Friday, June 30, 2006

Nano mythos

Nonexistent Nanotechnology Update: Karl W. B. Schwarz has turned up again, this time in Hungary attempting a protest against President Bush. Apparently, this 911 conspiracy theorist will be a 2008 presidential candidate.

Schwarz's company, "Patmos Nanotechnology" has, as far as I can tell, no actual ties to Patmos or to nanotechnology. I do have to give him credit, though, for a nanotech corporate Web site that says absolutely nothing in five links.

I will regret this post. Last time I mentioned Schwarz, I was placed on an annoying mailing list from some folks who have some kind of agenda against him. Frankly, I don't care about whatever he's peddling, nor do I care too much about those who are trying to expose him. None of the public information about Patmos and Schwarz makes any sense to me. I just wish he had chosen some other trendy mumbo jumbo techno-jabber on which to base his shell company.

OK. Back to real nanotech ...

Invisible Nanotech CEOs for Truth?
Nanotech's real danger is the nano con

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Perceptive nano

Here's something I've been "agitating" for these past three years. With Lux Research onboard, I'm no longer a lone gunman ...

On perceptual risks, the public's outlook on nanotech remains positive despite a lack of knowledge, but press coverage and agitation from NGOs mean that firms won't be able to dodge these questions much longer. Instead of remaining silent, companies need a communications strategy to share their safety studies, collaborate with trusted partners, and explain the benefits nanotech can bring. More here

Nanotechnology at a crossroads between hypothesis and hype
Nanotechnology industry takes Greenpeace's bait
U.K. recognizes importance of perception
Apocalypse Nano
Britain balances science, economics, perception
IPO and Public Perception
Rational science for an irrational world
Perception is de facto nano fact

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who answers at Yahoo!?

I am still not convinced that Yahoo! Answers has hit on the correct formula for ensuring correct answers. This question is closed to new answers, but you can still vote on the existing six: what is nanotech and their uses in future life?

Technology Review sent me a promo today on an article scheduled to appear tomorrow. Sounds like it will be a worthwhile read, since this is the information our kids will likely use when they dash off assignments on "nanotechnology."

Visitors post questions and volunteers answer them at Yahoo Answers. But how accurate and useful is the service -- and why do volunteers participate? We get answers from some of the website's most-prolific contributors.

Update (6/27/06):
Answers By the People, For the People
One volunteer has spent a lot of time contributing to the social media site Yahoo Answers. Why? (By Wade Roush, Technology Review)

Nanotech an open question at Yahoo! Answers

Dictionary defines the indefinable 'nanobot'

"Nanobot" has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. You can find it here under out-of-sequence new entries, lodged between nadger and off book.

I heard the news via Minnesota Public Radio. If you have a RealMedia player, you can listen here, although the reporter sadly skips over the nanobot entry. But she does comment: "The words we use tell us a lot about what's going on in our society. They're like a reflection of our culture at that point in time."

And that is the truth, especially when it comes to "nanobot" -- that vague, almost anthropomorphic, incarnation of our greatest hopes for modern technology ... and our most ghastly nightmares.

NanoBot's discard pile

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Nanotech's sensitive side

Do you want to give your future robot overlords the ability to "feel?" Ravi Saraf of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience is using nanoparticles to give machines the finger -- that is, a sense of touch rivaling that of the human finger. Punch the play button above to hear the NPR story.

Tag-teaming with nature to build nanomachines


Nadrian Seeman of NYU doesn't want to waste time building nanomachines from scratch -- not when nature has already done most of the heavy lifting for him these past few billion years.

In "Beyond Biology: Making Factories and Computers with DNA," LiveScience has more on Seeman, DNA and nanotech's softer side.

The first person to see DNA's potential beyond biology was Naiman Seeman, a chemist at New York University. More than twenty years ago, he began imagining how the genetic information in DNA might be engineered to perform useful tasks.

"DNA structures are programmable by sequence, and so are their intermolecular interactions," Seeman says. "That makes them unique."

Whereas nature alone dictates how most molecules interact, DNA comes with a built-in code that researchers can re-formulate to control which DNA molecules bond with each other. The goal of this DNA tinkering is microscopic factories that can produce made-to-order molecules, as well as electronic components 10 times smaller than current limits.

"Nanofabrication is where we are going," Seeman told LiveScience. "It will happen soon." More here

And, to get your nanomotor running, the European Union and the Max Planck Institute in Germany want to fund your Frankenstein flagellum.

