Friday, April 30, 2004


Pardon my smart dust while I test out a beta Blogger that should take care of some of the archive "issues" I've been having. Once the switchover is complete, each individual post should have a page of its own in the archive for easy retrieval, printing, framing or fish-wrapping.



Nanotechnology speaker attracts dreamers, doers (

    When Dr. Laurey Stryker asked 14-year-old Jennifer Wedebrock what she wanted to be when she grew up, the straight-A student bound for Lakewood Ranch High School gave her answer without hesitation: a nanotechnologist. More

007: Everything or Nothing (

    Diavolo has begun production of thousands of nanobots that plan to eat into the levees around New Orleans to flood the city. Bond destroys the factory, but not before a truckload has been taken out, driven by your orthodontist’s favorite patient, Jaws. More.

Open access could reduce cost of scientific publishing by up to 30 percent (The Wellcome Trust)

    A report out today shows that making scientific research available free on the Internet could wipe as much as 30 per cent off publishing costs. More

Quantum computers are a quantum leap closer (EurekAlert)

Nano Weapons Join the Fight Against Cancer (Technology Review)

Entrepreneurs Make Money Last Longer (Small Business Trends)


Thursday, April 29, 2004

Garbage picking

CNBC's Jim Jubak offers some sane advice:

    "Let's get one thing straight from the start: I think nanotechnology will indeed be a revolutionary technology, ushering in another age of head-spinning, breathless change in everything from computers to medicine to clothing to housing.

    "... As an investor putting money to work in the here and now, however, I'vve got just one little problem: I can't find much actually to invest in. Worse, most of what is touted and hyped as nanotechnology stocks is rubbish.

    "But that doesn't mean you can't invest in the technologies of 2015 today. You just have to be a bit unorthodox to do it. Let me give you my personal five-step approach to the nanotechnology revolution to come." More here

Related Posts:
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Now, THAT'S what I'm talkin' about, baby!


Corporate Welfare To Work

    While some mistakenly characterize the NIST-ATP as corporate welfare, I'm here to tell you that Zyvex is a real-world example of a small business that is leveraging this program to commercialize nanotechnology -- today. We are today creating new markets and new jobs.

-- Tom Cellucci, president, Zyvex Corp., testifying Wednesday before a U.S. House of Representatives science subcommittee

Related Stories:
Congressman wants to create public-private nano partnership
Another year, another threat to Advanced Technology Program

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Why nanoscale light matters

nanophotonics Here's an excerpt from a news release on

which the publisher describes as the first book that comprehensively covers the science behind light and matter interacting on the nanoscale.
    Like any emerging technology, nanophotonics -- the science behind light and matter interacting on the nanoscale -- is ripe for all kinds of claims ranging from the sublime to the far-fetched.
    So it is an opportune time for the publication of Nanophotonics (John Wiley & Sons, March 2004), the first book to comprehensively cover nanophotonics, both as a fundamental phenomenon and as the origin of technologies and devices that will impact fields ranging from information technology to drug delivery.

    Authored by Paras N. Prasad, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo and executive director of UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, Nanophotonics is written so that it can be understood by established scientists and advanced undergraduates alike.

    "Nanophotonics means different things to people," said Prasad, who also holds appointments in the UB departments of Physics, Electrical Engineering and Medicine. "One of the reasons I was compelled to write this book was in order to present to readers the first unified picture of the field."

More information can be found here, and you can buy the book while supporting NanoBot.



What the RFID Industry can Learn from Nanotechnology (The RFID Weblog)

    In an article at TechCentralStation, Instapundit writes about his fears that the nanotechnology industry is setting itself up for a PR disaster. It's all because that industry's very own spokespersons are mishandling criticism, he says.

    There is a corollary between the nanotechnology industry and the RFID industry. Both are technologies that are not widely understood by the public. Lack of understanding gives rise to fears -- both the legitimate kind and the overblown, unsubstantiated, sci-fi inspired kind.

    Yet, it is the way the nanotechnology industry is handling those fears that creates the problem, according to Instapundit. He points out his concern is an industry that does not effectively address legitimate concerns, and doesn't anticipate and forestall issues. The nanotech industry group is even alienating its supporters, he says, just because those supporters are openly discussing legitimate issues.

    I bring this all up here because the RFID industry can learn a lesson from the nanotech industry. More

A much-awaited tech IPO–and it's not Google (James Pethokoukis, U.S. News & World Report)

    Nanotech may indeed be transformative technology, as its proponents claim—one that will change, well, pretty much everything. But just as with the Internet, figuring out who will make money in the nanotech revolution and how they will do it is another matter altogether. More

Meet Dr DNA, your own nanocomputer (ABC Online)

    The sci-fi vision of a molecular medical team that is injected into a patient, coursing through the bloodstream to diagnose and treat disease, has taken a step nearer to reality, a new study says.

    An Israeli team says it has made a computer made of DNA that, in controlled lab conditions, identified cancer cells and unleashed a molecule to disable them.

    The team, from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, published its work in today's issue of the journal Nature. More

Texas schools get $10 million for nanotech research (Associated Press)

    A group of six Texas universities will share $10 million from the Department of Defense to conduct nanotechnology research, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Wednesday.

    The money will help the schools investigate nanotechnology, a field of study which deals with objects and materials at the atomic and molecular level.

    The funds, approved by Congress last year at Hutchison's request, will fund the Strategic Partnership for Research in Nanotechnology. More


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

More scifi nano to confuse the kids

Nanoscreenplay of the month, from It's an "unedited draft" of "Deathlok," based on the Marvel Comics character, aiming for a 2006 release.

