Monday, May 31, 2004

Thanks for the Nanomemories, Part II

Steve Pawloski, head of Intel's Microprocessor Technology Lab, doesn't mention the "n-word" by name in this interview, but to me it seems nanomemory will be key to the solution. Grid computing is cool and it's meeting the short-term supercomputing needs of gamers, but there are limits to scalability there, too. Here's what Pawloski says:

    I think some of our models for how much bandwidth we need in the various subsystems are going to change. Generally speaking, memory will always be a bottleneck. I'm going to need huge amounts of information to do real-time searches and queries. For example, if somebody walks up and puts their thumb on a sensor, you'd like to be able to do a search, find out who that person is, and if there's any outstanding information on them that would cause you to be concerned. From a homeland security standpoint, it would be extremely valuable to have that kind of computational capability at your fingertips so that you could react in a timely manner.

    There's a well-known industry axiom that for every MIP (MIPS: millions of instructions per second) you needed a megabyte per second of performance from memory, from disk and so on. If you take this model verbatim, for a teraflop of computational horsepower you need a terabyte of memory bandwidth coming into the system in order to "feed the beast." It's very difficult to build a terabyte of memory bandwidth. We only have tens of gigabytes per second now and we're really struggling to get that. So it could argue for new memory architectures, and it could argue for new interconnect schemes and technologies that we can't envision today.

Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger placed the coming "era of tera" in perspective in a speech at the Intel Developer's Forum in February. And here's Intel's page devoted to the important issue. Nanostorage will be necessary if technology is going to keep pace with humanity's need to archive every nanosecond of its life.

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Theis"I'm going to speak to what I hope is a fairly large group of high school teachers from this area and just try and help them to distinguish between the science fiction version of (nanotechnology visionary and author) Eric Drexler's vision and what scientists are really doing in laboratories right now."

Thomas Theis, in an interview with Small Times magazine (May/June 2004)

Update: Theis, however, has no problem using data collected by Ray Kurzweil, known to be a notorious, card-carrying Drexlerian.

My old man's on the run

To my dad on Memorial Day: Glad you came home in '68. I love you, I'm proud of you!

Here's the latest news from my father, 69 years old and still running strong:

    A number of Kirskville residents spent time during the Memorial Day holiday weekend doing their part in the fight against terrorism. Dr. Andrew Lovy helped organize the Memorial Day Run Against Terrorism to help raise money for children who have been victims of terrorism.

    It began at six in the morning, and the participants were still going strong hours after, doing what they could to help those in need.

    "We run for 24 hours which would mirror what the soldiers have to go through when they're in combat," said event organizer Dr. Lovy.

    For Dr. Lovy, a veteran who served in Vietnam, Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to help those that have been affected by acts of terror. Lovy intended to complete the full 24 hours, as well as Don Bigelow, who served 22 years in the Army medical department and two years in Vietnam. More here.

Update: My dad writes:
    I will send more later, but our event went well. Don Bigelow, my medic, aimed for 60 miles. He had never run more than 26.2 in his life. My goal was to keep him alive and to get in 101 K. We put together a plan, ran the first 18 miles together and total was 62.3 miles for him, and 103.6 K for me.

    Had some of the medical students on military scholarships (will be Army or Navy docs when graduating) there for a flag-raising ceremony. (We had two American Flags, one flew over the high school for everyone to see, and of course the regimental Screaming Eagle flag. We sang the National Anthem, said the pledge of allegiance, and off we went.

    Then with very little publicity, we started, had medical students show up at all hours, bringing pledges, food, etc. A few faculty showed up and helped oout, pledged, and we even had about a 5 minute squib on the local TV. At about 2200, when we had reached our goals, a torrent of rain came down, (tornado warnings etc.) and everything got soaked. With 10 minutes to go, many students, Don and me, and my 95-year-old dad did a victory lap.

    We want to thank you for the opportunity to do this for our vets on Memorial Day, and as I told those who pledged, the moneys raised are not for war, but to support those victims of terrorism.

    Take care.
    A. Lovy, D.O.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Safety and health group launches nano page

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has launched a Safety and Health Topic page on nanotechnology. Here's what the institute says under "Occupational Health Risks."

    Occupational health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood. The rapid growth of nanotechnology is leading to the development of new materials, devices and processes that lie far beyond our current understanding of environmental and human impact. Many nanomaterials and devices are formed from nanometer-scale particles (nanoparticles) that are initially produced as aerosols or colloidal suspensions. Exposure to these materials during manufacturing and use may occur through inhalation, dermal contact and ingestion. Minimal information is currently available on dominant exposure routes, potential exposure levels and material toxicity. What information does exist comes primarily from the study of ultrafine particles (typically defined as particles smaller than 100 nanometers).

    Studies have indicated that low solubility ultrafine particles are more toxic than larger particles on a mass for mass basis. There are strong indications that particle surface area and surface chemistry are primarily responsible for observed responses in cell cultures and animals. There are also indications that ultrafine particles can penetrate through the skin, or translocate from the respiratory system to other organs. Research is continuing to understand how these unique modes of biological interaction may lead to specific health effects.

    Workers within nanotechnology-related industries have the potential to be exposed to uniquely engineered materials with novel sizes, shapes and physical and chemical properties, at levels far exceeding ambient concentrations. To understand the impact of these exposures on health, and how best to devise appropriate exposure monitoring and control strategies, much research is still needed. Until a clearer picture emerges, the limited evidence available would suggest caution when potential exposures to nanoparticles may occur. More here.

For more background, take a look at the May 19 Small Times' report on this subject.

Ivy League human league

Congratulations to the Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science. Sounds like you're helping to engineer a better world for my kids. (They'll be eligible for any scholarships you might have to offer in five, eight and 18 years, respectively.)

    princeton The Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) today announced its new strategic plan, describing a bold agenda for reshaping engineering teaching and research to better address the needs of society.

