Tuesday, August 31, 2004

We all live in a nano submarine

nano submarine

Richard Jones, Eric Drexler, just stop worrying and learn to love the silly submarines. Do you want the public to pay attention? Do you want to spark some young person's imagination? Or do you want to continue talking nano to your own closed circle of friends? A little while ago, I decided the latter choice was not only dull, but self-defeating.

moonInspire dreams, or the purveyors of nightmares will win the image war, resulting in more wasted, dark decades or ages.

So open the show with a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants and then -- before they know what's hit them -- sneak in some real information. At the very least, they'll walk away thinking nano.

More than a hundred years ago, moviegoers were shown the comically false image at right. Despite this artistic depiction of laws of physics and proportion being so flagrantly violated, mankind managed to make it to the moon a couple of generations later.

Achieving the 'impossible'

Grad’s Breakthrough Artificial Pancreas May Help Diabetics (The Daily Californian)

    Even though her colleagues told her it was impossible to create an artificial pancreas that could alleviate diabetes, and that she would never finish it in time to graduate from UC Berkeley, Tejal Desai finished what she set out to do.

    ... Desai, 31, built an implantable device—containing live pancreas cells—that could be used in place of daily insulin injections for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels.

    ... The main challenge hindering scientists was protecting the insulin-producing pancreas cells from attacks from the body’s immune system. In diabetics, the immune system damages these cells.

    It took Desai four years to step over the barriers. She started growing cells on chemically modified silicon, which she used to create a container of silicon membrane covered in tiny pores.

    These pores, which are a billionth of a meter wide, allow glucose, insulin and oxygen to pass through, while blocking larger, harmful immune cells.

    This combination of biology and nanotechnology was unknown when Desai began her research, but bioengineering breakthroughs such as her own are making it a quickly growing field. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
The Amazing Montemagno
Driving under the influence of Feynman
Nanotech and Tikkun
Carlo's just a Copycat

Monday, August 30, 2004

NanoSurvey says ...

Commission consultation on nanotechnology (European Public Health Alliance)

    The Commission is launching a wide consultation on its Communication Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology in which it proposed an integrated and responsible approach for developing nanosciences and nanotechnologies in Europe.

    Nanotechnology has been high on the political agenda since the publication of the Commission’s Communication. Discussions were initiated already in the European Council under the Irish Presidency, are continuing under the Dutch Presidency and will be concluded later this year. An Action Plan will follow.

    Responses can be sent to the Commission by email or via an on-line questionnaire.

    The Commission aims to address any potential public health, safety, environmental and consumer risks upfront by generating the data needed for risk assessment, integrating risk assessment into every step of the life cycle of nanotechnology-based products, and adapting existing methodologies and, as necessary, developing novel ones.

    Deadline for comments: 30 September 2004. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Britain balances science, economics, perception
'Societal Concerns' vs. Scientific Accuracy
Too late to stem the 'toxic bucky' tide


"If I were asked to list the greatest threats to the world, I would include global warming, but would add bioterrorism, nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, biodiversity loss, cyberterrorism, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence/robotics, and asteroid collisions."

Richard Posner, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, writing in lessig blog

Class, take out your nanotoxicology texts

Professor calls for a new branch of learning (EurekAlert)

    Nanotechnology, the 'science of small things' is set to bring huge advantages in engineering, electronics, medicine and IT-- but the potential threats to health that widespread use of nanoparticles could bring need to be scrutinised, says a University of Edinburgh expert in this month's edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

    Professor Ken Donaldson, a lung toxicology expert and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University, calls for a new discipline--nanotoxicology-- to be built up, to address knowledge gaps and to help develop a safe nanotechnology. He wants guidelines to be developed to test all materials in the nanoscale where human health could be involved. More here

Related News
Fate of nanoparticles (PhysOrg.com)

NanoBot Backgrounder
Are nanoparticle studies 'one decade late'?
Please send fear in lieu of facts
ETC Group Reacts

A Fool to pretend

The Players and Pretenders of Nanotech (The Motley Fool)

    In our last commentary, we defined categories as a means to identify nano companies. But general talk of science and its applications are all well and good as appetizers. We're Foolish investors, so let's have a look at the entrees.