    Luther Manning is a corporate trainer, married to a woman with a son from a previous marriage. After he gets a big promotion at work, they go out to celebrate. But the evening ends badly when they are involved in a bad car accident. Luther suffers horrible dreams and wakes in a hospital. He is discharged shortly, but isn't quite himself. He is having terrible pains, weird lumps form under his skin and his hearing seems to becoming hypersensitive. Frightened, he heads back to the hospital to see the doctor who treated him. The hospital has no idea who this doctor is and has no record of Luther being a patient. Paranoia quickly starts to set in with Luther.

    What has happened is that the crash was no accident. A secret government agency deliberately crashed into Luther so that they could use him as a guinea pig in their nanotechnology experiments. The agency has been testing this project on volunteers from the military but wants to know what happens to a normal man. The nanotechnology basically starts to rebuild Luther from the inside out. He now has a computer wired into his brain, liquid metal armor that can appear when needed, greatly improved vision and hearing and the ability to generate weapons pretty much out of thin air. More here.

I can see what the National Nanotechnology Initiative is worried about. There are kids out there who will mistake this for a documentary and get the wrong idea about real nanotechnology.


The people want the pants

Jeffrey Nolan of SAP Ventures writes:

    Nanosys' SEC docs are dissected over at Nanobot, lot's of good information to digest before you do your next nano deal. The following is totally off the topic, I was on a panel discussing venture capital at a London School of Business event with Jen Fonstad from DFJ. She mentioned nanotech as a hot investment area, and promptly threw out the 'smart pants' example! I had to laugh because whenever I hear something from DFJ, it's a sure thing that smart pants will come up!

Mock the

all you want, Jeffrey, but didn't you know that the award-winning nanopants are not only fashionably stain-resistant, but they are also bringing families closer together? According to a recent survey, "parents of young children learn the hard way that they need to take extra steps to keep little hands from making a big mess on their clothing. Indeed, 11 percent of working moms and dads even go to the extreme of avoiding their children once they are dressed for the day."

The solution? "Hassle-free clothes that go the extra mile," with "stain, odor, wrinkle and/or fade resistance and perspiration control."

Eighty-two percent of 3,000 Americans (60 percent female, 40 percent male) responding to a poll commissioned by Nano-Tex LLC (Profile, News, Web) can't be wrong.


Lee Nano-care Double Pleat Casual Pant

White Swan Nano-Care Scrubs

Nano-Care Gripper Stool Cushion (Chair Pads & Cushions)

Nano-Care Gripper Chair Cushion (Chair Pads & Cushions)

Nano-Care Gripper Chair Cushion Checkered (Chair Pads & Cushions)

Nanocap stock positions

Two analysts have weighed in on Kopin Corp. (Nasdaq: KOPN, Profile, News, Web) and Altair Nanotechnologies (Nasdaq: ALTI, News, Web). *

Here's what Taglich Brothers have to say about Altair, via Barron's Online (subscription required):

    We are establishing a Speculative Buy rating....The company has significantly strengthened its balance sheet and its auditors have removed going-concern issues from the latest annual report....In late March 2004, Altair reported that its sales backlog for 2004 is approximately $780,000 and said that its current backlog of signed contracts to be performed during 2005 and contracts with a high probability of success is approximately $1.5 million....It has many products under development that have huge potential in their given markets.

And Zacks zays ztrong zell, or you may be Kopin with a loss.

    Kopin Corporation (NASDAQ:KOPN) is pioneering the use of nanotechnology to manufacture nanosemiconcuctor products that make mobile electronic devices small, fast, bright, lightweight and power efficient. For its first quarter, Kopin reported a net loss of (5 cents) per share, which was a steeper loss than a year ago. It was also a steeper loss than the consensus was expecting. The company said the net loss mainly reflects lower initial yields associated with the transition from the company's legacy monochrome microdisplays to new color filter CyberDisplay products and additional marketing and technical support associated with increased color display activities. The company has experienced several downward revisions from analysts of late for the year ending December 2004, and earnings estimates for the period have moved from a profit to a loss over the past month. However, revenue grew by +24% year-over-year in the quarter, and customer uptake of its new color filter display occurred faster than expected. The company's innovative products could mean big things for the future, but investors may want to sit tight for now and wait for its earnings estimates to gain more upward momentum before making a move.

* Howard Lovy's NanoBot takes no responsibility for any financial action you may or may not take based on the above links to sites that are far, far away from NanoBot -- practically on the other side of the Internet -- and, besides, I never said you should buy any nanotech stocks in the first place and why would you follow financial advice from a blogger who works for free, anyway.


IPO and Public Perception

Stephen B. Maebius and Leon Radomsky, attorneys with Foley & Lardner's nanotechnology practice, just started sending out their own e-mail newsletters. They noticed an interesting passage in Nanosys' IPO registration statement:

    Interestingly, a number of other industry-specific (but not company-specific) risk factors are also noted in the IPO registration statement, including societal perception of nanotech, environmental risks, and potential applicability of export control law. These are shaping up to be risks for all of the nanotech companies who hope to follow with IPOs of their own.

If nanotech's business "poster child," and even the lawyers, understand the importance public perception plays in the ability to do business, I wonder when the government and business media will finally catch on?

Related Posts:
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U.K. recognizes importance of perception
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Monday, April 26, 2004

Hari Seldon (LLC) Saves the Universe

seldonIf Seldon Laboratories LLC's technology isn't cool enough (carbon nanotubes for water purification), then the origins of its name alone would qualify the company for coolness (in the scifi nerd kind of way).