    Recognizing the profound effect that technology has on nearly every aspect of life, the Princeton vision for engineering calls for greater integration between the traditional pursuit of technological innovation and broader considerations of public policy and social, economic and environmental concerns. The plan builds on the core strengths of the engineering school while fostering a greater interplay between scientific disciplines and a closer connection with the rest of the University and its strengths in the humanities and social sciences.

    "Our vision is to create a school of engineering that will meet the needs of the world today and for the coming decades in a way that would be hard for any other school of engineering to achieve," said Maria Klawe, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Klawe gave the first public presentation of the plan, titled "Engineering for a Better World: The Princeton Vision," (PDF, 1.2MB) to Princeton alumni on May 28.

    "We have much to be proud of at SEAS," said President Shirley M. Tilghman. "Now is the time to build on our past success to lead engineering research and teaching for the 21st century. This is one of the top priorities for Princeton."

    The vision statement, available online at, grew out of a year-long strategic planning process that involved more than 750 faculty members, students and staff as well as alumni and leaders from other institutions and industry. The school held 11 workshops on topics ranging from issues of graduate and undergraduate education to specific research areas such as nanotechnology and information technology. The resulting plan was presented to Tilghman, the Board of Trustees and the faculty earlier this year.

    A common theme of the strategic planning process was the need for a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems. The most challenging problems demand not only a variety of technical expertise, but also a range of non-technical perspectives, said Klawe. "If you want to have an impact on the world, you have to understand policy and commerce and economic implications," she said. "You have to understand human beings." Read the rest here.

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Friday, May 28, 2004

First, blame the media

My latest column is up on the Small Times Web site. Here's an excerpt:

    U.S. nanotech official Clayton Teague assured me during an interview in Washington that everybody is “keenly aware” of the sour European experience with science policy. But I heard something else echoing through the National Nanotechnology Initiative event, and to my ears it was not the sound of lessons learned. It was the old technique of blaming the media. Read the rest here.
This Just In: Howard Lovy explains it all

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Virtual villagers with pitchforks

Buckyballs, brain-damanged fish, Swiss insurance, toxic ignorance, the whole zoo is getting a thorough Slashdotting. Next come the villagers with torches and pitchforks. Oh well. Remember, though, you read it all in Small Times first.

Nuclear science safer than Iraqi politics

IraqiNanoBot readers might recognize the name of Hussein Shahristini, an Iraqi scientist who recently said "no thanks" to the prime minister's position. I'm guessing that nuclear science is a safer profession than Iraqi politics.

Back in November, I reprinted a quote from Shahristini just after the Royal Society in London helped launch the Iraqi Academy of Science. The idea was to keep one of Iraq's richest natural resources, its science community, in the country and helping to rebuild the scientific and technological base after decades of abuse by Saddam Hussein, who viewed science as simply another weapon in his arsenal of fascism. Shahristani knows all about this, having himself been jailed by Saddam.

Read the rest of my notes on a little-reported Middle Eastern scientific renaissance here.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Venezuelan natural nano resource

smartkidProud papa Luis Mavilla writes that his 13-year-old son, Peter Alexander Mavilla, has caught a bad case of the nanobug. When the Venezuelan youth decided that nanotechnology was just so cool that he had to learn more, the first thing he did was register as a free online member of that notorious purveyor of childhood nanofear, the Foresight Institute.

Peter is developing a project on basic nanotechnology concepts to be presented at the next science fair at his school and at a youth science fair promoted by AsoVAC, the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science.

Peter's a science fair veteran. In 2003, he won first prize at the AsoVAC Festival for a cake that is able to provide one-third of the daily nutritional requirements for kids between 11 and 15 years old.

Sounds to me that when it comes to assuring Venezuela's future in nanoscience, Peter takes the cake.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Nano for the Commonwealth

Mass. High Tech ran an informative series on nanotech, including a piece by Small Times correspondent Matt Kelly (the last one on this list):

Thanks for the nanomemories, Intel

I see from my stats that I've been getting quite a few hits from Intel the past couple of days. It's from a link that I can't access. Must be an internal newsletter. I'm guessing it's a reaction to this post.

Since I don't have access to the Intel reference to my little blog, here are a couple of guesses from my own personal Intel Inside:

    Attention Intel employees. Take a look at what these so-called "bloggers" are up to now. This jerk thinks he knows something about our business. Please identify all PCs associated with this Howard Lovy character and force a crash at inconvenient times. He uses a Mac at home, though. He's out of our reach there.

Or ...

    Attention Intel employees. My God, how does this "blogger" do it? Why, he's right on target with every single sentence and witticism. I'm going to make Howard Lovy's NanoBot required reading for every Intel employee. I want full reports on my desk every week, parsing every single golden word.

Now that I have your attention, though. Anybody at Intel want to tell me what you plan to do with Nanosys? Use them and then dump them like a bad nanomemory? Turn them into Intel's "nano inside" as the company's nonvolatile memory unit? Yeah, I know. You won't tell me. thought I'd try, anyway.

Monday, May 24, 2004

NanoKabbalah Consciousness

I've written about nanotech and tikkun olam and modern nano golems, today's midrashic lesson from Howard Lovy's Institute for Underfinanced NanoKabbalistic Studies comes from Rabbi Yehuda Berg, (yes, Madonna's personal guide to Jewish mysticism).

I'm not sure if my 17th century ancestor, Rabbi Jehudah Loew, creator of the Golem of Prague, would have understood the Material Girl's message, but I do know old great-grandpa did much to spread a complex spiritual/scientific system to the masses.

Rabbi Berg writes:

    This week you can open the box and step out. Practically, this means the passion grows, the money flows, the moments of enlightenment never stop. According to Kabbalah, this is the state of nanotechnology.

    ... The genius of nanotechnology is the reduction of space. Smaller is infinitely more powerful. Consider the first transatlantic telephone cable. This bulky line carried approximately 32 phone calls. You might assume that to add more callers, one must simply enlarge the cable. That was the old way of thinking. Today, scientists recognize that less matter and less space, not more, equals more raw power. A micro-thin fiber optic cable can now carry 320,000 phone calls on a simple thread of light.