    We'll focus on some of the companies and name three from each sector: one an up-and-coming pure-play nanotech, another an established mega cap incorporating nano solutions into an existing business, and the last a nano pretender. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
From the Dark Tower of my memory
But does it slice, dice and make Julienne fries?

(Nano)tech support

Our Options Have Changed …
To continue in jargon, press 1.

    Please key in the model and serial number of the product you are calling about. The model number is the series of 12 letters and digits that is visible when you push the unit away from the wall, work your head into the gap using a crowbar and No. 10 machine oil, and train a beam of ultraviolet light on the lower three centimeters of the right-hand rear surface of the appliance. If the model number is obscured by dust or cockroach detritus, wipe it with a soft, lint-free cloth soaked in a solution of ordinary rubbing alcohol, Kirschwasser, and formaldehyde. The serial number is the 37-digit number inscribed by means of laser nanotechnology on the underside of the unit and is not visible to the naked eye. When you have entered both numbers, press the pound key. More here

Friday, August 27, 2004

Nanowaxing Elegant

Little particles make cars, profits shine (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

    nanowaxKeith Matthews knows his car wax.

    A car detailer at International Motor Car Co., 2111 Dana Ave., he puts a shine on two or three vehicles a day for the luxury-car dealership.

    "Nanowax is the best thing I've used, and I've been doing this for 15 years," he said.

    Eagle One Nanowax, produced by Ashland Inc.'s Lexington-based Valvoline unit, is easier to apply, leaves less residue and does a better job of handling swirls and defects in car finishes, he says.

    Matthews is raving about one of the hottest new products in the nearly $70 million liquid car wax market.

    Eagle One Nanowax is thought to be the first car wax developed with nanotechnology, basically working with particles no bigger than 1/75,000th the size of a human hair.  More here.
NanoBot Backgrounder
Slippery NanoSlope
Is this nanotechnology?
Nanowax Poetic

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Buckytube goes modeling


Found this on Froogle, on my way to looking up something else. This Fullerene Buckytube-Nanotube Molecular Model Kit will build a nanotube consisting of eight alternating five-  and six-member rings (other combinations possible). This comes courtesy of Indigo Instruments. And, no, this is not an advertorial. I've never spoken to the company and I get no proceeds. Just thought it looked cool.

What's Up, Paradox?


Picked up a pizza in Berkley, Mich., yesterday and had to stop and cameraphone this store next door. I couldn't help but wonder why this type of establishment would need to post business hours.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Georgia Tech's Ambassador of Nano

Daniel Moore, Georgia Tech nanotech Ph.D. candidate and blogger recently gave a successful talk to the Druid Hills Civitan Club. Judging from the prepared version (Word doc) of his talk, Moore did a masterful (or, even doctoral) job of balancing the long-term promises of nanotech with today's realities and touching on some of the ethical and societal concerns in the news these days.

Fearing my own upcoming adventure in public speaking, I asked him to tell me how the audience received his talk. Here's what Moore wrote:

    The talk went really well. After the first paragraph or so, I settled into it and just kept rolling. There were about 40-50 people there and they had a ton of questions afterwards (though none too tough) about nanoassemblers, the nanomedical technology, and even about the nanopants (I hope you don’t mind, but I borrowed your line saying that we need to work on the nanopants, but the cancer detection is pretty cool). And it is always fun to get away from the everyday nano-work and focus on big picture, almost nanoscifi type of stuff. The chorus of “wow” that I would get when I would describe some things helps to remind me why I’m actually doing this stuff.
Thank you for your work, Daniel, and happy 25th birthday! You've accomplished more at 25 than I have at "pushin' 40." When I was 25, I was covering school board and city council meetings for the Haverhill Gazette in Massachusetts. I did cover a NIMBY ("not in my backyard)" issue or two involving plans for a local trash incinerator. The issue? Risk from smokestack emissions. It was my first stab at coverage of issues involving the environment, risk and public fear. I hadn't realized then that it was a dress rehearsal for my nano-writing career.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanotech gets the keys to the lexicon
Web-Slinging, Stepford Nano
NanoFuture vs. NanoNow
Please send fear in lieu of facts
Britain balances science, economics, perception