    Incidentally, the name "Seldon" comes from Hari Seldon, the protagonist in a series of novels written by science fiction author Isaac Asimov. In the novels, Seldon's scholarly research helps save a future galactic empire of humans from anarchy.

    "We believe our product can clean the water of the world," (CEO Alan) Cummings said. "... and that's one small step to saving the universe." More here

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A longing for paradise regained


Sunday, April 25, 2004


Day-Ja vu trading (New York Post)
"Most nanotech stocks don't have coverage. Day traders are finding them because it has 'nano' in its name. They're buying the stock and trading these companies like they're dot-com companies," said David Nelson, president of DC Nelson Asset Management." More

Nano/Bio Webcast (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)
Biotech & Nanotech - Remaking Nature in the Image of Technology
A Brownbag Lunch Talk by Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety
When: Tuesday, April 27, 2004, 12:00 pm -- 1:30 pm


Fast Stocks/Fast Money: How to Make Money Investing in New Issues and Small Company Stocks

Understanding Stocks

Magnus goes nano, may lose silly shorts

magnusVia Nanogirl and the Yahoo nanotech mailing list comes news of an updated "Magnus Robot Fighter, 4000 AD." Apparently, it's from the Golden Age of comics, before they went all commercial with "The Flash" and "Spider-Man," according to this report. Of course, the new and improved "Magnus" adds some nano for good measure.

    "We intend to honor the Russ Manning vision of man and robot," said (IBooks publisher Byron) Preiss, "but to add layers of complexity that evolve from nanotechnology, Asimovian thought and the world of personal computing and artificial intelligence which did not exist when the character was invented. Personally, I would like to get rid of the red shorts and the 'M' on the belt, but that is not decided. We certainly will update the costume." More here.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Initial Perilous Offering

Before you call your broker with the Nanosys news, take a look at this. It's an excerpt from Nanosys' SEC registration statement, and should be required reading for anybody who is contemplating an investment in a public nanotechnology company. And, remember, Nanosys is considered one of the most-promising of all the little nano firms. When you get to the bottom, take a look at some "good news bad news." (I added the company links below, for those who want more background).

nanosys logo
    Risks Related to Competition and our Industry

    We face competition from companies in multiple industries, as well as from the internal efforts of our current and potential partners and, if we fail to compete effectively, our business could suffer.

    We compete in intensely competitive markets for end user products. The nanotechnology-enabled products we are currently developing will compete directly with products incorporating conventional materials and technologies, including traditional semiconductors manufactured on the nanoscale. We believe our potential products will face significant competition from existing manufacturers in our current target markets including:

  • manufacturers of substrates for time of flight mass spectrometry equipment, such as Waters Corporation;
  • manufacturers of solar cells, such as Sharp Electronics Corporation and BP plc;
  • manufacturers of thin film electronics, such as Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., NEC Corporation and Koninklijke Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG, News, Web); and
  • manufacturers of memory products, such as Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. and Samsung.

    In addition, we may also face competition from focused nanotechnology companies, such as Evident Technologies, Inc., Konarka Technologies (Profile, News, Web), Nantero, Inc., NanoHorizons, Inc., Nanosolar, Inc., Quantum Dot Corporation (News, Profile, Web), UltraDots, Inc. and ZettaCore Inc. (News, Web) and other newly created nanotechnology companies.

Now, the good news: Nanosys is looking at a number of ways to apply its technology. Among them is nano-enabled memory for portable devices. If consumer habits continue the way they have, current flash-memory technology will become just a memory. Nobody wants to be tied down anymore. We want our MP3s, mobile phones and, probably in a few years our portable biothreat detectors, to stay with us, stay fast and stay cheap. Enter nano. The biggest nanomemory application of all might be portable gaming. Anyway, here's what Nanosys is doing.
    Non-Volatile Memory. We are developing nanostructures for non-volatile memory products for anticipated use in applications such as digital cameras, MP3 players and mobile phones. To develop non-volatile memory products, we are collaborating with Intel. We anticipate that we would manufacture the products resulting from these development efforts and would sell them to our collaborators or other customers for integration into a non-volatile memory device.

Intel. Cool. Not a bad little company to collaborate with. But, then, here's the potential bad news.

    We may also face significant competition from our current and future partners, such as E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, or DuPont, Intel and Matsushita Electric Works, which are assessing the feasibility of expanding their development and manufacturing capabilities and portfolio of intellectual property to incorporate nanotechnology-enabled components into their end user products. If our current and future partners expand their product offerings to compete directly with our nanotechnology-enabled products or actively seek to participate as vendors in the nanotechnology-enabled product market, our revenue and operating results could be negatively affected.

After July 2004, Intel could decide that it really doesn't need Nanosys Inside and just do it all in-house. When the big guys decide to do all the nano work themselves, that doesn't leave the little guys with much except an asterisk in business history books.

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Nanosys files for IPO

Here's the story behind the story from Small Times:

    The nanotech community has been waiting for this.

    Forget the 1997 debut of Nanophase Technologies Corp. (Nasdaq: NANX, News, Web). Or last week’s Immunicon Corp. (Nasdaq: IMMC, Web) initial public offering. No, this is the big one.

    This is, of course, Nanosys Inc., (Profile, News, Web) a Palo Alto, Calif.-based developer of inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals and the nascent nanotech sector’s de facto poster child.

More here.

Nanosys' registration statement can be found here. Other SEC documents related to the filing are here.