Related News
DNA Art: Origami Goes Nano

These 'bots are made for walkin'
The Descent of Nano
Martyn Amos: Lecturer, Blogger
Nano-engineered intelligent flagellum?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Everything is animated

Nanorex Inc., the world’s first developer of tools for the design, simulation and analysis of atomically precise molecular machine systems, will launch its educational outreach program by placing an early pre-release version of its powerful molecular modeling software at the fingertips of some of California’s brightest high school students.

Students who report for the Nanotechnology and Robotics class at the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) on July 9 at UC Santa Cruz will begin testing NanoEngineer-1, the first computer aided design (CAD) program for the nanotech age. Scheduled for release this fall, NanoEngineer-1’s 3-D, interactive environment and molecular physics engine will enable the students to invent and test new kinds of molecular machines and devices, designed atom by atom exactly to their specifications.

The students will be helped by a team of "virtual" teachers, the NanoKids and "nanocar."

And, full disclosure, I am doing some work for Nanorex now, helping CEO Mark Sims and his band of creative geniuses promote the unveiling of this quite cool, useful (and open source) software. Read all about it.

This little joint is jumping

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The walls have ears

Lisa Napoli, of American Public Media's Marketplace, is hot on the nano trail again. This report (RealMedia Player required) highlights Natural Nano Inc.'s RF shielding technology, featuring halloysite nanotubes that can be added to wall paint to enforce no-call zones in theaters and houses of worship.

Now, if Natural Nano were to acquire some of this NanoPottyTech, annoying cell phone gabbers would also find no sanctuary in the bathroom stalls.

For nostalgia's sake, here's a RealMedia link to a nanotech story Napoli did a couple of years ago that featured an interview with your humble narrator.

Still plenty of room at the bottom

Is nanotechnology an ass man?

Nanotech toilets could clean themselves (By Ethan Todras-Whitehill, Popular Science)

Royal flush: QuarTek to sign nano-diaper deal (The Business Journal)

Baby Got Backgrounder
Prosaic Potty-Cleaning Nanoparticles
Plenty of room at this bottom
Magic Nano' nano? Naahhh

Secret nanotech research 'Lost' in flight


Is the black smoke on "Lost" a nanobot swarm? Well, the mystery deepens with the revelation that a leading nanotechnology researcher was aboard the flight from Sydney that never made it to Los Angeles. I discovered this on a fan site for Drive Shaft, the washed-up British pop band featuring brothers Liam and Charlie. The band was about to stage a comeback when Charlie disappeared on that mysterious Oceanic Airlines flight.

So, is this a real clue? Or is it a red herring planted by ABC?

Do you remember Flight 815, the plane that mysteriously disappeared on its way from Sydney to LA? In seat 23-C sat Harold Wollstein, who was poised to lead the next wave of digital technology. The man that would make a watch-sized blackberry a thing of the present joined the fate of the other 400+ passengers.

We don't know what happened to Harold any more than we know what happened to his research. Word in Silicone Valley is that all of Harold's research was in his laptop on board the plane, headed to an important meeting with the CEOs of the companies leading the nano-technology revolution. But the truth may never be discovered, about the crash or about Harold's top secret work. More here

Well, at the very least we know this must be fiction. You'd think that a brilliant nanotech scientist like "Harold" would have backed up his files somewhere.

'Lost' in nanobot space

Friday, June 09, 2006

Straight-up info on nanotech regulation


Artech House, publisher of books for high-tech professionals, contacted me about a year ago and asked me to take a look at author Jeffrey H. Matsuura's proposal for a book on nanotechnology regulation. They must have liked my critique and suggestions, because late last year FedEx folders full of Matsuura's raw manuscript began arriving at my doorstep for my critique and input, which I gladly gave.

The end result is Matsuura's Nanotechnology Regulation And Policy Worldwidereleased this month. I have not yet read the final version, but I thought the raw manuscript was thoughtful, thorough and hype-free. This book is a useful resource for anybody who is looking for straight-up information on nanotech regulation -- information that has not been filtered through an interest group trying to sell you an agenda or a media company trying to capture your eyeballs.

This process was anonymous, so if Jeffrey is reading this, he might be surprised to learn that his publisher let me monkey around with his manuscript and he's writing an angry note to Artech House right now. I think everything turned out well, Jeffrey, but why did you ignore my suggested additional chapters on the impact nanotech regulation might have on Madonna's rabbi?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

SciFi imitating science fiction

Here's an interesting quote from David Eick, a producer of the addictive new version of Battlestar Galactica. He's talking about some of the issues to be explored in a spinoff series, "Caprica."

