Sunday, October 31, 2004

Nano-Economics in Lowell, Mass.

This Lowell Sun story can be filed under nanotech as an engine of economic creation. It's just another example of one point I made to the Foresight Institute, a nanotech think tank, last week in my talk -- that legislators don't care if you're talking nanotech or knitting, as long as you can show that it could create jobs during their time in office.

Speaking of jobs, if the Lowell Sun's online archives were to go back to around 1991-'92, you'd see the work of a young, lowly stringer scribbling through local selectmen, school board and town meetings to pay the bills to support his newborn daughter. I did that to supplement my income from The Haverhill Gazette, where I was a reporter and editor from '87-'92. My biggest thrill as a reporter back then was trudging through the snow with the national media and presidential candidates during the 1988 New Hampshire primary. But, that's a story for another day ...

    Nanotechnology isn't just a funny word

    It could also be the key to revitalizing Lowell's commercial office-space market, making up for losses never quite offset since Wang Laboratories folded in the early 1990s.

    Officials at UMass Lowell covet a corner of their Lawrence Mills complex now the site of a 152-condominium "Renaissance on the River" project by Boston developer Edward Fish for a new, state-of-the-art center for nanotechnology manufacturing research, making Lowell and its surroundings a highly attractive location for companies that wish to mass-produce inventions derived from the tiny technology.

    State Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat, has made getting that center built, and renovating the Lawrence Mills complex around it, a central focus of his work on Beacon Hill.

    Gov. Romney promised $19.5 million to the nano center in his supplemental budget. Unfortunately, that proposal was dead on arrival at the Legislature, which left the nano money out of its own supplemental budget.

    But all is not lost. Word is that Romney, in response to lobbying from the Lowell legislative delegation, has given tacit approval to freeing up $23 million in already approved higher-education bond money for the project. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics
A nano chicken in every pot

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mother Ship to innerspace sensors ... come in ...

Tumbleweeds in the Bloodstream
Molecule-size sensors inside astronauts' cells could warn of health impacts from space radiation.

    nanoparticlesWouldn't it be nice if the cells in your body would simply tell you when you're starting to get sick, long before symptoms appear? Or alert you when a tumor is growing, while it's still microscopic and harmless?

    The ability to detect changes inside of individual cells while those cells are still inside your body would be a boon to medicine. NASA-supported scientists are developing a technology right now that could, if it works, do exactly that.

    The scientists don't actually coax the cells into talking, of course. The idea is to place "nanoparticles" inside the cells to function as molecule-size sensors. Whenever these sensors encounter certain signs of trouble -- a fragment of an invading virus perhaps -- they would begin to glow, signaling the outside world that something is wrong.

    It's an elegant technology, and because it can be customized to target many combinations of specific cell types and specific problems, it's also a very potent one. Research on nanoparticles has blossomed in recent years, with scientists exploring how they can be used to treat everything from cancer to genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

    NASA is interested in how this technology might help tackle another health issue: radiation exposure. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
How big is nano?
Nano-engineered intelligent flagellum?
Mars Needs NanoMoney

Would 'Professor Z' get a government grant?

robots   robots3   robots2

Strange Days at Blake Holsey High: Nanotechnology (
    Televisions used to be the size of refrigerators. But what if things like wireless televisions, video cameras and cell phones were one thousand times smaller? This is the idea of nanotechnology. Professor Z demonstrates for the kids how it works. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
More scifi nano to confuse the kids
Nano by any memes necessary
Kim Possible's NanoTick

Friday, October 29, 2004

Hey kids, wanna be cool?

Enticing students on the nano-scale (by Matt Krupnick, Contra Costa Times)

    With high school science classes limited to traditional physics, chemistry and biology and failing to excite California high school students, UC Berkeley faculty are counting on the microscopic.

    The university's Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Institute plans to hire seven new faculty members in the next three years, said Tom Kalil, a leader of the institute, which hopes to become the foremost provider of the nation's nanoscientists.

    "I just think that the notion that we could make things at the molecular level is inherently cool," said Kalil, a former technology adviser to President Clinton. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
From Boston to Berkeley, this land is nano land
Nano Carolina
A Sad Jab at the 'Bad Rad Lab'

Laurie Anderson's spirit in the sky

Seattle - Laurie Anderson - Performance and Lecture (Archinect)

    Center on Contemporary Art is very pleased to announce an artist-talk and mini-performance by internationally acclaimed performance artist, Laurie Anderson Tuesday, November 9th at 2 PM at CoCA.

    "In this new work, my ambition is to write an epic poem made of songs, images, and stories that relate in new ways; my plan is to invent a language that will explore the contemporary meanings of freedom and time."

    "Research for this piece involves a lot of travel as well as my work with NASA where, as artist-in-residence, I am looking at nanotechnology and imaging."

    "My dream is to make a work that will focus on spirituality and consumerism, a work that will attempt to be a true portrait of this country at the beginning of our century." More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Heisenberg
Turn on, tune in, tiny out
Nano's got the look

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why a duck?

Thanks, Tim Harper. You like me. You really like me. Even though I'm a SarahJessicaNanoKabbalahGongifiedQuack

Wanted: Independent nano watchdog - Part II

Nanotech Group's Invitations Declined
Critics Say Effort Glosses Over Risks (By Rick Weiss, Washington Post)

    A new effort by industry leaders and others to engender public trust in nanotechnology, the young science of making invisibly small materials, has run into difficulties on the eve of its first meeting after environmental and citizen groups declined to join for now because of doubts the initiative will serve the public interest.

    None of the three invited representatives of environmental groups has agreed to join the newly created International Council on Nanotechnology at its inaugural meeting in Houston today.

    One said yesterday that he had asked that his name be removed from the membership list because the group -- funded almost entirely by industry -- seemed more interested in easing public jitters than in actually doing something about the potential risks of nanotechnology. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Wanted: Independent nano watchdog

Related News
UK urges caution over nanotechnology (Food Production Daily)
UK government report warns of potential nanotechnology risks (
CBEN launches partnership for sustainable nanotechnology (EurekAlert)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wanted: Independent nano watchdog

The Edmonton Journal asks: Will nanoscience repeat ag-biotech fiasco? The story is a rehash of all the issues NanoBot readers have been familiar with for more than a year now. But it gives me a good excuse to go into part of the "tough love" advice I gave to the Foresight Institute during my presentation last weekend.

If the group wants to remain relevant, it needs to address concerns associated with nanotechnology today, and not only this vague "someday" when true molecular manufacturing is in use.