Interview with Nano's 'public face'

More of my interview with Clayton Teague, director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, can be found over at Small Times. Here's an excerpt:

    "I think one reason that GMO went awry is that, in some senses, anytime that scientists dismiss the concerns of people, it's a mistake."

More here.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Drexler's Dream: The Web site

Photo by Howard Lovy

This just in from Eric Drexler. (I figured this was a good opportunity for me to run a photo I took of him last October, too.) Here's a note from the man who first kick-started this whole engine of discombobulation:
    Eric Drexler's personal technical website is now online:

    This site focuses on the science behind emerging technologies of broad importance, summarizing research results and offering technical perspectives on research directions. It includes tutorial material, new results, annotated bibliographies and links to external web resources. Initial topics include nanotechnology-based production systems (central to the future of physical technology), and secure, distributed computing (central to the future of informational technology). contains original information not previously published as well as new diagrams and computer animations. The site is intended to complement Dr. Drexler's published technical work and his textbook

    and is intended to assist researchers, educators and students exploring these areas. A site map that gives an overview of its current contents can be found at:

    The entries on have evolved from queries from researchers and students and reflect areas of frequent discussion.

    Comments regarding the site can be directed to:


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

NanoBots as envisioned by Encarta



Update: Daniel Moore adds:

    I was reading the caption to the nanobot picture in Encarta that you linked to and found this sentence a little odd (emphasis added):

    “A *micro*scopic, computerized robot, also known as a *nano*bot”

    Umm… wouldn’t that make it *nano*scopic???

Sure, Daniel. But it's just another reason not to believe everything you read online.


Being Mike Roco

Despite the stereotype of the rude, pushy reporter who shouts accusations at policymakers to incite a good angry sound bite, journalists who are interested in actually learning something and informing his readers usually try a different tactic.

I've found that to truly understand the basis of policy, you have to have long conversations with public figures who formulate the policy. There is really no other way to get beyond sound bites and rehearsed answers. What works for me is to begin by just having a chat with policymakers about their past, and hopefully bringing them back to that first point of inspiration or excitement, when they stepped onto the path that carried them into positions of prominence.

Usually, unless they've managed to build themselves a multilayered force field of political wariness over the years, taking them back in time is a way to build some semblance of trust that I'll accurately report their point of view. Sometimes, I'm lucky enough to see a source's eyes glaze over and gaze past my shoulder as they relive key moments in their career. When that happens, then you can go ahead and ease into some of the tougher questions and get answers that go deeper than the press releases.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative's Mike Roco granted me a series of interviews in Washington recently (squeezed into multiple sessions as he ran back and forth between me and his duties on the podium). He gave me considerable attention because, I'm assuming, I've used this blog since June 2003 to draw attention to some criticism of the NNI and he wanted to get his point of view across to my audience. My argument has always been that the official party line gets tons of ink and pixels elsewhere, so I've used this blog to collect voices of dissent. But I found Roco to be a fascinating interview subject and he was quite gentlemanly and candid at the same time.

I've heard other reporters tell me that it's difficult to understand what he's saying. But his Romanian accent sounds very similar to my grandfather's Hungarian, so I understood him perfectly.

I'm working on a column for Small Times that places some perspective on the "toxic buckyball" story that so angered the "nano establishment" recently. But to understand the reaction, you have to get to know the decision-makers. Here's just a little edited snippet that NanoBot readers might be interested in. Here, he was talking about a competition he won back in the early '80s, when the National Science Foundation gave the University of Kentucky professor a grant to study the way materials behave on the nanoscale.

    Howard Lovy: You weren't called crazy back in 1991? Nanotechnology? That's science fiction.

    Roco: Exactly.

    Lovy: What motivated you back then?

    Roco: I was driven by a higher purpose in science. I started to be interested in size when I came to NSF to look for other generic ideas that have larger impact.

    "First of all, with nano, you have to work with other fields. Secondly, it's not only to work officially to create a nano product or to do bio or information. You have to start integration from the nanoscale up. And suddenly comes the other aspects. If you do this, you start to understand the brain differently. You start to understand the world differently. You start to enter the humanistic field and other things that make possible nano … to integrate from very small scale, you can build out to real objects to human dimension and to societal dimension.

    What motivated me was to do something that is essential to the advancement of science. This was the first thing. … Suddenly, there came a big opportunity that was dormant. Nobody was paying attention to this."

    Lovy: So, you felt that there needed to be some kind of unifying …

    Roco: Approach.

    Lovy: How did you, a mild-mannered, professor, how did you get the ear of government like that?

    Roco: It's not that the idea was to work in government. The idea was to drive a bigger picture, a bigger problem.

    Lovy: What is the bigger picture to you?

    Roco: The bigger picture, first of all, is that you make connection among all sciences. Secondly, you find that you don't need the disciplines almost. They disappear. … You can transform things. You can understand life.

    When I started this converging technology idea, the idea was you go from material world to brain, mind and body. There is a connection. Nobody was making the connection. But from practical point of view, what I realized is that you can build, when I decided to spend time on this, it was to build something up."

    Lovy: So, you have a larger vision and along the way you have 5-year plans up to 2020, with incremental steps along the way. But what do you think is the ultimate goal? Or is there one?

    Roco: It would be difficult to define an ultimate goal, but a simple goal is systematic control of the nanoscale. Right now, we don't have systematic control. We have only accidental control. Something happens if we do something, but we don't know how. Physically, almost all the nano field is dominated by empirical results in single components. We have to move toward systematic picture. We have to move toward measurements. Not only simulation, but direct measurements. We have to have a different understanding.