    It seems that scientists on the cutting edge of nanotechnology are reaching the same conclusions about space as did the kabbalists thousands of years ago.

    For 4,000 years, kabbalists have been explaining that achieving immortality is the removal of space. Space, as defined by the kabbalists, is the opening for negativity to enter your life. Eliminate the space, and the world of limitations becomes limitless.

    Now, whereas technologists have created microscopic tools to affect changes in the physical world, Kabbalah’s singular tool is non-physical. This tool is consciousness.

    ... My father and teacher Kabbalist Rav Berg explains that an open heart is when you see another person possessing something you don't have and you are totally excited and happy for them…even though you don't seem to have what they have.

    Example: A guy you know is getting married. He found the perfect wife, and on top of it, he has the perfect job, body, house - the whole nine yards. And there you are, alone, stuck in a dead-end job, out of shape, out of luck – you get the picture. How can you not be jealous of this guy?

    The Rav teaches us that there is no space between you and this guy. It is simply a rule of the universe – we are all connected. However, the moment you identify with the illusion that you are separate from him (and by doing so focus on your lack), is the moment you create space for negativity to enter your life. With this type of thinking, you are no closer to finding your soul mate and all the things your soul desires. This is not nanotechnology.

    Nanotechnology is knowing that if this guy is able to manifest these blessings, you can too. It is using the tools of Kabbalah, i.e. certainty and restriction, to disconnect from the feeling of lack (space) and to plug into the confidence that your fulfillment will come too - as long as you work for it. This is true nanotechnology.

    It is especially important that you don’t allow any space to enter your life this week, for this week you are playing for immortal stakes. And by using the nanotechnology of Kabbalah – your consciousness – you will win this game and claim your prize.

Update: Is it Shavuot again already? RU Sirius and David Pescovitz celebrate with a discussion on technological counterculture as catalyst for human evolution. Man, sometimes, all things considered, I'd rather be in San Francisco. Palo Alto will do.

Another Update: Says Nick Gray: "I didn't have any idea what Kabbalah was until I read this blog post comparing it to nanotech."

And Sleepy-Head wakes up long enough to write: "Interesting entry about nanotechnology and kabbalah. Interesting only because of what it says about the kabbalah, as I’m not sure the person understands nanotechnology at all. I don’t think the benefit of nanotechnology has as much to do with size as it does density. It’s not that the phone line works because it is small, it works because the pieces are better, and more dense."

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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Nano in cicada's clothing

cicada   sheep
At last, I've found the cicada/nanotech angle, with sheep thrown in for good measure.
    A sheep's wooly coat and the outer covering or wings of a cicada, as a sort of natural 'garment' formed through the self-organization of atoms and molecules, are a 'bottom-up' approach of nanotechnology found in nature. More here

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Nano in search of culture

Here's a thought-provoking column by Dave Webb in

    Michael O'Farrell -- CEO of consultancy InfoComm Canada Inc. -- has a context-is-everything attitude toward technology. As new technologies emerge, their developers have to be cognizant of how they'll fit in culturally 10 years from now for them to be of any value.

    "Technology is sometimes looking for its place in a culture," he says.

    O'Farrell took a year-long sabbatical in 2003 to flesh out his vision of where nanotechnology and mobile data communication will intersect. Then, in a merger, he acquired InfoComm -- started in 1989 by Murray McKercher, a complementary thinker who's still on board as a managing partner -- and began to position the firm as a thought leader in the field of nanomobility. More here.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Take my spam, please

A bit of a stretch for a nanotech connection here, with a spousal reference that would be more than a bit outdated in the U.S. In fact, here it would prompt some strongly worded letters to the editor. Anyway, I link, you decide:

    nagNagging spouse? Don't run, don't hide. Resolving his or her gripe could be worth millions. At least that's how it worked out for Sunil Paul.

    In 1997, Paul's wife Michelle began complaining about the appearance of spam junk mail in her America Online e-mail account.

    Paul, an Indian-American techie who has authored a Congressional report on nanotechnology and miniaturisation, set to work on blocking spam. The result was Brightmail, an anti-spam company.

    Early this week, computer security firm Symantec scooped up Brightmail for a hefty $370 million in an all cash deal just when it was about to go public. More here

Meet the new nanoboss

My interview with Sean Murdock, new head of the NanoBusiness Alliance, is posted on Small Times. Here's an excerpt:

    Small Times: As a business organization, how do you talk about risks, since there's a shortage of actual studies on what the risks are? Also, is that your role?

    Murdock: I would say that I would not necessarily go out and market the risks. I'm not in the business of creating unnecessary uncertainty. Having said that, I am very willing to take a fair and balanced view of what some of the sources of risk can be. More here

Update: The Chicago Sun-Times has a Murdock report, too, quoting my boss saying nice things about him.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

... and I feel fine

It's the end of the world as we know it on, which examines "some catastrophes, as predicted by Hollywood, science-fiction and the Bible, and their probability." Prey, of course, is examined:

    THE SCENARIO: The menace that stalks Michael Crichton's current thriller, Prey, can't be seen with the naked eye. The novel deals with nanotechnology, the emerging science of molecular engineering, and has swarms of self-replicating microscopic nanorobots devised for the military threatening to colonise the planet.

    HOW LIKELY? The plot evokes the 'grey goo' scenario much dreaded by Prince Charles and others. Rather like the situation with GM crops, the debate is becoming polarised between utopian and dystopian visions.

    Others, however, insist that small is the next big thing, and future developments could include revolutionary medical implants. Professor Alex Zettl, of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who last year created the world's smallest synthetic motor on an axle 2,000 times shorter than a hair's width, told The Scotsman: 'Social, health and environmental issues need to be addressed but the potential dangers of nanotechnology have been far overblown to the point of being ridiculous.' " More here

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Signs of the Apocalypse: Part II

    "Melody Haller of the Antenna Group, a public relations firm that represents a number of nanotech companies and Small Times, also raised concern that 'marginalizing' people such Eric Drexler and others who believe in the feasibility of molecular manufacturing might create 'heroic martyrs' for nanotech opponents to exploit. Drexler is founder of the Foresight Institute and author of the influential 1986 book, 'Engines of Creation.'