Here's the background, for those who haven't been following what's going on: The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative made a decision a few years ago to shut "Engines of Creation" author Eric Drexler and his brand of nanotechnology (true, bottom-up self-replicating nanosystems and molecular manufacturing) out of the the realm of mainstream thought and government funding, and marginalize him and other scientists who believe this stuff is physically possible.

Much of the media have gone along for the ride, since it appeals to journalists' cynical nature to call true nanotech a bunch of crap. Most tech and business journalists are only now recovering from the crap they wrote during the Internet revolution. So, coverage centers on short-term products, business models, how to partner with existing industries and how to attract government and venture capital funding. And that's fine. That's great. Meanwhile, who is writing about nanotechnology? More importantly, who is serving as its watchdog?

Most scientists do believe bottom-up molecular manufacturing is physically possible. It's not even a question, no matter what Nobel laureate Rick Smalley says. Smalley has reasons for his marginalization of another branch of his own science that may never be truly known. Conspiracy theories abound, but you won't read them here.

The Foresight Institute, through its new director, Scott Mize (who comes from the nanobusiness community), is attempting to fight back against this negative image by engaging more in the political process, being more relevant to current economic, business and environmental concerns and countering this image as a bunch of sci-fi kooks.

What I told Foresight members last weekend was that they're going to have to climb out of their academic bubble for a little while (or even their mother's basements?) and engage in today's world. If its members looked around, they'd see a true opportunity.

This is the new public face of nanotechnology. Dr. Drexler, (and as a result, the entire Foresight Institute), is old news. The anti-nano movement: That’s the sexy story. That’s the new sensational story, and one that reporters can understand and are covering.

Nanotechnology, even the nanotechnology as defined by the U.S. government and the business community, is too far away for anybody to grasp it as reality. So, it’s a concept that can reflect our own views of the world. Nano is synonymous with genetically modified organisms? Of course not, but it doesn’t matter. It is, because they say it is, and there’s an audience ready to believe it because it conforms to their world view.

Here is where Foresight can leverage its distance from U.S. government and business interests by being an independent resource for all sides of the discussion. Distance from government and business pressures is a good thing in the eyes of the general public. Independence equals credibility – at least, I hope it does. Make it understandable and fire up the imagination of the people, which is the real source of Foresight's strength.

Then, while Foresight is at it, inform the people about true, bottom-up molecular nanotechnology and all of the promise and perils it could bring.

Not that I'm an expert in winning friends and influencing people, but that seems to me to be a way Foresight could gain a collective voice that's much louder than the aggregate of its current believers.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Foresight insight outta-sight

Photo by Adam Keiper

It's been a wild couple of days, and I have a great many stories to tell after the Foresight Institute's First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology. I spent the entire time gathering material, interviewing people, getting to know more sources and preparing for my own presentation at the conference. It seemed to go well, although I definitely lack the polish of a person who presents at conferences all the time. I'm much more comfortable covering conferences as a newsman, rather being a part of them. A lot of people reacted favorably, though. Also, it sounds as though Foresight is going to engage in the political process a little more, rather than sitting on the sidelines and complaining that they're being excluded. It's a great development, another in a series of developments that make the "nano story" more and more intriguing to tell.

I do apologize to those who might have expected blow-by-blow blogging of every move made, but when I saw that Adam Keiper of The New Atlantis magazine had that covered (and covered very well) in his blog, I let him do all the scrambling around (welcome to my nightmare, Adam), leaving me free to gather information and put some more thought into how I'm going to use it. Boy, this nano story just keeps getting more and more interesting. There's a narrative here involving not only political, technological, scientific and personal clashes among the various players, but some added dimensions that I'm still sifting through. If I wanted to do fiction, I could probably run with what I've got, with very few changes from the true story, and probably have a much-better tale than Michael Crichton's "Prey."

Truth is, however, usually much more interesting than fiction -- yet harder to get. Stay tuned.

The picture above is me interviewing Feynman Distinguished Student Award winner Damian Allis. Damian is what I call "scary smart." A theoretical physicist by day and jazz drummer by night, he is going to contribute greatly to the advancement of nanoscience and world technological progress in general. Really. No exaggeration. Among Damian's many roles, he is an adviser to Nanorex Inc., a nanotech computer aided design company that you probably had not heard of until now. Its founder, Mark Sims, recently gave generously to a new molecular assembler animation put together by Eric Drexler. I'll go more into that later. Sims is pretty much the only entrepreneur working on this kind of computer-aided design, since VCs won't touch it and the government has seemingly determined that the Drexler vision is not possible. In a coincidence that can only be described as Kabbalistic and meant to happen on the subatomic level, his company is based in suburban Detroit and I happened to get a seat next to him on the flight home, where we talked nonstop nano.

As usual, watch this space for more insights on this story that is taking me on a ride further down the rabbit hole and into a deeper understanding of the forces at work inside this bizarre universe of nanopolitics, nanoperception and nanodeception (I told you that I could turn this into a cliche-ridden potboiler, but that would be too easy).

More to come, but meanwhile check out Keiper's coverage of my acceptance speech, my presentation and a video clip of an interview I did with a cryonics client (I haven't seen it, since it only runs on Windows and I'm a Mac cultist).

NanoBot Backgrounder
Thank you, Foresight

Friday, October 22, 2004

Thank you, Foresight

The Foresight Institute honored me tonight with its 2004 Prize in Communication.

Here's the text of my acceptance speech, which was very well-received. Some of the references are inside-nano-baseball jokes. I'll add links if there's time later:

"My fellow Drexlerians … pseudo-pundits … panderers … cranks … crackpots … and other denizens of our moms' basements …

"Thank you very much for honoring me with what my 13-year-old daughter calls the "Dork of the Year" award.

"She, and everybody else, tells me I'm obsessed with nanotechnology. Guilty. But I look at it much differently than most of you in the room. I'm not obsessed with it as a technology, as a science, as a means of saving or destroying the world, or making a quick buck, or gathering government grants, plotting world domination. That's not what I do. Nanotechnology to me is, pure and simple, a … great … story. It's a story that contains, within it, many chapters large and small. My God, it's a story of grinches and greed, it's a story of men and women with vision, it's a story about humankind's relationship with the world around, it's a story mushing molecular objects together like, in the words of a great nanoscientist, "boys and girls in love."

"I'm obsessed with nanotechnology in the same way that I become obsessed with every single facet of any story I cover. It's the only way I know how to write something with true understanding. In a previous journalism life, I wrote about the Mideast peace process. When I had the chance to dive into nanotechnology, I thanked God for the chance to cover science, rather than war and peace – where things are clear-cut, where it either is, or it ain't, and there really can't be much argument over it.