    You know, in physics this concept of unifying all the concepts under the same law, I think that you have to move in that direction from the nanoscale. I think it's a mistake to try to use the macroscale and to try to succinctly make a summation of that. There is not an algebraic summation of these laws and I think the feeling is that the wrong way to go up is not to understand these large assemblers that are dynamically unstable."

    Lovy: Then here's a question I have to ask you. When you talk about the ultimate goal of managing things on the nanoscale, that vision doesn't sound that much different to me than those who think molecular manufacturing is possible.

    Roco: Other people who are not working in science, who have never created something, they create imaginary models as if all were not necessary. We do it progressively. You cannot start to make a molecular device before doing this other thinking.

    I have to go to close this session.

    Lovy: OK

    Roco: I would like to continue this. By the way, you have to be careful. For instance, people started to think of self-assembly back in '91. Then other, four or five people, start to make imagination: "A nanobot, this is my idea," and they start to focus on that idea, but there was no explanation, no proofing, no event, and so you have to make a difference between real stuff and …. (Roco's voice trails off as he heads back to the session.)

More later.


Monday, April 19, 2004

Nanomanufacturing from the ground up

In my recently released white paper for NanoMarkets, I ask (and answer) whether nanotechnology slips into existing markets or creates new ones. After I handed in my report, I learned even more about this question from a source I met in Washington.

One of the early pioneers of nano in consumer applications -- who is now helping to build Australia's and Britain's nano infrastructure -- told me that while integration into existing processes (he didn't specifically mention markets, though) is fine if you want to attract VC funding, but at the national level where he's working, you really do need to build an entirely new manufacturing infrastructure from the ground up -- something that can really connect the nanoscale to the real world.

Of course, he has a self-interest in telling me this (since he's in the business of building nano/micro integration facilities), but it did make me think a little bit about the difference between the need for companies to integrate with existing technologies for short-term survival, while also planning far ahead for an entirely new manufacturing world that will spring up.

I asked him whether he sees this infrastructure being built in the United States. His answer was short. "No."

This, as they say, might be a "story for another day."

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Safety snapshot from Nanofilm

Dear Mr. Lovy,

First of all, I really enjoy your NanoBot, and read it frequently to get first hand information. Keep up the good work.

Secondly, I don’t know what Nanofilm did or didn’t do that led to you omitting us from your list of Nano Incorporated companies. If you feel that we don’t deserve to be on your list, please tell me why. We are always looking for ways to improve our company products and technologies.

In any event, thanks for posting to the NanoBot so regularly.

Take care,

Scott Rickert, President
Nanofilm, ltd.

Hi, Scott,

Well, the blog is a never-ending work in progress. I add to it whenever I can grab the time. I'll go ahead and add your company to the list. Thanks for the kind words, too. Do you mind if I print them on the blog?

Here's a quick, unrelated question for you, though. Wasn't Nanofilm on the NanoBusiness Alliance health and safety task force? Whatever happened to them? Have you met or talked about recent events? Or did the project just kind of fizzle?

Thanks again for your note.


Dear Howard,

You can feel free to quote me.

Yes, I am part of the NBA health and safety task force. We have had several meetings, but none lately, and I expect to get an update from the NBA in NYC next month. I think that the task force meetings so far have been very positive and productive. It's not an easy task, and answers will not be quick.

Keep up the good work.


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Sunday, April 18, 2004

If it isn't materials, it's immaterial

Photo by Howard Lovy
NNI architect Mike Roco takes questions in Washington.

I'm still going through my notes from the recent National Nanotechnology Initiative conference in Washington, coming up with spinoff story ideas for Small Times correspondents to work on, and saving some material for my next magazine column (which is late, of course). Along the way, I rediscovered an enlightening conversation I had with Sandeep Shukla, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech.

I took Shukla aside during a question-and-answer session with NNI Architect Mike Roco, U.S. Secretary of Chemistry Rick Smalley and others. Shukla was among a handful of computer scientists and physicists who lined up behind the microphone to ask why the NNI is living in a purely material world. Nanotech is more than chemistry, they argued. Smalley told them that the NNI is the National NanoTECHNOLOGY Initiative, not nanoSCIENCE, so they need to focus on application rather than pure theory if they want NNI money. Otherwise, go knock on the doors of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) or NASA, or any other agency that funds pure science projects.

Here's part of my conversation with Shukla (I was told that while I conducted the interview, complaints continued regarding not only which types of projects were getting funded, but also about some universities getting preferential treatment. If any reader has some notes or thoughts from the part that I missed, please let me know.):

    Howard Lovy: It sounds to me like the physicists and computer geeks on one hand feel like they're on the outside, while the chemists and material scientists are defining the agenda.

    Sandeep Shukla: Yes

    Lovy: How did that happen?

    Shukla: It could be that some people have been using nanosprays in stuff for many, many years. So, I think the material people have been more aware of nanoparticles and how they can actually make materials better or more sustainable.

    Lovy: They're actual materials, whereas you deal more with ideas.

    Shukla: That's right. And secondly I think you have to have a champion, right? Smalley's a big champion for polymers and buckyfullerenes. See, for us, we don't have a champion. Sometimes, I wouldn't blame them. It seems like it may be justifiable. There was a mention today that American aeronautics is no longer the top. France sells more planes than Boeing does, so the question is, 'Can we get an advantage through the materials from which they are made?'