    Modzelewski, normally an outspoken Drexler critic, was unusually courtly toward the group. 'Foresight has created some frameworks and guidelines for going forward that people should be looking at,' he said. More here.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Nano on the brain

You've read about him in Small Times here and here, you've been blown away by his blog, now, everybody's favorite brainiac, Zack Lynch, has been Neofiled. Here's an excerpt:

    brainFor neurotechnology to emerge, as I am describing, it will require continued advancements in NBIC technologies. That is, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science [Ed.: nano-bio-info-cogno]. We need all of these enabling toolsets to develop. So, nanotechnology is definitely a supporting infrastructure, but I consider that a continuing advancement of industrial manufacturing techniques, just at the nanoscale. (And of course, now and then you do get some new properties.) More here

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Signs of the Apocalypse

My cat is eating the dog food, and the NanoBusiness Alliance and Foresight Institute are working together.

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Metaphors thinner than a human hair

nanoparticle Language of science lags behind nanotech
Buckyballs? Yolk-shells?
Terminology needs fine tuning

Titanium dioxide nanomolecules are used in creating next-generation sun shades. What do you call such nano-creations? In the future, the terminology may determine how such substances are regulated.

More here, but, remember that you read it here first.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Thin batt to tat patch

tattoo powerpaper
Power Paper sure has changed its focus since Small Times first covered the kibbutzniks' company back in 2001.

NanoBusiness Alliance leader steps down

The NanoBusiness Alliance, after four years and a key role in passage of a $3.7 billion legislation package, is entering a new era. The industry group's executive director, Mark Modzelewski announced today that he was moving over to newly formed Lux Research, a nanotech business advisory firm. Sean Murdock, executive director of Chicago-based AtomWorks, will take over the helm at the Alliance. More here.

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Welcome to our Nano Nightmare

Intel – therefore the entire chip industry – is getting a rude and embarrassing wake-up call, and learning the truth to the cliché that pioneers are usually the ones who end up with arrows in their backs. It's also learning why nobody but the brave and foolish is doing "nanotechnology."

As soon as the number-one microchip maker's chip-feature sizes reached below that magic 100-nanometer limit, Intel proudly declared itself to be pioneering "nanotechnology." Really, it was just a continuation of miniaturization. But, what the heck. Nano's got the buzz, and it sure couldn't do Intel any harm.

Now, Intel's latest microprocessors are running slow and hot -- so much so that the huge frigate is stopping dead in the water and making some sharp turns. Not an easy feat for the world's largest maker of microchips. The problem is this. Those chips are not micro anymore. They've crossed the threshold into "nano," and Intel is finding out for itself why nanotech is such demanding and frustrating work.

    The problem, as they see it, is simply that Intel, as the industry leader, is the first one forced to struggle with the effects of pushing the envelope in advanced manufacturing processes, namely by moving to build chips with a minimum feature size as small as 90 nanometers from the industry standard of 130 nanometers.

    "The interesting sign here is that Intel is leading on the state of the art," said David Ditzel, vice chairman and chief technology officer of the Transmeta Corporation, a maker of low-power-consuming processors in Santa Clara, Calif. "It will not be the only company to experience the shock and panic. It will happen to hundreds of other companies." More here

Update: Intel is planning to push its vision of ubiquitous, always-on computing in the home. Reliable, fast, cheap, portable, powerful memory will necessarily need to be a part of this "Digital Home" of our dreams. Maybe it's time for Nanosys to remember where it placed its molecular memory in time for Intel's ad campaign?

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Wear your metal rubber

metalrubberFrom Gizmodo, the latest in nano-to-wear

    I want a trenchcoat made of this: nano-enabled "metal rubber", in the lab at NanoSonic Inc. Charged with electricity, it has the ability to shape-shift. That's right, they're talking about morphing. More here
But wait, there's more. Buy now and you get ...
    Metal Rubber might someday serve "morphing" aircraft with shape- shifting wings. It might have biomedical applications - perhaps as a component of artificial muscles - or meet other needs not yet identified. More here
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Investing in NanoFutures

futurelabKids all over the country are using nanotechnology to "save the life" of a virtual patient.

Welcome to the NanoFuture, in which microscopic medical devices are used to repair nerve cells in the body, according to this report.

    This was all part of "FutureLab, a "traveling time machine" that has landed in Aberdeen this week.

    FutureLab was created by James Canton and the Institute for Global Futures, a San-Francisco-based "think tank," in conjunction with iHigh Inc., creators of America's largest high school Internet network, according to an release.

    The "lab" travels all over the country. ... FutureLab is designed to show kids and teens what's in store for the future of science and how it will affect their lives. More here

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The Amazing Power of PokéBalls

From liquidcross, I give you "Sociology and Science in the World of Pokémon":

    pokeball2We'll begin with the items every Pokémon trainer worth their salt has a boatload of: PokéBalls. These softball-sized spheres are what Pokémon are stored in when they're not out and about. This wouldn't seem remarkable, except for the fact that almost every single Pokémon is considerably larger than a PokéBall. Some of them are more than twice the size of humans, for crying out loud! Yet, they can still be crammed into a transport device that fits into your hand. So we're talking some impressive miniaturization technology here, at the very least. Now, when you miniaturize an object by reducing the space between individual atoms, the object's mass remains constant. So if you've got a Pokémon that has a mass of a few hundred kilograms, it'll still be that hefty when stored in a PokéBall. The obvious solution? The PokéBalls also contain some type of null-gravity and inertial damping systems; null-gravity to make it possible to move them, and inertial damping to make it possible to stop them after being in motion.