"And it’s all the corporations involved in struggling how to find the best way for this artificial intelligence to realize itself," says Eick. "And so you have a lot of conflict between the corporate barons and the scientists and the dreamers, who are all looking upon this thing really as a great breakthrough. There was a great piece in the LA Times yesterday about nanotechnology, and how terrifying it really is because we know so little about it and we’re already starting to use it. And so it sort of follows that principle of stumbling upon some technological advance, some epiphany that you start putting to use even before you quite understand what it is or what it might do." More here

Related News
LA Times Misses the NanoMark (Darrell Brookstein)

Nanobots: The Wonder Years
SciFi and the scientist

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nanotubes and nanotox? Maybe not

Carbon nanotubes, those merry nano pranksters, were only fooling. Turns out, the tubes were so salty, they produced false positive results for toxicity. Yes, really. Read about it here and here. So, keep this in mind next time you read a news story with the requisite sentence, gleaned off Google and accepted by the mainstream media as fact, saying, "Tests have shown nanotubes to be toxic in laboratory animals."

Again. Nothing wrong with any of the researchers who made previous mistakes in testing the tubes. This is how science works -- especially a young science like nanotoxicity, where there are no standard procedures for handling new materials like nanotubes.

The science is progressing at its usual pace. It is the agenda groups that are spinning the science fast and furious to conform to convenient conclusions.

Related News
Nano World: Nanotube Toxicity Exams Differ (By Charles Q. Choi, UPI)

Let the facts interfere with your nanotox story
UK misses chance to defuse nanotox issue
Nanoscientists meet nanocitizens in new video
Nanotubes and the tale of the rats

Friends of the Earth releases nanotox report

Dear Howard,

I am writing further to your post of May 31 "Cosmetics: Facing the (lack of) facts". I thought you may be interested in a recent report released by Friends of the Earth in Australia and the United States titled "Nanomaterials, sunscreens and cosmetics: Small ingredients, big risks".

Friends of the Earth wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion that you and Paula Begoun (to whom you refer in your post) have drawn, that the risks of nanoscale ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products remain poorly studied and poorly understood. However we believe the existing small body of toxicological evidence indicates the potential for harm.

Our report surveys the existing literature and calls for a moratorium on the release of cosmetics and personal care products that contain nanomaterials until we have regulatory oversight and comprehensive toxicological testing.

Best regards
Georgia Miller
Friends of the Earth Australia Nanotechnology Project

Saturday, June 03, 2006

This little joint is jumping


The revolution will be indeed be televised, most likely on the monitor of a Dell laptop running nanoENGINEER-1

Appropriately, this atomically precise nanoscale driveshaft was designed by the Motor City's Mark Sims, the driving force behind nanotech computational modeling company Nanorex Inc.

I paid a visit to Sims just a couple of days ago in suburban Detroit. I found him sitting in his captain's chair, designing the engines that will create the future – a future that is totally open source and runs on Windows, Mac or Linux, by the way.


Images of the possible

Friday, June 02, 2006

Railroaded by nanotech

fisher"Today, China and India, nanotechnology, the Internet and the human genome project, the BlackBerry and the iPod are the railroads of the 21st century that are changing the landscape of history. They are propelling us forward into a world in which whatever was optimal before is no longer so. From now on, history just isn’t what it used to be."

Richard W. Fisher
President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Commencement address
Department of Economics
University of Texas at Austin

Steve Jobs' commencement speech inspires
Feynman on freedom

Foresight adds podcasts to communication prize

The Foresight Nanotech Institute, the think tank that has been thinkin' about nanotech since before you were a brat watching "Barney," young fella, is taking nominations for its annual communication prize. I was the first blogger to win the award back in '04, but blogs are so early '00s and Foresight is nothing if not up on the latest things. So, they've added nanotech podcasts to the mix.

I am not aware of any dedicated nanotech podcast, but I know the subject is being discussed more and more on podcasts ranging from science to business to investing to, of course, SciFi. The way I stay up-to-date on the latest podcasts that even mention nanotechnology is through the Podzinger RSS Alert. Plug this link into your iTunes or podcast application of your choice and you'll get interesting stuff ranging from the latest NPR report on nanotech to author Jack Uldrich giving a nanotech talk to a civic organization in Cleveland.

The Foresight prize is given for nonfiction communication on nanotechnology in any print, electronic, broadcast or other communications medium, including, books, periodicals, internet sites and services, and radio, film and video productions. Send in your nominations through this link.

Thank you, Foresight
Foresight insight outta-sight
Foresight backtracks to build a bridge
How big is nano?