"Boy was I wrong. Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat? They're like those overpolite cartoon chipmunks compared with Drexler and Smalley. My goodness, you are a great story.

"Here's where I ran into trouble, though. As a journalist, I just can't help it. I seek out the minority opinion, those who march on the wrong foot – as I did when I was in the high school marching band – those who say that nanotech is going in the wrong direction, or has been hijacked by other interests. You go where the story takes you. My cranky, old journalism professor – of the old school, with the ink-stained fingers, is always the voice in the back of my mind. "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

"Or, perhaps my motivation is much less lofty. I don't know. You know. If it bleeds it leads.

"So, I led … and I bled. And I have … no … regrets.

"I want to thank everybody at the Foresight Institute for this great honor, But, and I hope you will take this in the spirit with which you have given me this honor, you need to remember that I am not your friend. It's just a matter of time before I write something that does not please you, if I haven't already. When I do, I hope you'll remember that I am only displaying the kind of independence that you all have encouraged in me by honoring me with this prestigious communications award.

"Thank you."

How big is nano?

Photo by Howard Lovy

Pioneering nanomedicine theorist Robert Freitas explains to computational nanotechnology pioneer Ralph Merkle exactly how small nanobots would need to be to enter the bloodstream during the Foresight Institute's First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology this evening.

Foresight Day One: My pumpkin and my pants


I'm in Washington now, at the Foresight Institute's First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology. Much of it is way too advanced for me, but I'm having fun looking at my Powerbook wallpaper with a picture of my son on it. Max Lovy amid the pumpkins looks amazingly similar to Christian Schafmeister's illustration of "A Synthetic Approach to Water Soluble Nanoscale Molecules with Controlled Structures." Well, you can't really tell with this crude cameraphone picture, but there's lots of ... um ... orange in both.

Proving that it truly is a small world, I ran into NanoBusiness Alliance chief Sean Murdock at the airport this morning. I asked him if he wasn't at the wrong meeting. I mean, Sean is all business and Foresight is all ... well, foresight. Sean told me he's trying to expand the big nano tent. Sean's a brave man, and I can't wait to hear his talk tomorrow.

First thing I did when I sat down next to Scott Mize, the new Foresight chief, was to spill coffee on my pants. Better living through chemistry saves the day again. The coffee just beaded up and rolled off. But, you know, I'm not wearing nanopants from Nano-Tex. I'm wearing Stain Defenders with a DuPont Teflon coating. Here's a little secret that Sean probably doesn't want me to give away. DuPont's Teflon coating is pretty much the same thing as Nano-Tex's "nanowhiskers," minus the catchy prefix.

Finally, my clumsiness can make a useful contribution to science.

Update: Adam Keiper of The New Atlantis shows me how liveblogging is done. He'll give you more-complete coverage, while it's more my style to hit and run (run like hell for my life, sometimes).

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Satisfied Customers: 1


I just stumbled onto your blog when I was running a search on Nanotech on Google. Though, I dont understand a thing about nano. I found ur blog extremely interesting. Can I join in? & if yes, How? Also, where will I get some basic intoductory stuff on Nanotech?


Hi, Dipti,

Well, you're the reader of my dreams, since one of my goals for this site is to be a gateway drug to hook unwitting victims like you into seeking out more and more nano knowledge.

There's nothing really to "join," but there are many ways to keep in touch with NanoBot. Make me your home page, subscribe to daily e-mails through the form on the left side of this page, click on the "add to My Yahoo" link, or even get me on your mobile phone through the WinkSite link also on the left. If you have an RSS reader or are a free Bloglines subscriber, plug in my RSS feed: and you'll get all the nano news I see fit to print as it happens.

For basic information, Nanotechnology Now has a comprehensive introduction here:

And author Glenn Fishbine has an online nanotechnology course

There's also the National Nanotechnology Initiative Education Center

Thanks for your note.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Three Nano Kings

dynamic trio

Steve Jurvetson, Josh Wolfe and Mark Modzelewski, three of the most influential people in nanotechnology today, stand at the gates (or lawn) of power in December 2003 during the signing of the nanotech bill. (Jurvetson just posted this picture today).

Me? Well, I'm off to Washington, D.C. this weekend for the Foresight conference. But I think my dog ate my invitation to the White House. Oh well. I have my own very busy travel schedule, anyway. Today I worked at this coffee place, and then this public library and then this coffee joint for their free Wi-Fi connections. Darnit. Chose the wrong profession again!

Related News
Nanotechnology's Disruptive Future (by Josh Wolfe, Forbes)

'Looking 50 years ahead, it's hard to think of an industry that won't be affected,' Jurvetson said. (San Francisco Business Times)

Amazing avoidance of double entendre headline

World's longest nanotube developed! (

    In a breakthrough discovery the scientists at the at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering have successfully synthesized the world's longest electrically conducting nanotubes.

    The tubes which are 10 times longer than previous current-carrying nanotubes, could be crucial for supercomputer and health care applications as they may lead to the development of extremely strong, lightweight materials and ultradense nano-memory arrays for extremely powerful computers, ultralow-loss power transmission lines, and nano-biosensors for use in health care applications.

    ... "We are extremely excited about this discovery," said (assistant professor Peter) Burke. More here

Gheeez. Whew! I didn't think I'd make it through that one. I'm so immature.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A nano chicken in every pot

Transcript Of Web Chat With Joanna Conti (CBS 4, Denver)

    CBS 4: Feel free to join this chat by asking District 6 Congressional candidate Joanna Conti questions.

    Comment from Jo_Ann: Hi Joanna, I have been laid off for 2 1/2 years from Celestica. I had 19.6 years with Avaya, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Western Electric.

    Joanna Conti: Oh dear. I'm afraid there are so many people in your situation, and I am very sorry. I believe we need to be investing in the technologies of the future -- biotechnology, nanotechnology and renewable energy -- so that we are creating high-quality jobs that will not be easily outsourced during the next recession. More here

Related News
Central Michigan University President Michael Rao 'has linked nanotechnology with entrepreneurs to create new jobs and new industries' (The Saginaw News)

'Reality check' needed for unemployed (Fort Collins Coloradoan)

Grant to help Export medical equipment firm enlarge workforce (

University of Maryland tries to land a $24 million nanotechnology research center (

Port officials are talking with life science, nanotechnology and biotechnology companies about leasing there (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Corporate Welfare To Work
It's the nano economy, stupid

Get your nano for nothing

Launch of the Online Journal of Nanotechnology at

Uniquely providing totally free access to scientific publications, and offering financial rewards for both authors and peer reviewers ( Pty. Ltd. Sydney Australia and the Scottish-based Institute of Nanotechnology are pleased to announce the forthcoming launch of the Online Journal of Nanotechnology.