    pokeballblack... Finally, we've got the Pokémon Centers, which are both hangouts for trainers, access points for the computer storage system, and hospitals for injured Pokémon. The latter is what I'm going to focus on. Using nanotechnology and/or regenerative medical fields, these facilities can bring any and all Pokémon back to perfect health in a manner of seconds, free of charge. It makes you wonder what kind of healthcare system they have for people. More here

Crossing the blood-game barrier

nanobreaker has a descriptive review of Nano Breaker:
    Buckets and buckets and buckets of blood are involved in Nano Breaker. On second thought, forget the buckets and just bring a full-on tanker. Sure, the game may call the red stuff that gushes out of the opponents "oil," but everyone knows that this game is about the gore. Take a peek at one screen and you'll know what we mean. With a combat system that favors combos and building up to super powers, Nano Breaker is a pure-bred hack'n'slash and lives up to the genre. We got a chance to play it and all we can think about is blood. More here
If you're wondering about the "nano" in the game (does it really matter?), here's how they weave it into the ... um ... plot.
    Apparently the nanomachines of the future go bad and begin to harvest the blood of humans and the iron of buildings in order to construct an army of monster machines poised to obliterate the entire human race. Not so good. More here
Any nano-knowledgable gamers out there who can write? I can offer no money for nano-themed game reviews, but I can offer you nano-fame at the price of total loss of respect from your peers. Send me a note if you're interested.

Update: More Nano Breaker reviews can be found here and here.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Swatting Millipedes

Thanks to correspondent Michael Fitzgerald, Small Times was first with this story yesterday: Big Blue says breakthrough means Millipede may crawl out of lab.

Neil Gordon, president of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance, gave me some thought-provoking insights, which I added to Michael's story.

    The semiconductor industry is already far along on three well-established, proven and profitable roadmaps: electronic, magnetic and optical, all with their various price points and supply chains. Then, out of the blue comes Millipede? Not anytime soon, Gordon said. He gives the technology nine or 10 years-plus before you'll see a Millipede inside any consumer device.

    Gordon said it'll take much more than research breakthroughs to bring the thing out of the lab. He invoked the poster boy of great technology confined to history's dustbin: Beta-format video recorders. "Just because Beta is a better technology doesn't mean it will be adopted."

    Industries that are built on current storage technologies are already supported by retailers that control the channels of distribution, he said. IBM, no matter how big it is, cannot scrap the chain and will find it difficult to impose itself into a link. There just aren't that many entry points into the market, he said.

    He said that rather than trying to "cannibalize" an existing market, IBM should first make itself its own guinea pig for Millipede.

    "Unless IBM is going to be the initial customer in some niche application, I don't see how they're going to get huge volumes in the next three to four years." More here

After granting me the interview for Small Times, by the way, Neil told me how much he enjoyed reading NanoBot and that he catches it every day. Sorry, Neil. I've outed you as a blog reader. Hope this doesn't diminish your prestige in the eyes of your colleagues.

Anyway, I found Neil's comments refreshing because I've read and edited so many stories about the amazing possibilities of the technology, but very little has been written, in-depth, on how exactly a nanotech-enabled memory or storage product -- from Millipede to MRAM -- is going to penetrate existing, entrenched markets. We've been hyping up the technology and not giving that much coverage to business realities, as if those being "disrupted" will welcome the nano-"disruptors" with open arms.

I think Gordon had a great point in that what makes sense technologically doesn't always work in the real world of business -- no matter whether it's ultimately in their best interests or not. When there's an entrenched system, it's difficult to make it stand aside. Also, we need to take into account what exactly it is the market is demanding. Does the portable device market, for example, really want a ton of memory, or does it just want it to be cheap and low-power?

When it comes to Millipede, flash memory, I suppose, might be the nearest-term application. I've also been reading a great deal about the coming age of RFID. Will nanomemory become a part of this new ubiquitous, sensor-laden age?


Jim Hightower has carefully and exhaustively investigated nanotechnology and has come to the following conclusion:

    Wonderful news, folks:The latest Economic Miracle has been found!

    Can you say, "nanotechnology?" Better than high tech, we're told, even better than biotech! Nanotech is the golden fleece, the Next Big Thing! It involves lab technicians manipulating microscopic molecules to manufacture synthetic nanoparticles that can be used in computers, lubricants, and other products. These man-made substances are all the rage in economic development circles, with both federal and state governments pushing taxpayer money at this fledgling industry.

    Politicos in my state of Texas, for example, are all atwitter about getting a big piece of the nano action, planning to throw scarce public funds at corporations in order to lure them to choose Texas as a nano center. But if they choose us n what do we get?


    Then there's a little hiccup that neither the politicos nor the industry want to talk about: These tiny nanoparticles are big-time toxic. A stunning new study of fish finds that the synthetic molecules cause severe brain and liver damage and liver damage in the largemouth bass that were tested, and they wipe out whole populations of small organisms in water that are a crucial part of the aquatic food chain. Other studies have found that nanoparticles cause lung damage when inhaled, raising serious health issues for workers in nanotech factories. More here

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Woe unto nano

By the waters of Babylon, John Zimmer lays down and weeps for thee, nano journalism.

    I realize that journalists are not scientists. I do not expect them to get all the details right based on a 15-minute phone interview with an expert. Journalists are not likely to know whether or not it is meaningful to refer to the surface area of a molecule. They have the daunting task of distilling sometimes highly technical details into language and images the general public can understand and appreciate. To do so with fidelity to the science at hand is difficult for anyone, and all the more so for someone not himself familiar with the science. With this in mind, I do not particularly fault the journalist cited below. I aim merely to highlight comical, though woeful, scientific misconceptions in nanoscience. It seems to me that nanoscience is particularly prone to such misconceptions. It might simply be, however, that I am better equipped to detect these fallacies in nanoscale chemistry than in other fields. More here
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Monday, May 10, 2004

Give Dave a Wave

David W.G. Voyle's got the nano, he just needs the tsunami. I'll let Voyle explain in his own words. HL

Dear Howard,

Thank you for getting back to me regarding Nano Tsunami. I have been trying really hard to keep the site as up to date as I can.