    But the only problem … is, 'How do you know the Japanese are not doing all this stuff?' … Let's say 10 years from now I have quantum computing devices. But at that time, if I also parallelly do the research – which is theoretical and model-based – if I have quantum effects at the device level, what would happen to my architecture? How do I have to change my computer architecture to do things?

    So, those are the things that we do and we think that that's not getting the right attention.

    … There are two aspects of computational nanoscience: One is people who model and simulate using supercomputers. I think that is also not very much supported by this program.

    Lovy: But that's not what you do, though.

    Shukla: Yes, that's not what I'm doing. I'm talking about when I build computers which are built on top of nanomaterial, then you'll have defects. Right now, you create a die. And then on the die, in one wafer you make like a thousand processors. So then they test each of them and then the ones which are defective are turned away. But when you have nanotechnology, on such a small scale, you will have defects in each of them. So, how are you going to throw them away? You cannot throw them away, right? So you have to build reliability assuming you will have defects. So, those are the kinds of things that are kind of futuristic.

    Lovy Do you need government funding? Or, like you say, if government doesn't do it, Intel will.

    Shukla: Yes, but Intel and private investors don't help the universities that much. You see, my question came up because, with the NNI funding when you apply from a university you have a restriction on the number of applications per university. So, what happens is that since materials seems to be on the forefront, last time I wrote an NNI proposal and then we did an internal preselection and all the material guys got selected.

    Lovy: Is that because that's what the government solicits?

    Shukla: No, the solicitation doesn't say, 'You can only do materials,' but I think the university-sponsored research office who selects them decided that materials are a sure thing because there are more possibilities for funding. People from research offices come to events like this. When they go back … they're going to say, 'Oh, at this conference I saw that everything was about materials, so I'm going to select the material ones because I want money."

    Lovy: I talked to a woman from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), and she says the military is very interested in quantum computing, and they're funding it. So, I think what Dr. Smalley was saying is that the NNI is not the place for you to go. You should go to DARPA, you should go any of these other agencies, but the NNI is all about materials.

    Shukla: Well, they created the NNI, so they would know better what the NNI should do, right? … I agree with Smalley in one sense. When I look at scientists who are working on problems like energy depletion, I think they are doing much more profound work than what I am doing with zeros and ones, although what I do is needed for them to actually discover their things. So, computer science is not profound in that sense.

    Lovy: You should have more confidence in your work.

    Shukla: No, what I do, I do well. But what I'm saying is that what I do is not necessarily the most profound in human terms.

Update: Materials Science student DFMoore has some interesting additional comments about this interview, plus how the Georgia Tech characters characterize nanocharacterization.

Another Update: Freshly minted nano student Mason Guffey says my opening question captures "the preoccupation with material science among the NNI-funded axis of nanotech research," but asks: "So as a physical chemist, where the hell do I fit into all of this?" Read more here.

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Saturday, April 17, 2004

White papers and black marks

To help offset costs associated with my private experiment in home-brewed molecular nanotechnology, I'm moonlighting as a writer of white papers and reports for a new research company, NanoMarkets.

The audience I'm writing for -- primarily a business-oriented readership -- might be slightly different from the one that reads this blog, so don't expect some of the same goofiness you'll find on NanoBot. I'm all about, well, "nanotech markets" when I write for NanoMarkets. But, you know, sometimes I just can't help myself and I have to be me. We'll see what sort of subversiveness I can sneak in when nobody's watching.

However, I do want to mention a few things for those who might be interested in whether my freelance work should become a black mark on my "permanent record" as a journalist. What I write for NanoMarkets (for that matter, anything I write or assign others to write -- from Small Times to this blog to the Bar Mitzvah speeches I've ghost-written for my little brothers), I approach without predetermined conclusions. I'm not an "advertorial writer," in the parlance of my business.

My work with NanoMarkets is separated completely from my editorial judgment at Small Times, and decisions regarding NanoMarkets coverage will be made by other editors.

I've played a huge role in establishing Small Times as an independent news voice. My 20 years as a reporter and editor in many news organizations have given me the tools needed to judge the merits of a news story. For the past three years, I've carefully navigated Small Times through some initially choppy waters regarding its status as a subsidiary of Ardesta and guided its news coverage in such a way that it's not branded with even a hint of suspicion that we give preferential treatment to any one company. In fact, we're even tougher on Ardesta companies. They have to truly earn a mention in Small Times.

It is innate to my nature as a journalist to remain fiercely independent and to cover the news wherever it leads, and in a fair manner, no matter whose interests might be harmed in the uncovering and exposure of facts. This is how I approach every project I take on. My principles will not change one bit, whether I am moonlighting as a report-writer or french-frier.

OK. That out of the way, take a look at what I've been up to over there: Baby's first white paper (news release, free registration).


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Cancer death to cancer detection


Search-term poetry that touches NanoBot

the bad effects of engineered food written so that everybody can understand

cave men pictures of the real thing

stairway to heaven renaissance paintings

do commentators curse each other

Everything is always impossible before it works

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Fun with search terms that reach my blog
More fun with search terms that reach my blog


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Tale of Tomalia

Close followers of this blog know that I'm naturally attracted to people who are considered on the fringe. Good writers are often "outsiders," themselves. But even within that crowd, I'm often an outsider among outsiders. I explained it best in an interview I gave to Neofiles:

    "So, my natural inclination is to look at any issue of public concern — especially ones in which there appears to be a monolithic opinion — and find those who begin with a whole different set of assumptions or beliefs. I’ve always thought that was the role of journalism — not to confirm for the majority what they already believe, but to make them constantly question their own assumptions by exposing them to the minority opinion. That’s the only way a free society can be certain it’s making the right decisions, by being forced to defend it."