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Buying Power

DOE's Basic Research Gets a Boost (TechNewsWorld)

    In a year when nearly every government program not tied to national security Relevant Products/Services from IBM eServer xSeries Systems is facing budget cuts, the House Appropriations Committee decided to add money to the Department of Energy's budget to boost the nation's investment in basic research. ... Among other "plus ups," Congress added $13 million for nanoscience research and another $13 million-plus for DOE's various laboratories. The labs are a national resource used by agency scientists and non-agency researchers from universities and many other institutions. More here
NanoBot Backgrounder
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
Cut NSF, but grow nano
Converging on clean energy
Spending power

Thursday, August 19, 2004

From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe

In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on the banks of the Susquehanna River, which once flowed into the lucrative anthracite mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania, there’s a wildly popular polka band that calls itself Stanky and the Coal Miners.

And although anthracite coal was first used in a Wilkes-Barre blacksmith’s shop in 1769, these days if it weren’t for Stanky and his 1-2-3 polka beat conjuring up the sounds of a past steeped in black lung and soot, you’d no longer hear any coal-mining-era reminders in town at all. Wilkes-Barre was born in coal, boomed with coal, and then slid into economic slump with the environmental degradation wrought by coal.

But, if you pay close attention and look around town, you’ll see something new rising from the dust.

In September 2003, it was a 330-ton liquid natural gas heat exchanger that began life in the Wilkes-Barre factory of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., then journeyed to Nigeria, where it will help capture and liquefy natural gas.

Three-hundred-thirty tons? And you thought this was a nanotechnology blog? It is. But to truly explain why nano matters, you have to first see the big picture.

The developing world is doing just that – developing. And as economies grow, so do their demands for energy and their ability to export it to other countries. When it comes to gas-rich countries like Nigeria, enabling conversion of gas to liquid fuel serves as a catalyst for economic development in Africa and, eventually, could lead to less U.S. dependence on oil imports from the Middle East. And the gas-to-liquids market is $100 billion a year, and still evolving.

Did you get that word? Catalyst? Remember it. We’re almost down to the nano scale, but not quite.

Bottling that gas and piping it around the world costs a great deal of money, so companies are pumping an awful lot of R&D cash into making that process cheaper. The potential rewards are great, since the flow of liquid natural gas (LNG) is expected to quadruple from 2001 to 2020. Now is a good time to plant that LNG stake in the ground. Air Products has decided that it wants to be there – hence the Wilkes-Barre/Nigeria connection. But the company also needs to make the process cheaper and more efficient. The way to do that is by discovering more precise ways of making the chemistry happen.

Now, finally, here we are, from a 330-ton hunk of metal, to molecules. You want to set the world alight with your energy solution? Well, like The Boss says, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” And you can’t change chemistry without a catalyst.

And, boy, have I ever learned about catalysts. I did a great deal of research on them as a contributing editor to the latest edition of the Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report. Despite having worked with me through this August issue, Josh Wolfe and company apparently haven't learned their lesson and have given me some work for the September edition.

When I learned of coal-to-oil technology, it sent me back to the wastelands of Wilkes-Barre, where I was assistant news editor at the Times-Leader for the longest 10 months of my life back in the early '90s.

In 1997, Air Products worked with the U.S. Department of Energy in a Tennessee pilot plant that turned coal into methanol – technology that will likely see commercial light in China. The good folks of Wilkes-Barre might want to take a look at the connection between their hometown company’s innovative technologies being deployed in the Far and Middle East, and their own lost coal heritage.

But, then again, perhaps the connections have been made already. According to the Oct. 25, 2000 Congressional Record, Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Pa., rose to pay tribute to John “Stanky” Stankovic, “who has been entertaining people of all ages with his polka magic for 55 years.”