    The Online Journal of Nanotechnology is based on a free access publishing model, coupled with what is believed to be a unique development in the field of scientific publishing – the distribution of journal revenue between the authors, peer reviewers and site operators.

    The Online Journal of Nanotechnology at will publish high quality articles and papers on all aspects of nanotechnology and related scientific, social and ethical issues. All the contributions will be reviewed by a world class panel of founding editors who are experts in a wide spectrum of nanotechnology science.

    The Online Journal of Nanotechnology will publish the first open-access Nanotechnology scientific papers ... in December 2004. More here

Also Down Under
Nanotechnology centre opens in Adelaide
Dumbing Down Under

Prince Charles called to the Commons

Prince of Wales Should Face Commons Committee - MP (

    The Prince of Wales should answer to a Commons select committee, a senior Labour MP said tonight.

    Charles’s controversial views on nanotechnology would be among the subjects raised by MPs, Dr Ian Gibson said.

    The Prince’s stand against genetically modified foods could also be explored, suggested Dr Gibson, chair of the science and technology committee.

    ... Dr Gibson has previously warned the Prince about giving credence to “scare stories” about over nanotechnology.

    There have been claims that the technique of rearranging atoms to create tiny machines could reduce the world to “grey goo”. More here

Meanwhile, at 10 Downing Street ...
    And the UK is also at the forefront of many of the emerging sectors such as nanotechnology and biotechnology that will shape the way we create wealth in the future.

    The point is that you do not have to look far to see manufacturing alive and kicking here in Britain. What our success stories have in common is that that they are about the appliance of science and technology with highly skilled people.

    But with China and India emerging as big economic powers we need to do much better. More here

Related News
Charles'should be grilled by MPs' (ic Wales)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Life, actually
British Equation
The Hulk, Prince Charles and other scary things

Operation Nanotube

Here's a new acronym that nano-watchers might want to remember: NOLES. But keep it to yourself. We don't want this to get into the wrong hands, since we're talking real nano battle technology.

NOLES stands for Nanotubes Optimized for Lightweight Exceptional Strength, and it's one of many U.S. Defense Department nanotech priorities for 2005. Here's the proposed defense budget. Click it, wait a minute or two to let it load, then do a "nano" search and see what's cooking small at the Pentagon.

As for NOLES, Florida State University wants $4 million to develop materials that will make U.S. military vehicles lighter and stronger. Not only that, but because nanotubes are natural conductors, they can embed it with a symphony of sensors. Here's a PDF of FSU's budget request.

Had this technology been available in Iraq, maybe these soldiers would have followed orders?

You're likely to see more nanotech defense applications pop up on this blog now and then, since that's the latest project I'm working on in my day job. For me, researching this technology takes on a personal dimension. My little brother, on leave from the U.S. Marine Corp., came to visit a few days ago. He told me he's going to Iraq in February or March.

To those nanotech companies developing impenetrable material, now would be a really good time to send a few samples over with my bro.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Military Nano Complex
An Army of Nano
Military, Media and Mishpucha

Kim Possible's NanoTick


There have been at least 2 passing references to nanobots in Jimmy Neutron episodes that I am aware of. Perhaps my kids could refresh my memory- though I don't recall these references being altogether important to the plot. There was also one episode of Kim Possible involving a "nanotick" which was quite well done.


Hey, thanks, Eric,

I hadn't heard of the Kim Possible episode. I'll have to check it out.

Meanwhile, look at these!

'When Pants Attack'

Why the Nano Generation doesn't need us

Do you know where your children are?


Monday, October 18, 2004

I got Study Hall, PhysEd, Shop, then ... Nanoscience? Whaaaa!?

Nanoscience to be taught to high school students (San Francisco Business Times)

    Menlo Park-based SRI International, an independent research and development organization, said it's received a four-year, $925,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to teach high school students the principles of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

    ... The relatively new field of nanotechnology offers new markets, products, and applications in areas such as medicine, materials, and environmental management, according to SRI. Now that there are nanoscale science and engineering programs at undergraduate and graduate levels, there is a strong need in earlier grades to increase students' scientific literacy and prepare them for further study, it said. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
A Liberal Nano Education
The children are our nano future
A bright future ... in Europe

The fundamental (not fundamentalist) 'why'

Evolution and Religion Can Coexist, Scientists Say (By Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News)

    "Even as science progresses in its reductionist fashion, moving towards deeper, simpler, and more elegant understandings of particles and forces, there will still remain a 'why' at the end as to why the ultimate rules are the way they are," said Ted Sargent, a nanotechnology expert at the University of Toronto.

    "This is where many people will find God, and the fact of having a final unanswerable 'why' will not go away, even if the 'why' gets more and more fundamental as we progress," he said. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Barking at scientific dogma
NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?
NanoKabbalah Jihad

Nano hole-punchers

These Slashdot readers fall into our familiar black hole in their attempt to figure out just what 'nanotechnology' is and is not:

    Not too long ago, nanotechnology was about wonderful fantasies of small machines at nano-level assembling molecules or even medicines. Too bad that simple physics prevent this from becoming a reality (the resistance of air at nano-level is too large, for example). Now, nanotechnology is about punching very small holes in metal.

    Maybe it is about time that everyone realizes that nanotechnology is not as exiting as it used to be. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nano is chocolate in silicon's peanut butter
Is nano business nanotechnology? 'Irrelevant'
Swatting Millipedes

Where's the NanoBaby line?

My son is now in the midst of teething, with all its requisite drooling and spewing. It made me wonder where Nano-Tex is when I really need them? Why no line of stain-resistant baby clothes?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Invisible Nanotech CEOs for Truth?

Has anybody ever heard of Patmos Nanotechnologies LLC or its CEO, Karl W. B. Schwarz? Evidently, this person is passing himself off as a "conservative Christian" corporate CEO who's opposed to President Bush, as stated in this letter. Trouble is, if there really is such a nanotech company, it's done its best to stay below the radar. Perhaps corporate invisibility is a new nanotech product?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Playing hardball with nano pants


This just in from Josh Wolfe:
    All week long CNBC has been promoting a steel-cage "Nano Rematch". A rematch to what's become known as "stain-gate" -- when Nano-Tex's nano-enabled fabrics were deemed to not live up to the hype after Bullseye host Dylan Ratigan covered himself in mustard and coffee -- for the sake of product testing. Later today, the cable channel will have Olympic gold medalist Softball player, Jennie Finch, literally pitching assorted things at Nano-Tex fabrics! Will they hold up? What other "nano-gates" might be brewing?
Update: Spent the evening playing with my son and missed the show. Anybody out there see it? If so, give me an update in the comments section. Thanks.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanopants miss the Bullseye

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Good Nano Stuff


ComputerWorld, of all places, had a piece on Nanograss, which is right up your alley.