It's probably a sure way to make a fool of myself, but given my natural contrary nature, I just can't help it. Besides, I find that the people who march on the "wrong foot" are usually far more interesting.

tomaliaThis is all just a navel-contemplating way of linking to this story on Michigan Small Tech, the latest chapter in the Tale of Tomalia.

Don Tomalia had his eureka moment back in 1979, when the Dow chemist first figured out how to make a synthetic molecule grow some scary-looking tendrils -- actually, dendrites. Thus, Doc Tomalia (the picture at right is one I snapped of him at a Foresight Institute conference last fall) introduced the world to the dendrimer. If I were a Hollywood casting director, I'd pick the dendrimer shape (not the neatly uniform buckyball) for my evil molecule. In reality, though, the dendrimer is far from evil. It might hold a key to fighting HIV or -- and I think this is especially cool -- can be set to self-destruct at the right moment for use as a targeted drug-delivery device.

The trouble was, it was just too expensive to grow the little things. So, Dow finally sent the IP packing in 1992, leaving Tomalia and his tiny tendrils out in the cold for almost a decade. A couple of years ago, though, somebody at Dow must have been rummaging through the IP basement and found the little beasts again. This time, though, nanotech had finally caught up with Tomalia's creation. Dow snatched the little toys back and began its marketing push. Our lone hero, though, had already moved on. His company, Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc., is the pride and joy of Starpharma, which is going to pump more resources into the firm.

That's good for Michigan. Good for dendrimers. And good for Don Tomalia, who is finally coming in from the fringe.

More background here, here, and here.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Art of Nano

Ladies, germs and mad scientists, I give you

ubercorrespondent and guest NanoBot blogger Jack Mason:

As a journalist, I've found nanotechnology an absorbing beat: fast-moving, thought-provoking and wide-ranging.

I never expected it to be an artistic inspiration. I've long marveled at some of the images of structures and materials made at the molecular level, strange and beautiful vistas smaller than the wavelengths of light visible only with tools that can sense or feel their actuality.

Six months ago, my fascination with those scenes of the unseeable lead me to start playing with some of the nanoscopic pictures I'd come across in the small tech world. From the start I tried to imitate how some of the nanoscientists I cover work: I blended and morphed pixels from multiple images much the way they are cajoling different atoms to form novel structures and patterns.


My metaphorical methods extended to digital techniques of self-assembly and layering. Where nanoscale researchers apply physics, chemistry and clever engineering to synthesize new materials, I employed software and the wetware of human visual intuition.

Last Friday, I picked up the first finished effort of the art project I've dubbed NanoTechno from Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints, a shop in the Old City section of Philadelphia. The 3' by 4' image mixes a variety of images with a little digital manipulation to evoke, at least for me, the wonder of the nanoscale.


While the artistic merits of these experiments are as yet unproven, what's really interesting is that the printing technology used to make the digital physical is intriguingly small tech.

As Silicon Fine Arts' proprietor Rick Coyte explained, his $80,000 Iris 3047 printer uses an array of ultrafine inkjets that sprays droplets of special ink about the size of red blood cells. A piezoelectric crystal deposits about four million ink droplets per second to create an image with an apparent resolution of 1800 dpi. The result is so rich and smooth, that museums frequently make reproductions of invaluable paintings with the process. (see for details).


Now that my process is public, I want to take my nano-mimetic motif a step further and make this project a multidisciplinary collaboration. First, that means reaching out to the nanoworld for high-resolution images of small tech devices, materials and structures, the raw materials for artistic amalgamation. And second, I'm calling out all around the Web to other artists interested in collaborating and extending NanoTechno into new forms and media.

Got images? Ideas? Suggestions? Send them my way.


Friday, April 09, 2004

Nano Nostradamus?

From the Department of Saved Prescient Memos (edited for employment protection):

From: Howard Lovy
Sent: Tue 7/30/02 2:50 PM
Subject: Small Times influence

Take a look at this:

This environmental organization is calling for a worldwide moratorium on commercial production of nanomaterials until their environmental impact can be studied.

The group states: "These concerns were first made public when the on-line journal, Small Times, reported on a March meeting called "Nanotechnology: Environmental Friend or Foe?" that was held at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. ..." They cite Small Times articles heavily in this report.

They're an activist environmental group, as opposed to an objective organization, with apparently some influence in European environmental policy (correspondent Doug Brown is working on a story). We'll probably hear more about this issue in the future.

Apparently, Small Times is helping to stir up the pot a little bit and get people on all sides of an issue talking about the positives and potential negatives of the industry -- an important part of our mission, I think.


From: Howard Lovy
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 4:40 PM
Subject: News for the next magazine

Here are some of the main trends that are going to make the news in the next year:

Public perception and image;

Nanotech as a solution for water pollution and desalination

Developing nations tailoring nanotech to their local needs

molecular modeling

ethical/societal implications


Within all of these categories, individual stories are going to break during the next year. I'd like to use the news section of the magazine to get ahead of these trends. I don't want to wait for news to happens and react to these events.

… The business angle? Well, how nanotech is perceived by the public has an inherent business angle …


NbA 'task force' MIA?

Whatever happened to the NanoBusiness Alliance Health and Environmental Issues Task Force? Seems like it should speak out about now.

    "There's a sexiness of talking about science out of control. That has certainly captured the imagination of people in the media -- especially those who didn't want to figure it out," he said.