Nano Tsunami is still just me working alone here in Holland, I do not work for a publisher nor am I sponsored by one.

I (like your good self) see lots of good and bad in NanoTech and that has lead me to build Nano Tsunami not merely as a news service, but hopefully more like a "Nano Soapbox " i.e. a place where any view on NanoTech (for or against) can be published without any prefixed corporate or government views bearing down on the subject.

However, chasing after news as been the smaller of the challengers Nano Tsunami seems to have set for me....

Ok when I am in bed (because of the time differences) a lot of news breaks and commercially powerful sites like Small Times, and NanoTech-Now can scoop up and publish the news as it happens.

That's why I have been trying to give a very European view on the subject so that as any European News breaks I can publish it.

And that's what I mean by the challenge set by Nano Tsunami.. Where is all that European news?

Ok Nordic Nanotech, and CMP Cientifica do their bit, but my personal feeling is that they are both more business first and news & views second.

Nothing wrong with that but it's not my vision for Nano Tsunami.

That's where I hope you can help me, your Blog is without doubt the most read Blog on NanoTech issues in the World.

Would it be possible (through your Blog) to announce a BIG WAKE UP Call to all parties (for and against) NanoTech in Europe to please send me as much news and views in any modern European language as possible.


I would also really welcome anyone professional or non professional, or perhaps a NanoTech student, to join by sending me regular or irregular articles about any NanoTech issue of their choice.

Finally, on a more serious note you remember writing about your own traffic stats and showing us all the visit from the White House?

Well my claim to fame is a visit from the Prime Minister's Office of Tasmania! (probably just a cleaner on a quick web surfing break) but still not bad for Nano Tsunami my Nano Tsunami, from my "nano office " on my Home PC, published not in the Heartland of NanoTech... but here in Sunny Holland.

Thanking you in advance for any help you may be able to offer.

David W.G. Voyle.
Nano the wave

Fish tale retold, but maybe not reinsured

My old friend, colleague and former Small Times correspondent Avi Machlis is a news editor at Bloomberg now, and he gave me a sneak peak at this story earlier today. He asked for some sources, but it looks like the story moved before they could be contacted. There might be further rewrites.

It's essentially the "buckyball fish" story recycled, this time with the Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world's No. 2 reinsurer, saying they might reconsider covering products that incorporate nanotechnology. The reason? The fish.

    Minute particles created with nanotechnology and used in certain sun-screens, computer-chips, drugs and coatings in the aerospace industry, can be easily absorbed by the body, said Annabelle Hett, Swiss Re risk specialist, at a conference in London about potential risks of the technology. They accumulate in organs and may have chronic effects, she added.

    "You could wake up and have a huge wave of claims potentially and so you need to react now," said Hett. "Insufficient research has been done to identify whether products containing nanoparticles actually pose a threat." More here

As I've said before, perception of risk -- never mind actual risk -- is enough to have an impact on actual business.

Update: Here's a link to the report: Nanotechnology - Small matter, many unknowns

Another Update: Avi tells me they got in touch with one of the sources I recommended as a voice for the nanotech industry: Charles Gause of Luna Innovations. They've updated the story with Gause's comments.

    Following the fish study, there needs to be more supporting data," rather than an "emotional" response, said Charles Gause a vice-president at Virginia-based Luna Innovations, a nanotechnology research and manufacturing company. "There's been a lot of conjecture from the scientific community," he said. More here
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Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton mentions nanotech in this reprint of a New York Times Magazine piece, but does it within the context of "cost" and health-care inequity.

    The pace of scientific development in medicine is so rapid that the next hundred years is likely to be called the Century of the Life Sciences. We have mapped the human genome and seen the birth of the burgeoning field of genomics, offering the opportunity to pinpoint and modify the genes responsible for a whole host of conditions. Scientists are exploring whether nanotechnology can target drugs to diseased tissues or implant sensors to detect disease in its earliest forms. We can look forward to ''designer drugs'' tailored to individual genetic profiles. But the advances we herald carry challenges and costs.

    ... The increasing understanding and use of genomics may also undermine the insurance system. Health insurance, like other insurance, exists to protect against unpredictable, costly events. It is based on risk. As genetic information allows us to predict illness with greater certainty, it threatens to turn the most susceptible patients into the most vulnerable. Many of us will become uninsurable, like the two young sisters with a congenital disease I met in Cleveland. Their father went from insurance company to insurance company trying to get coverage, until one insurance agent looked at him and said, "We don't insure burning houses." More here.

It's an excellent point, and one that one of my doctor brothers -- who also ran an HMO for a while -- brings up whenever I talk to him about all the wonderful things nanomedicine will bring. "Who's going to pay for it?"

Sen. Clinton was a co-sponsor of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, and her constituents in Albany are reaping the rewards of nanotech-related economic development.

Last November, the Business Review of Albany quoted Clinton:

    "Nanotechnology research and development is important to the economic future of New York and the nation," Senator Clinton said. "This legislation is an example of our continuing commitment to promoting New York's extremely skilled workforce, high-tech capabilities, and world class research facilities."

    Clinton said New York is "playing a leading role in the development of nanotechnology. Our state is rich with tremendous economic development opportunities and our nanotech facilities are prime examples of what the state has to offer to researchers, developers and investors." More here

I'd hope and expect that she will keep an eye on these possible health-care inequities even when she is promoting nanotechnology as an engine of economic development for her state.

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Zyvex's Von Ehr on pixels, bits and stitches

I'm working on a number of projects, among them an attempt to review the notes, interviews and other material I've gathered the past few years and organize them into something a bit more coherent. Much of what you read on this blog represent snippets of larger pieces of work, or just a bit of longer interviews I'm reviewing.

