Wednesday, March 28, 2007

PBS station gives us nanoriches

KQED-TV goes on a Nanoquest and comes up with pages and pages of great information, video and photos. Watch, enjoy, learn.

Info in a nanoshell
NANO on NewsHour

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jim Carrey and Conan talk quantum physics II

I see that a great many readers are searching for a clip of Conan O'Brien and Jim Carrey chatting about quantum physics. I posted the clip a few weeks ago, courtesy of YouTube. But I see that NBC has pulled the plug. So, I've saved it onto my own server. Click above or here to download the clip. Enjoy.

Update 12/7/08: The video can now be found here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nanotech for undergrads

There are some admirable goals in the National Science Foundation's funding for Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education in Engineering. They're placing it in the context of overall improvement in science literacy (which U.S. students, especially, could use if future generations have any hope of competing with the Ph.D.-rich China and India), and it helps universities get used to the idea of multidisciplinary cooperation. Here's an excerpt from the NSF's program solicitation. Universities, get yer red-hot nano money. But hurry, supplies are limited. Offer good until June 18.

"Advances in nanotechnology research provide new opportunities in undergraduate education. With their focus on imaging and manipulating the atom, the ultimate building block of matter, nanoscale science and engineering provide a multitude of new interdisciplinary teaching opportunities for engaging interest and for broadening vision by students of science, engineering, and technology. Nanoscale science and engineering thus permit new strategies for enhancing science and engineering literacy, preparing the workforce for emerging technologies, and attracting a diverse group of talented students to the workforce of tomorrow. The FY 2007 solicitation is focused on nanoscale engineering education with relevance to devices and systems, and/or on the societal, ethical, economic and/or environmental issues relevant to nanotechnology." More here

Classic Dave Barry on the space elevator

Ted Semon, (tee-hee! oh, grow up, Howard!), who operates the Space Elevator Blog, found my old, dead link to Dave Barry's mock treatment of the carbon nanotube cable-to-the-stars idea. Semon swam around the Internet until he found this PDF of the classic Barry send-up.

Google Earth gives 'space elevator' a lift
Buy-in-the-sky scheme
Space Elevator: The Music Video


Nanotechnology voices: My favorite comments, of course, come from the children. Enjoy.

Nanotech hocus group
Government Created Killer NanoRobot Infection
Pinhead Angels: The Video

Friday, March 16, 2007

Veni, vidi, vici Wiki

In my column this week at Michigan Business Review, I complain about the way Wikipedia is going. Turns out, it's becoming just another old-school encyclopedia and not the complete source of human knowledge that I had hoped it would become. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is the surprising short-sightedness of Wiki's moderators -- an example of how just a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I almost spit out my coffee this morning when I listened to a podcast produced by some of Wikipedia's moderators. They were complaining about some of the "trivia" now cluttering up what they consider to be the wonderfully complete entry on the life of JFK. I had to laugh out loud at the thought of a few geeks behind their computers (you can actually hear them clacking away in the background during the podcast) who, armed with their Internet search engines, presumed themselves to be qualified to determine what should be dismissed as "trivia."
And, speaking of trivia, longtime NanoBot watchers might recognize my own teeny-tiny contribution to Wikipedia.
My own personal 15 nanoseconds of fame on Wikipedia can be found in the entry for the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The page says: "President Bill Clinton advocated nanotechnology development. Howard Lovy, a nanotechnology writer, said the Initiative may 'turn out to be one of Clinton's most-important legacies.'"

Here's how that came about. I was at Birmingham's Baldwin Library a couple of years ago making use of the free Internet connection to get some work done. I took a break, stretched and noticed Clinton's autobiography in the new books section. I was surprised to find that Clinton, himself, hardly mentioned his launching of the initiative.

So, I wrote the statement above in my nanotech-themed blog. I was qualified to make the statement, as I had spent the previous three years or so covering nanotech full time. Although it could be argued that I'm not a historian nor a scientist, so what gives me the right to make such a claim and Wikipedia the right to list it as a credible source?