Stanky, the hometown congressman continued, “learned to play the accordion from his father, Joe Stankovic, a Czech immigrant who came to America at age sixteen and went straight to work in the coal mines. When Stanky was a young man, he was more interested in being a professional baseball player. However, his father wisely made sure he practiced his music one hour a day before going out to play, and audiences around the world have benefited from Stanky's ultimate career choice. For example, in 1988, Stanky and the Coal Miners played to a crowd of a million people in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.”

Perhaps all it takes to spark a revolution is a lump of coal, a nanocatalyst and 1-2-3- polka beat.

Please send fear in lieu of facts

Nanofear (Forbes)

    The science of small might have a big problem. His name is Pat R. Mooney, and he is a high school dropout from Canada with no scientific training. Yet his Ottawa organization, the ETC Group, is widely credited with being one of the first to raise health and environmental concerns about genetically modified food. Its efforts, along with those of other outfits like Greenpeace, led to a public relations fiasco for the biotech industry. In Europe the name Monsanto, which sells genetically modified seed, still exemplifies the ugly American multinational. Because of the fear Mooney helped generate, Nestlé and others don't sell food with GM ingredients in Europe. Restaurants post signs assuring customers meals are virtually GM-free.

    Now Mooney, 57, has set his target on nanotechnology, the business of manufacturing on a molecular scale. Nanoparticles are already used in drugs, cosmetics, food additives and baby products. Nanotech has brought us the mundane--Eddie Bauer's $49.50 Nano-Care khakis that resist stains and wrinkles--but also promises profound advances like cancer drugs that hunt through your body for tiny tumors.

    ... There has been scant peer-reviewed scientific research on possible nanoparticle risk, maybe four dozen studies, according to Kristen Kulinowski of Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology. But Mooney's claims are backed by just enough science to generate headlines--and fear. Over the last 24 months he has met with interest groups in Thailand and Chile, regulators in Washington and Brussels and scientists in Houston and Cape Town. His goal: to spread the word of risks and persuade regulators to declare a moratorium on new nanotechnology research until there is an established protocol for safety and a public discussion on the impact of the technology. "We're saying this is going to be the biggest technological change you've ever seen," says Mooney, "and you need to start paying attention." More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
WSJ is down with nano
Are nanoparticle studies 'one decade late'?
More on Mooney, etc.

Blogs help promote virtual nano conference

If Australia is too far away for you, why not try a virtual trip Down Under to the Pacific Rim Conference in Nanoscience Sept. 7-12. All lectures including slides and audio from the conference will be available through this Web site. Sign-up for the Web-based hub is free. The event is going to be a multidisciplinary deal, covering nanofluidics, nanobio interfaces, nanofabrication, water, energy and minerals, nanoparticles, and computational nanoscience.

It's chaired by Nick Quirke, physical chemistry professor at Imperial College, London and director of the school's master's program in nanomaterials, who's going to show how to go with the nanoflow.

And the Blogosphere plays a vital role in the promotion of this event. I asked Barry Hardy, proprietor of the Nanomosis blog, to explain this a bit more. Here's what he wrote:

    Basically we are currently running four scientific communities of practice. For this, we are developing and applying social software wiki-based environments for virtual communication in the community, whereas the Blog tool is being used for publishing selected news and highlights from the community and is available for syndication.

    Abstracts of all seminars in Web conferences being held by these communities this Autumn are being made available through the Blogs and their feeds. I hope this will provide a valuable news and reference source in the areas covered and can be used to link to other useful references on the Web.

    With the new Nanoscience project the idea is to concentrate on the presentation of the best new research in nanoscience that is needed to form a stronger foundation for the development of nanotechnology. So we will concentrate on building and supporting an excellent scientific program and set of activities which allow scientists globally to communicate, discuss and publish their latest results.

Sounds worthwhile to me. But I'm going to have to remember to ask the nanoflow guy to see if he can answer a very important question: In Broome, Australia, do nano-amounts of fluids swirl down nano-sized drains in the opposite direction? Can't wait to find out.

'Nano Nano' candy from strangers


It is a unique flavor candy. Sweet and tangy. It refreshes you.