And my own summary.


Thanks, Ian. But, you know, this will only reinforce the idea that I must be smoking some kind of nanograss.


Barking at scientific dogma

I can certainly take criticism, but here's a nasty Howard-bashing session at in response to my piece on nanotech and Kabbalah.

I'm a believer in letting readers get the last word in, so I won't respond here except to say one thing: As is the case in the debate in our little world over the feasibility of molecular manufacturing, it's far too easy to present a cartoon misrepresentation of the opposition, and then proceed to tear apart the fiction of your own creation. Having straddled the worlds of science and religion all my personal and professional life, it's frustrating to read the words of allegedly science-oriented people who clearly have no knowledge, themselves, of what religion means to many people. It seems like they should investigate before they write. Isn't that what they do for a living?

I'm not talking about the religious institutions clearly responsible for keeping mankind in the dark for centuries, but about the internal investigations that produce a "spiritual" feeling even among some of the most-brilliant scientists of this enlightened age. But, yes, it's much easier to dismiss any mention of religion as silly superstition. That way, you don't have to challenge yourself. Doesn't sound very scientific to me, though.

So, anyway, it's my fault. These are difficult concepts to communicate, so the fault lies with the communicator (me), and not the reader. These ideas have been a running theme through much of my writing since I was a kid, so every now and then you're likely to see a few of them bubbling to the surface on this very-public notebook of mine.

I did see a movie last night, called "What the Bleep do We Know," that addresses some of the issues that I touched on in NanoKabbalah -- the idea of quantum mechanics ultimately changing all of our assumptions of the nature of matter and our concept of God. The movie was a little frustrating for me to watch, though, since it went too far into some New Age stuff that was too flaky even for my tastes. Still, I recommend it for anybody who is curious and wants to learn a little more.

I guess I did just try to get in the last word. Kabbalists, like Buddhists, believe you should check your ego at the door. Looks like I have a long way to go.

NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?
Nanotech arrogance will meet the Luddite hammer
The Kabbalah Nanotech Connection

In bed with nano

Simmons' Newest Mattress Innovation Promotes Better Health by Enabling Consumers to Clean Their Bed (Business Wire)

    mattressRenowned microbiologist Philip Tierno, Jr., Ph.D., author of "The Secret Life of Germs," is consulting with Simmons on its latest innovation and says, "The HealthSmart Bed is a phenomenal product that is long overdue. Outside of the kitchen, the bedroom is the most germ-infested room in a home. Given that people are in close physical proximity with their beds for many hours each night while sleeping for a lifetime, proper mattress hygiene is an important component to healthy sleep. While products exist to combat kitchen germs, the HealthSmart Bed is currently the only mattress that reduces dust mites, mold and fungal spores through the use of proper washing techniques."

    Washing is possible because of the zip-off mattress top design and the materials used in its construction. The HealthSmart Bed is made with three layers of fabric, each serving a specific purpose in the creation of a healthier sleep environment:

    Coolmax channeled fibers wick away sweat and moisture as you sleep and allow fabric to dry quickly in the laundry.

    -- Nano-Tex creates a semi-impervious layer that traps fluids and particles so they can be washed away.

    -- Terry cloth treated with Teflon fabric protector provides an extra level of protection. More here

A Liberal Nano Education

Research push needs a liberal arts bedrock (Chris Toumey, The State -- South Carolina)

    Good research universities still offer a solid liberal arts education, but the liberal arts ethos never will recapture the prominence it once had. Those days are gone for good.

    Still, there are ways to make the best of this. Many scientists are shockingly unaware of the societal implications of their work. The laws that shape the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative recognize this problem by requiring research on the ethical, legal and societal implications of genomics and nanotech.

    This is an invitation for the liberal arts faculty to turn their attention and their wonderful gifts to these problems. Indeed, Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine Studies, as this is called, is an exciting interdisciplinary liberal arts field with good faculty, important research questions and access to federal research funds. Some universities have taken advantage of this by institutionalizing such programs.

    I see this because I am on a USC team that uses liberal arts perspectives to study societal implications of nanotechnology. My home discipline is cultural anthropology, and my colleagues come from art, English, philosophy, history, communications and other liberal arts fields.

    Because of our work, USC is recognized as the leading school for research on societal implications of nanotech. We honor the liberal arts teaching ethos by including nine undergraduate Nano Scholars in our team, and this spring we will offer the Nano Semester, a package of six liberal arts courses on nanotech.

    Nanotechnology is exciting; the liberal arts are invaluable. Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine Studies projects, such as our work on nanotech, represent a way for the liberal arts to secure a future at the heart of a research university. When a university recognizes this, the tension between scientific research and the liberal arts is transformed from pain to creativity. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Welcome, Rice University students
Nano Carolina
Nanoscience writers as lab rats

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


"Infinitesima" is ...

    A. A 1968 cosmic Sci-Fi acid-trip of a movie starring Jane Fonda;

    B. What one Chicago nanotech conference attendee exclaimed after taking a peak at anti-nano protesters wearing thongs;

    C. A British company that makes atomic force microscopes;

    D. Britney Spears' new Kabbalistic name that celebrates the connection between her studies in Jewish mysticism, her endless quest for the nature of infinity, and the shared philosophical underpinnings in the works of Isaac Luria, Georg Cantor, Buckminster Fuller and Mauro Ferrari's application of continuum mechanics in modeling nanoscale medical devices. Like, duh!
I'll give you the answer later.

Answer: C: A British company, although A,B and D seemed just as plausible to me.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Pint-size pushers

BrachySil trial given thumbs up
Nanotechnology company pSivida has announced the results of the BrachySil trial, which has confirmed expectations that the compound (32P-BioSilicon) is safe and effective at tumour progression and raises possibilities of an effective weapon against liver cancer. (

    The company’s clinical development of this brachytherapy (short range intratumoural radiotherapy) involved trials, carried out on four patients with inoperable liver cancer, delivering the active substance via a fine gauge direct needle delivery procedure. The tests showed no product related adverse side effects and up to 60 per cent regression of tumours.

    BrachySil is based on pSivida's BioSilicon, which takes the form of nanostructured porous silicon that can be machined into powders, microspheres, or just about any other structure whilst retaining its ability to carry and release active components.