Well, the wonderful thing about history is that it marches on. And we'll see. More here

Clinton makes nanomention of large legacy

My interview with Tesla Motors CEO

As promised, my interview with Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors, ran in this week's Michigan Business Review. Eberhard is out to create nothing less than the next Great American Car Company. He just might do it, too. Here's the intro to the Q&A-style interview.

Martin Eberhard believes in the innate desire of that unique and peculiar animal - the American automobile driver - to do the right thing and own a vehicle that does not contribute to global warming and deplete natural resources.

But Eberhard also knows that the history of the past 30 years has revealed another inherent truth about the U.S. species of car consumer: The "doing the right thing" instinct is almost always subordinated to an even stronger natural urge... to own a really cool ride.

Enter Tesla Motors Inc. - Eberhard's luxury electric-car company that he co-founded to reconcile this "id vs. superego" war over hearts and minds of automobile consumers. Eberhard believes that his company is here to provide some much needed therapy for this era of bad feelings over the pollution produced, energy wasted - and not to mention jobs lost - in the U.S. auto industry. And he's doing his part on the jobs front, too, as his growing company is poised to open up an engineering center in Rochester Hills and hire about 60 engineers.

The Rochester Hills staff will work on what's next after the much-publicized Tesla $90,000 roadster. Right now, it's code-named Project White Star. And while this next all-electric vehicle will not exactly make it affordable for everybody to do the right thing - this one will set you back about $50,000 - it is a step in the right direction toward Eberhard's ultimate goal: creation of the next great American car company. And he wants to get there before the old fossil fuel museum pieces wheeze out their last.

Oakland Business Review technology and manufacturing reporter Howard Lovy caught up with Eberhard recently and talked to him about the Rochester Hills plant, along with subjects ranging from the skills workers need to the "ethanol economy" to the challenges of almost literally reinventing the wheel. Here's an edited transcript of their discussion. More here

Who's driving the revolution?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Who's driving the revolution?

Those who follow nanotech business models are probably already familiar with the theme in my column this week at Michigan Business Review. I discuss when it no longer makes sense to change industries from the inside by developing products that are easily integrated into current products and processes.

Under some conditions -- for example, if market demand or technological progress outpace the ability or willingness of an industry to adopt change from within -- there comes a point when it is time to let the old ways simply implode under the weight of their own inadequacies and begin anew -- from the bottom up.

I live in the Detroit area, where this implosion is experienced in painful slow motion, one auto company and supplier at a time. I contrast venture capitalist Vinod Khosla's support of an ethanol economy as a way of changing the auto industry from within with the more-revolutionary strategy of Martin Eberhard, CEO of the electric car company Tesla (no, not the '80s hair band of the same name!).

Above, of course, is a Tesla automobile courtesy of nanotech venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, who gets to have all the fun by driving one. I got to do the next best thing, I guess, and interview Eberhard. A Q&A-style transcript of the interview will run in a future edition of the Michigan Business Review.

And, speaking of changing industries from outside, take a look at my feature of a media revolutionary in the form of a mommy blogger.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from my column that might interest nano watchers.

Both Eberhard and Khosla come to their conclusions via the prism of Silicon Valley, whose major industry is facing its own impending extinction. The year 2020 is the absolute drop-dead date where current lithographic methods will no longer be able to keep up with market demands in chip size and power (for the geeks among you, this is the limit of Moore's Law).

So, IBM, Intel and others are using everything in their bag of tricks to get the most out of outdated methods, but are only now realizing that they are going to have to rip up the entire foundation and begin building their industry all over again - from the bottom up.

Waiting in the wings are a number of nanotechnology companies preparing for the day that they will come forward to become the "Next Intel," with true game-changing solutions.

Eberhard might not have the big solution. Tesla might not become the "Next GM." But I do know Eberhard is on the right side of the dividing line between the old world and the new. More here

Update: Many thanks to Mike Magda of AutoblogGreen for his accurate summary of my commentary and the debate that follows.

Revolutions happen to the unprepared