Ingredients: Glucuse, Sugar, Orange Peel flavor, Citrid Acid, Salt and Food Colour.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Is this nanotechnology?
Fine Corinthian Nano
This ain't no party, this ain't no nano

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

From the Dark Tower of my memory

You wanna read something that was left on the cutting-room floor (probably deservedly so) in my just-released report on nanostorage and nanomemory? At the risk of total humiliation, here goes:

    He held the dipper out to Jake. When Jake reached for it, Tick-Tock pulled it back.

    "First, cully, tell me what you know about dipolar computers and transitive circuits," he said coldly.

    "What ..." Jake looked toward the ventilator grille, but the golden eyes were still gone. He was beginning to think he had imagined them after all. He shifted his gaze back to the Tick-Tock Man, understanding one thing clearly; he wasn't going to get any water. He had been stupid to even dream he might. "What are dipolar computers?"

    In Stephen King's best-selling horror/scifi/western epic "Dark Tower" book series, the main characters come upon the apocalyptically dysfunctional city of Lud, where this "Mad Max"-style vision of the future is brought to you by out-of-control "dipolar computers." The computers, of course, outlast mankind's ability to remain civilized toward one another. So as the Luddites (yes, what else would they be called?) reverted to a comfortable state of barbarism, it was the dipolar computers that retained all the previous collected knowledge of mankind. This is a Stephen King book, so the "dipolar" turns "bipolar," and life becomes hell for humans. But that's beside the point.

    So, what is the point? First, pay attention to popular culture – from Stephen King to England's future king: They just might have more influence on the way any new technology is perceived and accepted than any of the Wall Street kings. Second, Stephen King probably did not pick "dipolar computers" purely out of the abyss of his imagination. In 1997, the same year in which King released "Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands," a small group of scientists got together and founded a new company, California Molecular Electronics Corp.

    Remember 1997? Most of the world was just beginning to learn about the Internet. CALMEC, with its talk of "molecular electronics" seemed to some to have come from a distant planet – and not only to average consumers, but also to their colleagues in the semiconductor world. What was it these folks from the future were peddling?

    Yes. You guessed: "Dipolar computers."

Yeah, I know, but remember that Babe Ruth was also the strikeout king. A great deal of what I write thankfully never makes it beyond my iMac, much less over the bleachers. But what you get in this NanoMarkets report is the stuff that made the cut. I did most of the primary research and wrote most of the profiles on this one.

NanoMarkets, by the way, is a great little company. Company pooh-bah Lawrence Gasman, a battle-hardened telecom vet, is a superb editor and I'm joined here by fellow nanowriting refugee Paul Holister.

I've seen the future of memory and its name is … well, I can't remember now. Just read the report.

NanoBot Backgrounder
'Terabyte territory'
Money for Memory
Nanomanufacturing from the ground up

Update: I apologize to "Dark Tower" fans who posted comments to this entry. Somebody ruined it by introducing pointless profanity and insult (I'm all for profanity with a purpose, though). I couldn't delete just that one comment for some reason, so I had to delete all of them. There was a great little thread going on, correcting me about the year in which Stephen King's "The Waste Lands, Dark Tower Book 3" (

) was released. It was 1992, and not 1997 (when it was re-released). I responded that my inaccurate date was one more reason why that passage was best left on the cutting-room floor. Thank you, Dark Tower fans, for setting me straight. I recently bought a copy of "Song of Susannah The Dark Tower, Book 6" () and I can't wait to catch up with the story of Roland and his ka-tet!

The Tao of Dow

Dow Chemical Co. here in my home state recently announced that President and COO Andrew Liveris will take over as CEO this November. As Chemical & Engineering News reported in January, nano is on Liveris' mind. "Maybe an investment in nanotechnology would help Dow continue to grow, Liveris suggests," wrote journalist Marc S. Reish.

Dow, of course, is no stranger to nanotechnology. As of 2002, the company had collected 322 nanotechnology-related patents, the 20th-highest in all the nanoland (IBM was number one). Dow gave birth to the dendrimer and, more recently, spent a bundle on a failed attempt to make cars out of super-duper nano-enhanced plastic.