    In drug delivery applications, BioSilicon has significant advantages over rival polymer slow release drug delivery systems in animal trials. For example, it boasts higher loading rates, and the rate of release (achieved as the BioSilicon breaks down in the body), can be controlled to extend from days to months, according to the company. More here

Related Stories
Australian nanotech firm eyes drug delivery market
Dendrimers for drug delivery

NanoBot Backgrounder
Here's the plain deal on biomedical nanobots
The Tale of Tomalia
Nanomix senses a product in 2005

Show your face, Procter & Gamble

Big questions about tiny particles

They're already proving useful but are the new, tiny miracle molecules safe? In the rush to commercialize there are unanswered questions, reports Rachel Ross (Toronto Star)

    nanotubeDespite the uncertainty, a handful of products that contain engineered nanoparticles are already on store shelves.

    Inside every bottle of Oil Of Olay Complete UV Protection moisturizer is a little bit of nanotech. The Procter & Gamble product is one of many sunscreens that contain a nanoparticle known as microfine zinc oxide. Zinc has long been used as a sunscreen in larger form. It's effective, but certainly not for the vain: it stays white on skin. Make those particles nano-size and there's no more risk of embarrassing white marks.

    But some researchers worry that the nanoparticle intended to protect the skin might actually damage DNA.

    A July 2004 report commissioned by the British government cited studies that found microfine zinc oxide damaged cells in vitro.

    Whether the nanoparticles are toxic to cells in a living body is still unknown. The report, written by the British Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, said more research was needed before the particle could be considered safe for use in cosmetics.

    Procter & Gamble declined to answer questions about the product's safety.

    Health Canada said it has not yet studied the issue. More here

Related P&G Patents
Use of nanoscale sterols and sterol esters
Chitosan compositions

NanoBot Backgrounder
WSJ is down with nano
Britain balances science, economics, perception
NPR can't tell Crichton from cosmetics

Sunday, October 10, 2004

From products to prescience

Some fascinating and timely issues are going to be discussed at the upcoming 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology Oct. 22-24 in Washington, D.C. Here are a few abstracts (I've added the links for background):

    Nanotechnology for Clean Energy and Resources
    Soaring oil prices have recently put resource issues back in the public eye. In fact, conventional technology is exhausting its resource base at an accelerating rate, an acceleration exacerbated by the revolution of rising expectations in the less-developed world due to the global communications revolution. Nanotechnology is the only way to provide something like a sustainable First World standard of living for the entire world. Fortunately, furthermore, many resource-related nanotechnology applications involve nanostructured materials rather than full molecular machines and so are accessible in the near term. More

    U.S. Nanotechnology Policy: Bridging the Gaps
    Since well before the creation of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative there has been a debate between futurists who envision the role nanotechnology might play ten, twenty, or more years from now and physical scientists who tend to think in more concrete terms — more reliably predictable (and therefore more near-term) perspectives. There are some players who seem able to bridge the gap without being accused by one side of being purveyors of "hype" or by the other of being shortsighted. But these "translators" are in short supply. And there are some disagreements (e.g., molecular manufacturing) that seem so far to be irresolvable. There are, however, some issues that lend themselves to finding a common ground. More

    Applying Nanotechnology to the Challenges of Global Poverty
    Billions of people around the world still suffer from inadequate access to clean water, energy, information, shelter, health care, and other basic needs. Even with continuing progress in poverty reduction, many people will probably still be poor when molecular manufacturing technologies become available. Advanced nanotechnologies could help poor people improve their lives, if developed in ways that are appropriate and accessible. This presentation uses examples of potential molecular manufacturing products to illustrate future opportunities and strategies for applying nanotechnology to reduce global poverty and promote sustainable prosperity. More

    Agenda for High Impact Nanotechnology Development
    The incredible breadth and diversity of nanotechnology presents an important question: How should society prioritize its investment in nanotechnology? What are the areas on which governments, corporations and investors should focus for the highest payoff, both financially and societally? What are the biggest problems to be solved, and thus the biggest market opportunities? A recent summary of the top nanotechnology-based products of 2003 cited ski-wax, breathable waterproof ski jackets, wrinkle and stain resistant clothing, deep-penetrating skin cream, digital camera displays, coating for sunglasses, tennis rackets and tennis balls. While these are important steps in the commercialization of nanotechnology, they do not address the important challenges facing humanity. More

Members of the media can get a press pass here, and NanoBot readers can get a 30-percent discount when they register here by typing in the code: LOVY30-TE.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Legend in my own nano mind

Saturday, October 09, 2004

NanoLab Inc.'s 'Safety Issues' page

Nano-lab monitors closely the relevant literature on the possible health hazards related to our products. Even though research studies so far (to the best of our knowledge ) show that nanotubes are not hazardous to health, we recommend that our customers read and follow the recommendation of Material Safety Data Sheet which call for use of masks, gloves, etc.

    Material Safety Data Sheet -- PDF

    Carbon Nanotubes: Experimental Evidence for A Null Risk of Skin Irritation and Allergy -- PDF

    Physiological Testing of Carbon Nanotubes: Are They Asbestos-Like? -- PDF

    Fullerenes: Experimental Evidence for A Null Risk of Skin Irritation and Allergy -- PDF

NanoBot Backgrounder
Britain balances science, economics, perception
Are nanoparticle studies 'one decade late'?
Invisible horrors and ghost stories

Friday, October 08, 2004

Nano industry hits bottom


Your NanoBot has been working tongue-in-cheek to get the story behind this story.

Apparently, a nanotech conference in Chicago this week was briefly disrupted by a group calling itself T.H.O.N.G. (Topless Humans Organized for Natural Genetics). The calling card above was handed out at the event, although I am told that they showed up sans thongs. "Plenty of Room at this Bottom" is, of course, an homage to the famous Richard Feynman speech that inspired the nano revolution.

The background to this is that nanotech is being painted with the broad "biotech" brush, and lumped in there with genetic engineering. These protesters have demonstrated in the buff against genetic engineering before ("I'd rather be naked than eat biotch foods.") More proof that the anti-biotech movement, complete with its street theater branch, has now turned its attention to nanotechnology.

I'm still working to get to the ... um ... bottom of this story.

Update: A source close to the investigation (a bit too close for this source's comfort) has given me more details:

The time was cocktail hour. Then, there they were, surrounded by six or eight nanonudeguerrillas, men and women alike wearing nothing but their cold, battle-hardened stares on top and tiny shorts on the bottom. Then, as my eyewitness recounts the horror: "One of them turned to us and said something like, 'Hello NanoCommerce!' Then all of them dropped their pants and they had teeny teeny nanoscopic thongs. On their bodies they had painted phrases like 'plenty of room at THIS bottom'(with an arrow) and 'no nano'"

And like the well-disciplined, and apparently quite trim, gang that they are, they were gone in 30 seconds.