My goal? Well, I feel like I've been one of only a few navigators of nanotech's undercurrent. It's about time to think about how to surface with the full story. You might see fewer posts here as I focus my energies on writing full chapters. But you can still expect some interesting stuff to surface as NanoBot embarks on the next phase of its fantastic voyage.

vonehrFor now, here's a bit more of my interview in Washington with James Von Ehr, founder of Zyvex Corp., one of the first nanotechnology companies -- and one that still dares to keep alive the dream of true molecular manufacturing. Von Ehr and I spoke at an Indian restaurant in D.C. during a National Nanotechnology Initiative conference in early April. At left is a photograph I took of him at a conference in California last October.

    James Von Ehr: What's the killer product in 10 years? You know, I shy away from telling people what the product is in 10 years. I turn the question around and say, "So, what's the most important thing you'll need in 10 years? Can you tell me?"

    Go back to 1994 and say, "What do you think the most important thing in 2004 is going to be?" The Internet probably wouldn't have been on the list. Very few people even knew that the Internet was there. To have said, "I don't like my megabyte-per-second broadband. I want 100-megabyte-per-second broadband," would have been science fiction in 1994.

    So, I'm not sure what the right product is. All I know is we will need nanomanufacturing facilities to make it. We'll need those to be flexible because, the way our product development is going, we want more flexibility. You look at how long it takes to get out a new cell phone, it's not very long these days. So, you've got to have flexible manufacturing. It's almost a certainty it's going to work at the nanoscale. In 10 years, that's not science fiction to see that trend.

    So, we need flexible nanoscale manufacturing in high volume with quick turnaround time.

    Howard Lovy: Do you picture taking orders from around the world: "I want you to build me this." And you say, "Yes sir, we'll modify our facilities to do that."

    Von Ehr: Something along those lines. What I would envision is that we would probably build a manufacturing device to order for a customer who's making something.

    Lovy: A device bigger than a breadbox?

    Von Ehr: Bigger than a breadbox and smaller than an aircraft carrier. In there, there is a mix of all sorts of scales and all sorts of technologies. But it essentially is a factory to build things at the bottom end, and probably built with atomic precision. Maybe not 100 percent atomically precise, but pretty precise manufacturing. It integrates mechanical, electrical and chemical sorts of things together in the system.

    Lovy: It's just the ultimate machine.

    Von Ehr: Basically, it's an ability to make a manufacturing plant in a flexible fashion. We want to be able to become a manufacturing facility to make whatever products a customer wants to make.

    Lovy: Why?

    Von Ehr: (pauses, smiles). Boy, that's a multidimensional …

    Lovy: I know, I know. It's a horrible question.

    Von Ehr: I can spend the rest of the day answering that.

    It intrigues me to do for the world of atoms what software has done for the world of pixels and bits. The attraction of molecular nanotechnology to a lot of software people is that we're used to creating virtual worlds starting with an idea and instantiating that in pixels and bits. It's fascinating to think that we might have the tools that help us instantiate that in the world of atoms. Because we're made of atoms. There fore, I say that atoms are lot more important to us than pixels and bits.

    So, the ability to start with an idea and come up with a product that could be utilitarian like a database, could be artistic like a graphics program, is very appealing as a software person -- particularly one who has dealt with artists in the past. I'm intrigued at what artists will do with nanotechnology.

    I'm getting older. I'm concerned with what kind of medicine we will have. Having just hurt my thumb and had some fairly crude surgery to patch it back up …

    Lovy: Stitches?

    Von Ehr: Well, they had to actually … It's too gross to go into, but yes there are some stitches, but just thinking, "What should medicine be?" How should we be able to do this? This is the 21st century. We ought to have better medicine than slicing you open with a knife and sowing it back up. So, can't we get in there and work with the body's repair mechanisms and coax them into building the structures that we want, to generate new limbs and patching up damage? So, I just think that life is going to be a lot more interesting as our manufacturing technology gets better. I see that as a solution to a lot of problems.

    Lovy: It sounds noble, but in the real world, in the consumer society, the really big killer app could be just recreation. It could be a toy, it could be a new virtual reality game.

    Von Ehr: Actually, before I started Zyvex, I had a list of a dozen fields that I thought were going to be huge if we can get molecular manufacturing going. Cosmetics is actually a huge deal. Imagine if you have a wrinkle cream that actually does something about wrinkles. Or a fat cream that does something about fat.

    Lovy: That's different from what the cosmetics industry is doing now with titanium dioxide. You're not talking about smaller materials, but regenerative materials.

    Von Ehr: Actually, the ability to engineer nanoparticles or nanomaterials that interact with the cells in a way to coax them to do something that you want them to do.

    Lovy: How old are you?

    Von Ehr: I'm 53

    Lovy: Oh, you've got a long time before you start getting all wrinkly.

    Von Ehr: I'm feeling mortal already.

    Lovy: My point is that it (molecular manufacturing) could lead to something that you don't necessarily approve of – a consumer item, a weapon.

    Von Ehr: It could lead in a lot of directions that I can't foresee and might not approve of, but so has electricity. I think this is going to be at least as useful as electricity.

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Zyvex launches nanocomposite line
Merkle resigns as Zyvex's nano theorist
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    If I were just setting out today to make that drive to the West Coast to start a new business, I would be looking at biotechnology and nanotechnology.
    Jeff Bezos, founder of, quoted in Inc. magazine


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Whose nano matters?

You think the Sasser kid was trouble? Ha! Child's play! Even the hackers don't trust themselves with nanotechnology, as this thread indicates.

    NanoTechnology and Genetic Manipulation MUST be banned completely. Why? Because WE are HACKERS. WE understand. As soon as those technologys get even CLOSE to being available for home use, for home access, for home hacking, the world will END. Simple as that.

    WE know that laws wont help. Controls and regulations and licensing wont stop it. That wont stop us. We will hack. That wont stop "them", they will crack. And everything that is "computer" now will enter the real world. Viruses, Worms, Trojans, and yes even Trolls. The world, as we know it, will be forced to reboot. More here

Hmmm. Turn off the computer and go outside.