    He said alliance members spurred the effort, as they talked publicly more about the science fiction than science. 'They were willing to talk about ... filtration systems, but said, 'Damn if I feel like talking about gray goo,' " Modzelewski said. "They were already people getting angry and fatigued addressing things that just weren't real.'" July 2003 articles here and here.

Now, I'll quote myself from September 2003:

    The NanoBusiness Alliance recently formed a safety task force, but this panel came into existence only after the media began paying more attention to these fears. I do hope it's an attempt to take the lead in ensuring that what they are creating is socially responsible, and reassuring the public in a meaningful way, minus dismissive and derisive comments about those who attack nanotech as another tool for the rich. More here



    ... now we are going to add particles that we can't even detect once they have been created? This sounds like lunacy to me. All this for some meager "benefits." Sure, the idea of minute robotic molecules coursing through my bloodstream removing cancer cells sounds appealing -- as appealing as a plateful of PCBs. More

    On Thursday, residents will get their first taste of Tech Valley Nano Ale ... More

    Bacteria modified by genetic engineering will happen first, and do simple fixed jobs for us, and so might be considered our first nanobots. More

    Jordan Amadio '05, Van Molino '05, Kate Moore '05 and Matt Satriano '05 were all chosen for this year's scholarship.

    Amadio is a physics major from Cazenovia, N.Y., who is also pursuing certificates in biophysics, material science and Italian literature. His research interests involve using emerging techniques such as nanotechnology to address problems in medicine, particularly the aging process.

    "I'm interested in how the body behaves at the molecular level," he said. More


Thursday, April 08, 2004

The buckyfishbrain study is online

"Scary stuff like 'the buckyballs will eat your brains' sells much better. Doesn't matter that it's not correct, as long as it sells papers," researcher Eva Oberdorster told Small Times. More here

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A little story about drugs, bass and balls

didn't make me wait very long to find an illustration of a point I made last week in Washington.

Big Concern for Very Small Things (Get it? The concerns are "big," yet the technology is "small.") mentions the Nanodesu bowling ball as "one of the first consumer products that uses nanoparticles called fullerenes -- aka buckyballs. ..." (These beauties come come in regular and "1500").

The reporter rolls out the balls, however, as merely a transitional vehicle to get to where he really wanted to go: From apples to oranges to, yes, fish. Our poor, brain-damaged bass who likely will never see retirement as long as Google News exists.

This seems like a good opportunity for a transition of my own to a conversation I had last week with Clayton Teague, director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO). It's going to be his job to handle "public outreach" for the U.S. government's nanotech program. In this conversation, I present a scenario similar to the one Wired so nicely illustrated for me, only I used the example of buckyballs as drug-delivery device rather than as angel of 10-pin death.

Here's a peak into the middle of our hour-long conversation (these are some pretty raw notes, so forgive the typos):

    Howard Lovy: There's a difference between chemicals that are bad for you in any size, are toxic whether they're nanometer-size or not …

    Clayton Teague: Yes, arsenic -- it doesn't matter whether it's 1 micrometer or a tenth of a nanometer. It's bad for you.

    HL: But what's not understood is the effect of some of these new engineered nanoparticles and what happens when it's ingested or breathed in, or what happens when it passes through the blood-brain barrier. That's what's not understood.

    Teague: Let me just make one other point there. There's also a difference between, as you say, exhaust nanoparticles, or abrasive nanoparticles and some of the new engineered nanoparticles. There, if you took even nanometer-scale asbestos. It may have some dimensions that are nanoscale, but it's very highly uncontroled sizes, the surface chemistry is different, the aspect ratios are different.

    If I go to a buckyball. Every one of those buckyballs is nearly identical. They may conglomerate and form a different shape when they come together, but their surface chemistry and they way they look is like a highly uniform collection. They're very monodispersed. They're very highly uniform in character, in dimension, chemical surface property and things like that. So, that's why, in some instances they're functioning completely different, but it also may mean that their interaction with the body might be very different because they have this very nice, different surface chemistry and are very monodispersed in size. So, when we say they may be different in the body, they may be different in the body.

    HL: Well, that's what's confusing, then, because scientists want to use the buckyball for a drug-delivery device because of it's special properties. At the same there are FDA trials involving buckyballs there are toxicity studies involving buckyballs.

    Teague: Exactly. They're all going on.

    HL: So, to the general public first being introduced to buckyballs, which do they pay attention to? Are they wonderful drug-delivery devices or are they potentially toxic, or both?

    Teague: That's right. They could be. But until we have data, we have really honest-to-goodness data, we have no basis for a decision. As you were talking about earlier, people can get very afraid, but the FDA is not going to approve those as a drug-delivery device until their data can substantiate that they are not going to be harmful to the body.

    HL: Being a former general-interest journalist, here's how I can see things happening: The FDA comes out with something about buckyballs as a drug-delivery device. A reporter on the science desk at the Podunk Journal is asked to do a story on it. He does a LexisNexis or Google search, sees that story about the buckyballs and fish, and ties the two together. Then you've got another public relations problem.

    Teague: I think that's a very realistic scenario. Somehow it has to be communicated to people that fish and mammals don't react in the same way. That's one thing. How you get those kinds of things across in a valid way without sounding like we're trying to whitewash something is (pause). I think you have to be just as factual as you can (another pause). I don't know how else to deal with it, other than trying to be factual as you can and saying fish and mammals are different, you breathing something is different from you swallowing something as the fish does.

    HL: I don't envy your job. These are the issues you're going to be dealing with.