Why, for the love of G-d, Madonna and all things holy, why would they inflict this punishment on a group of nanotech businesspeople? My source can only guess:

"It seemed pretty obvious to me, however, that they were reacting to nano's use in genetics and proteomics. Kind of a case of attacking the tools rather than the use to which the tools can be put...but anyway..." Then, the voice trails off as the survivor is guided away by psychologists trained to deal with the human wreckage that remains in the aftermath of such disasters.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?

nanokabbalahToday is my 39th birthday, and it happens to coincide with running my article on nanotechnology and Kabbalah. Now, perhaps a Jewish mystic would find significance in the numbers 39 and 10-7-04, but it's all much too complicated for me. Besides, Kabbalists believe you shouldn't study this stuff until after you turn 40.

In any event, I want to thank Andrew Leonard, the Salon editor I worked with on this piece, for his insight and guidance in helping me bring out these ideas in, I hope, a way that is understandable to a general audience. Regular NanoBot readers already know a little about how science and spirituality can find some common ground. But it's not easy making that connection between two complicated subjects while still holding the readers' attention. Andrew proved to be a patient and able guide.

To access the story, you'll need to subscribe or sit through an ad to obtain a free day pass. Here's an excerpt:

    The mantra in the nanotech industry is to learn from the mistakes made in biotechnology and the public rejection of genetically modified organisms. Partly to blame was a "top-down" attitude taken by a scientific establishment that was much too self-important to bother with public attitudes and perceptions. So, consideration of "societal and ethical implications" is No. 1 on the nanotech industry's list. However, part of that process involves paying attention to the separate philosophical and religious societies in the world. Not the abstract "society" of a scientist's dream -- one that will listen to scientific explanations and reach "correct" conclusions based on the strength and logic of their arguments -- but the real society that's out there, the one that laughs at, or adores, Madonna and wears red strings, the one that crowds around old barns in rundown villages to gaze at a stain that they swear is the image of the original Madonna, the one that drops to its knees and faces Mecca five times a day, or faces toward Jerusalem every Friday night to welcome the bride of Shabbat. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoKabbalah Jihad
Nanotech arrogance will meet the Luddite hammer
NanoKabbalah Consciousness

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Visions of Science Photographic Award


Rafal Dunin-Borkowski, captured a tiny tube of carbon containing a crystal of iron (yellow). This material combines the strength of a carbon nanotube with the magnetic properties of iron. The magnetic field is shown by the arching lines: the crystal acts like a tiny bar magnet. More here

Luddites at the Beanery


I'm at a Coffee Beanery with my 3-month-old, getting some work done. At the entrance, we both noticed this interesting-looking flier for a local band (snapped again with my cameraphone). My son liked the picture, and I liked the name. They're just warming up now. Needless to say, the guitars are acoustic only.

Update: Speaking of my son, vote early and vote often for Max Lovy to appear on a bottle of Jones Soda!

Didn't mean to dis The Boss

bruceI went to the MoveOn-sponsored concert/fund-raiser in Detroit on Sunday night to see Bruce Springsteen and REM.

Good schtick: Bruce, in the character of a faith healer, says: "Is there anybody in the house that needs to be released from the burden of Republicanism?" Then, there was a "healing" of a guy in a bowtie, who held up a "Bush Must Go!" sign.

On the way out of Cobo, I was stopped by a local NPR reporter, Quin Klinefelter, who asked me what I thought of the show. My sound bite that made it on to WDET in Detroit was:

"I'm not sure that three-quarters of the people who came here, came here to get the political message. But I think Bruce Springsteen is more political when he's just out there with a guitar singing about the subjects he writes about. There's something about this that was a little bit forced, I thought."

I felt a bit bad afterward. I've been a Springsteen fan before, during and after the height of his popularity, and the first time I get to speak publicly about him, I dis the Boss! If you were listening, Mr. Springsteen, sir, I loved the show and support what you're doing.

Pardon the picture quality, but I took it with my Motorola camera phone. This is Springsteen speaking on stage, beneath a large-screen image of himself. I thought the fuzziness added something to the photo.

What's the nanotechnology connection? Let's see. Umm, well, future Motorola cameraphones will be MRAM-enabled, giving me instant-on capacity, tons of storage space and much-better picture quality. And I hear that Little Steven is trying to stay hip, so he's changing the nickname to Nano Steven. He's following the Jefferson Airplane/Starship aging rock star makeover plan.

Nano name-calling

American National Standards Institute Nanotechnology Panel Holds First Meeting (

    Buckyballs, hybrid nanostructures, dendrimers and nanotubes. If these terms sound like the vocabulary of a foreign language, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Even the experts in the field of nanotechnology don’t always agree on what these and many other terms mean in a given context. Approaching how to find a common language within the rapidly expanding realm of nanotechnology was the task at hand during the first meeting of the American National Standards Institute Nanotechnology Standards Panel (ANSI-NSP) held at the facilities of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD.

    ... Many of the stakeholders in the nanotechnology industry feel that nomenclature is seen as the fundamental building block for progress within this industry. Some definitions do exist now, but there is not always consensus on what they mean. Having a common, and agreed upon, language will be essential to any standardization effort. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nano Babel

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Legend in my own nano mind

Want to hear something funny? I'm going to make an attempt at public speaking. Nanotech Goals and Conflicts will be the topic of my stammerings at the Foresight Institute's 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology Oct. 22-24 in Washington, D.C.

Members of the media can get a press pass here, and everyone else can register here. Drop me a note if you want a 30-percent discount.

Come and see the reason I'm a print, not broadcast, journalist. So, while I live in my private hell filled with night terrors of showing up at the conference in my underwear and everybody laughing at me, including the girl in seventh grade I had a huge crush on ("Boo" Kilbourne where are you?), you can look forward to learning about real nanotechnology. We're not talkin' stain-resistant pants.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Venezuelan natural nano resource
Get out of your mom's basement and get a job
Nano 'crackpots' seem downright respectable

Nobel for life, the universe and everything

Physics Nobel Goes to 'Theory of Everything' Trio (Reuters)

    Three American scientists won the 2004 Nobel physics prize on Tuesday for showing how tiny quark particles interact, helping to explain everything from how a coin spins to how the universe was built.