In all seriousness, though, the idea of manipulating atoms as easily as pixels and bits is a software engineer's dream come true. To them, the world of nanotechnology is an extension of their own digital worlds, a way to make matter into something programmable. More on that here and here.

This makes the chemists in charge of public nanotech funding scratch their heads. Their world is wet, sticky and biological. The engineers' world is dry, programmable and, in the United States at least, largely not publicly funded.


The Wonderful World of NanoKids

nanokidFrom the U.S. Department of Officially Sanctioned Imagination:

    Q. How did you get the idea for NanoKids?

    Dr. Tour: I was bothered by press reports about nanobots, that they will reproduce, do bad things, even eat us as a source of carbon! No matter how many times I said, "No, this is not going to happen. Nanomaterials are smaller than DNA; they are not going to function like that." the reporters didn't write about that.

    So I thought, "Okay, you want nanobots, I'll give you nanobots!" More here

Update: On my way to looking up something else, I ran into this quote from Jim Tour in the Houston Chronicle:

    Nanotechnology sounded more like science fiction than science in the early 1990s, even among theoretical physicists and chemists. Tour says he was laughed at, even ridiculed, by his peers for his work.

    "Scientists can be extremely closed-minded," Tour says. "I've had reviews from my peers slamming my work for years." More here

Somehow, between then and now, the phrase: "not going to happen" entered Dr. Tour's vocabulary.

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Here's the scoop

Hey, kids. Don't make me stop the nanocar. Can't we all just get along? First, call yourselves by your real names. Chris Phoenix, you belong to an advocacy organization. Tim Harper, you're a businessman who runs business advocacy organizations.

None of you are journalists -- at least none that my old-style cigar-chompin' "if-your-mother-says-she-loves-you-check-it-out" college journalism instructor would recognize.

It's cool. I love it. Your competing voices are welcome. That's what blogs are all about. It's not supposed to be unbiased journalism. Keep the debates going. Just don't take it personally when people publicly disagree with you. Here's where you can learn from the stereotypical hard-bitten journalists of old: Develop a tough skin.

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Update: Tim Harper wrote to tell me that he thinks he's still a member of Britain's National Union of Journalists. I'll have to check them out, since Small Times needs a new British correspondent. And Harper's TNTlog strikes back with Knock! Knock! It's the Thought Police!

Friday, May 07, 2004

Nerd American Idol

From: Howard Lovy
Subject: Skin Science
They link to our review of L'Oreal's nanostuff, making Jennifer's suffering for science worth it!

FossFrom: Jennifer Foss
Subject: RE: Skin Science
This is my nerd dream come true. I wonder if I'm going to get recognized in the grocery store now!

From: Howard Lovy
RE: Skin Science
Want me to make you an even bigger nerd star and blog this item?

From: Jennifer Foss
Subject: RE: Skin Science
Oh my gosh ... It's like the American Idol of the Nanotech world! Sure, I don't have a problem with my newfound fame in the scientific community.

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Update: Roland Piquepaille writes about a company that literally gets under your skin. STMicroelectronics' SkinChip.

Good medicine, bad medicine

Robert Bradbury has some good news and some bad news about the National Institutes of Health nanomedicine roadmap initiative shindig this week:

    The good news... The NIH really seems to understand that to make progress in nanotech one must integrate researchers from various areas of expertise. The bad news... Few if any people attending the conference have read any of the background literature on what nanotechnology or nanomedicine really involve. When I mentioned or or , during the interactive periods they generally were unrecognized. This seems to be consistent with the Drexler v. Smalley debate which suggests that most scientists simply have not done their homework (in terms of learning about nanotechnology). More here

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NASA Funds Sci-Fi Technology (Wired)

    For 25 years, Ross Hoffman has had a vision: to use tiny changes in the environment to alter the paths of hurricanes, slow down snow storms and turn dark days bright.

    For most of those years, Hoffman kept his ideas largely to himself. His adviser at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told him weather control was too outlandish for his Ph.D. thesis. The chances of a buttoned-down foundation or government agency funding such research were so slim, Hoffman didn't even bother to ask.

    But, in 2001, all that changed. Hoffman stumbled upon a tiny, obscure cranny of the American space program -- the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, or NIAC. In this $4 million-a-year agency, Hoffman found a place where the wildest of ideas were not only tolerated, they were welcome.

    Shape-shifting space suits? Step right up. Antimatter-powered probes to Alpha Centauri? No problem. Robotic armada to destroy incoming asteroids? Pal, just sign on the dotted line. Weather control seemed downright down to earth in comparison.

    Hoffman is now wrapping up his half-million-dollar study for NIAC. But the agency is continuing to bankroll concepts for a future decades away.

    Some space analysts wonder how long it can last, however. With NASA in turmoil, and a presidential directive to return to the moon, will a science fiction-oriented agency like NIAC survive? More

Expert 'teleports' into conference (The Age)

    Company directors at a north Queensland conference glimpsed the future when an American artificial intelligence guru appeared before them at the lectern without leaving the United States.

    Ray Kurzweil, keynote speaker at the Australian Institute of Company Directors conference in Port Douglas, "teleported" in to appear as a hologram.

    A few latecomers entering the conference hall took his beamed image to be the real thing, but commented on his rather pale appearance.

    ... He suggested the near future would see not only gene therapy advances to overcome disease and ageing, but also nanotechnology enabling tiny computer "nanobots" to enter our bloodstreams on health missions. More

nanoPyramid (TNTlog)

    As if the good name of nanotechnology was not sufficiently besmirched by nanobots, we see the emergence in Denmark of what appears to be a pyramid scheme selling a range of 'nano' cleaning products. The deal is that you recruit additional distributors and get rich, turning your initial few hundred euro investment into fifty thousand or more. From the web site we see that the scheme is also to be launched in Germany and the UK. More

If these become nanobots that convert the world to grey goo, I will kick they ass (prometheus6) More

Nanotechnology Forum to be Webcast Live Today (Business Wire) More

Germany to create more apprenticeships in nanotechnology and biotechnology (Cordis News) More