government is not providing any guidelines or standards on how these devices to be used in the battlefield will talk to one another.

For example, a soldier's portable bioagent detector may pick up traces of anthrax, but then the data needs to be quickly, wirelessly transmitted to battlefield commanders who can make decisions based on that information. Instant detection of biohazards or point-of-care diagnostics of injured soldiers are not adequate if there is no real-time transmission of the data, a smart, distributed network of sensors to span large spaces, a power source to keep the juice flowing for weeks of possible isolation, etc.

Companies and researchers are now competing fiercely to provide the military with these necessary tools. But, like their counterparts in consumer electronics, these companies are largely working within their own closed, proprietary systems.

Competing companies are not necessarily thinking of how their applications can interact with another company's proprietary applications. Right now, who has the birds-eye view of the battlefield? Who is going to set the standards? It's possible that it's too early for that. Perhaps it's organizations like TARDEC that can set those standards after the companies compete with one another just to get to the test battlefield.

A great deal more was discussed on the panel, but I'll save it for later.

One more point on birds-eye view, though. During the keynote by Louis Ross of the Global Emerging Technology Institute, one audience member asked what nanotechnology's "focus" is right now. Comparisons had been made earlier to the way Sputnik had forced the U.S. government to focus its own space program on putting a man on the moon. Joe Giachino of the Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems asked, "What do you see as the focus of nanotechnology" that would be comparable to the moon challenge?

Ross hit on the NASA theme and mentioned that the space agency does need to reduce weight on spacecraft using nanomaterials. Then, he added: "I think that's a question that can't be answered. You can see how it applies to industries and then you can just take it from there."

Giachino (and, no, I didn't put him up to this), tried again: "I think the thing that captured the public's imagination was the 'man on the moon.' We know what gets Allen Greenspan excited, but what is the thing that will get everybody else excited?"

Ross replied that the answer right now is simply "education." The public doesn't really know what it wants out of nanotechnology because it does not yet know what nanotechnology can do. "People have to be educated," Ross said. "Small Times magazine is educating people. I think that once they understand it, they'll change."

He went on to say that a few years ago, it was hard to convince mobile phone makers in the United States that customers would want to listen to music on their cell phones. Today, the trend is catching on.

"They just didn't have the devices. If they had the devices, they'd say, 'Wow. I want that.' "

Both Ross and Giachino brought up excellent points. I'm with Giachino on the "moon shot" for nano idea, as I've written on this site before. But, as Ross indicated, perhaps an overriding government vision would be confusing for an industry that is still too young and an American public still too unaware.


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Can't Forget the Motor City

michI'm attending a Michigan Small Tech event today, going full circle back to my old college stomping grounds at Wayne State University in Detroit. I never would have guessed when I left in 1986 that I'd come back 18 years later to enter, of all places, the engineering (!) building. It's been a long journey from English and journalism.

Despite the better judgment of conference organizers, they've asked me to moderate a panel on Defense and Security.

Michigan Small Tech, by the way, is a great joint effort between the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Small Times Media. We're helping to encourage communication between universities, government and business to build the small tech community in the Great Lakes State. It's been very successful so far, and Small Times hopes to take this model to other states and regions. This event and others like it help bring together the various elements that make up an industry that is only now beginning to come into its own.

Lots of cool stuff going on, too, in life sciences, defense, wireless integrated microsystems and, of course, automobiles.

I'll try to do some blogging during the event, too.