    David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek showed how the attraction between quarks -- nature's basic building blocks -- is strong when they are far apart and weak when they are close together, like the tension in an elastic band when it is pulled.

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work helped give "a unified description of all the forces of Nature ... from the tiniest distances within the atomic nucleus to the vast distances of the universe." More here

Chicago is my kind of (small) town

High-tech tweezers enable nano-assembly lines (Chicago Sun-Times)

    "This technique makes possible nano-assembly lines," said Chicago entrepreneur Lewis Gruber. "You can use it to put things together, twist them, rotate them, fix things in locations at the microscopic or atomic level. It makes possible, for the first time, a factory floor under the microscope capable of manufacturing components and assembling them into products at high throughput, just as is done in the industrial world."

    Gruber is founder, chairman and chief executive of Arryx, a Chicago start-up that is developing and commercializing Grier's holographic laser steering technology, branding it the BioRyx Platform. More

NU professor wins award (Chicago Sun-Times)
    Chad A. Mirkin, a Northwestern University professor and founder of Nanospehere, the Northbrook nanotech life sciences company, has been awarded the National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award. Mirkin will use the $2.5 million prize for further research on biological behavior at the cellular level using nanotech tools. Ultra-sensitive protein detection is one million times more sensitive than current techniques, potentially making possible earlier diagnosis of conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. More
NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoPrizes, NanoCommerce and NanoCreationism
Getting better all the time

Monday, October 04, 2004

Nanotechnologists talk to the 'plantimals'

Unmasking the molecular secrets of marine diatoms

Part animal, part plant, these tiny single-celled algae appear to ignore nature’s biological laws. In their gene mapping efforts, US and European scientists have uncovered an incredibly successful microorganism which could play an important role in climate control and even in the creation of new nanodevices.

    diatomEcologists are not the only ones interested in diatoms. They are also attracting the attention of nanotechnologists, who hope that these algae will teach them how to make minute silica structures – impossible to do using current materials and technology. The scientists also considered the evolutionary implications of this genomic work. Their research provides direct genetic confirmation of a theory that diatoms evolved when a heterotroph, a single-cell microbe, engulfed what scientists say was likely to have been a kind of red alga. The two became one organism and swapped some genetic material to create a new hybrid genome.

    According to the international team, the project shows the amazing diversity of life on our planet. Diatoms display features traditionally thought to be restricted to animals and other features thought to be restricted to plants, leading to perhaps a new class of what Bowler calls “plantimals”.

    From this US sequencing project and the related EU-funded project, much has been learned about how diatoms perceive their environment and survive in it. What’s more, once the details of silicon metabolism come out, the stage should then be set for nanotechnologists to harness diatom proteins for making nanodevices. Understanding the role of diatoms in global climate control and new products generated through nanotechnology are just two of the important spin-offs from this international project. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
Driving under the influence of Feynman
How Thor the black lab can save the Earth
Carlo's just a Copycat

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Saddam's nuke chief now nano in U.S.

Iraq's `Nuclear Mastermind' Tells Tale of Ambition, Deceit (Los Angeles Times)

    On most days now, Mahdi Obeidi rides his new mountain bike, plays with his grandkids and works on getting a U.S. patent for technology he originally developed to build a nuclear bomb for Saddam Hussein.

    Obeidi, who headed Hussein's uranium enrichment program until it was shut down in 1991, is the only Iraqi weapons scientist that the CIA is known to have brought to the United States after the invasion last year. The CIA also flew eight of his family members here in August 2003 and secretly set them up in three adjoining apartments in a leafy Virginia suburb close to downtown Washington.

    Obeidi has co-written a book, "The Bomb in My Garden," about his career. He hopes to find a job to resume research on nanotechnology, the science of building materials and systems at the molecular or atomic level. He is trying to get a U.S. patent for research in nanotechnology that he conducted early in his quest to build a nuclear bomb, he said.

    And he warned that it was probably easier to build a nuclear bomb today than when he tried — and nearly succeeded.

    "The danger is really imminent," he said. "Someone today could be more clever than I was. The black market is still open. The technology is more efficient and more accessible. My work can be repeated, or accelerated. That is the horror." More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nuclear science safer than Iraqi politics
Drawing a nano-sized line in the sand

I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Heisenberg

Forget Star Chemistry. How About the Film's? (New York Times, free subscription required)

    When an online news publication is the kind that runs articles with headlines like "Disilyne at Last: Synthesis of a Silicon-Silicon Triple Bond Is Called a Milestone for Multiple-Bond Chemistry," you generally do not expect to find great concern in its pages for the finer points of moviemaking.

    And in a conversation with an editor of such a publication, you do not expect to hear her say that she really enjoyed "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," partly because of its examination of scientific ethics but also because "I just love when the bad guy goes all squishy."

    But then maybe you have not spent enough time recently with Chemical and Engineering News, the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society, which in addition to informing its readers about the latest developments in protein engineering and atomic-scale manipulation has now ventured into territory where the Heisenberg uncertainty principle really prevails: Hollywood.

    This summer, the Web site version of the weekly ( started publishing movie reviews that focus (although not exclusively) on the accuracy of the science, especially the chemistry, in the latest releases. More here (free subscription required)

NanoBot Backgrounder
... and I feel fine
More scifi nano to confuse the kids
Web-Slinging, Stepford Nano

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Invisible horrors and ghost stories

Dangers compared to science fiction (The Ithaca Journal)

    According to Bruce Lewenstein, a Cornell communication professor who studies public perception of nanotechnology, preliminary testing of some nanoparticles "doesn't rule out" their environmental toxicity.

    Many scientists, however, say nanotechnology is no different than any other science that introduces potentially hazardous materials.

    "There are noxious gases that can be released in manufacturing that you have to be aware of and control," said Robert Richardson, vice provost for research and a low-temperature physics professor.

    To Richardson, it's fair and necessary to talk about chemical hazards of nanoparticles. That's anything from the tens of millions of kilograms of carbon particles that are released into the atmosphere each year from diesel engines, or evidence that suggests the loss of ice cover on earth is related to nanoscale particles embedded in the ice, Richardson said.

    But the other class of nanoskeptics, to him, "is people who have read 'Prey' by Michael Crichton." In the 2002 science fiction novel, tiny "nanobots" learn how to replicate, eventually taking over people's bodies. To some, the ideas in the novel represent real fears of what emerging sciences such as nanotechnology could mean to an unsuspecting public.

    But most science buffs agree the book is what it's meant to be -- fiction.

    "Those are fun stories, but they're ghost stories," Richardson said. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
NPR can't tell Crichton from cosmetics
Nano Goulash