Also, Dow subsidiary Filmtec is trying to give Perrier a run for its money in France with a nanofiltration technology and Dow was involved in drawing up an industrywide nanomaterials roadmap.

Liveris, of course, is aware of all this nano-trial and nano-error as he contemplates future investments in nanotechnology. One would hope that he is also cognizant of the fact that better chemistry does not always equate with better living.

NanoBot Backgrounder
The Tale of Tomalia
Nano Babel
Safety and health group launches nano page
New materials are not without risk

A Little Education

Grant awarded to fund area nanoscale exhibit (The Ithaca (N.Y) Journal)

    ITHACA -- The National Science Foundation awarded $1.8 million to fund the building of a Sciencenter museum exhibit on nanoscale science and engineering.

    Announced earlier this month by Cornell University, the grant is awarded to Main Street Science, the education program of Cornell's Nanobiotechnology Center; the Sciencenter, and Painted Universe, a design/ fabrication firm in Lansing.

    With the $1.8 million, the Nanobiotechnology Center and Painted Universe will design and build a 3,500 square-foot exhibition entitled "Too Small to See," which will be housed at the Sciencenter. More here

NanoBot Backgronder
It's a Nano World After All
'Nanoworld' is about solving small mysteries

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Don't NanoTread on Me

Like it or not, science rolls on (Albany Democrat-Herald)

    In the mid-valley we are supposed to be excited about the prospect of "nanoscience," the notion that mankind needs a "host of new materials and devices" - as our business editor put it recently - constructed on the size scale of a few atoms or molecules. The skeptical layman scratches his head and says: Whoa. Hold your horses. Just a minute. Not so fast.

    ...Technical innovations are forced on people whether they want them or not. And if something can be done, it will be done. That's why we have nuclear weapons that can kill small countries with one blow and cell phones that can be used while driving or standing in the checkout line. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics
Gray Goo Who?
'The hype and the fear'

Monday, August 16, 2004

WSJ is down with nano

A couple of Wall Street Journal editors must have been desperate for material, so they lowered their standards just long enough to let one of my opinion pieces slip through. But you have to be a subscriber to read it. Here's a teaser:

    I'd like to tell a tale of wondrous wizards of science, brave business knights on Holy Grail quests and self-appointed sentries who declare by the hour that the end is nigh. And, naturally, there is also a prince and a great, gray mythical beast.

    Let us start from the beginning.

    Once upon the year 2000 at Rice University in Houston, a small group of chemists, bioengineers and environmental engineers met to compare notes on some exciting new work they were all doing with nanomaterials -- that is, substances smaller than 100 nanometers, or 100-billionth of a meter or . . . well, maybe this will help: Close your eyes and picture particles so small that you can line up between 5,000 and 50,000 of them widthwise on each strand of John Kerry's hair (or, about 500 on each of Dick Cheney's). More here

Update: A WSJ editor tells me it ran in the European print edition, but not in the United States, which has no "Business Europe" column. If any European readers come across it, drop me a note. I'll pay the postage for a copy. My 95-year-old grandpa doesn't read news online!

Related News
Global Investment In Nanotechnology By Nations to Rise (Wall Street Journal)

NanoBot Backgrounder
This nebulous 'nano'
ETC Group Reacts
Britain balances science, economics, perception

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Imagination at Work

fantastic1   fantastic2   fantastic3

For me, one of the highlights of the 2004 Olympics opening ceremony last night was not the flying circus, nor the torching of the phallus, but it was General Electric's new TV ad. Nanotechnology was not mentioned at all, but the film, "Fantastic Voyage," that old reliable nanotech analogy, was a prominent player.

The ad focused on a brain surgeon who, a la Calvin and Spaceman Spiff, was off in his own Walter Mitty world, imagining that all this wonderful GE medical imaging equipment was allowing him to take that fantastic, nanosized voyage into the patient's brain. "We've got to get back to the ship," the surgeon says, to the astonishment of his medical assistants.

General Electric is working on real-life nanotechnology, but somebody in its ad department knows that lectures on the company's R&D in nanocomposites and nanostructured optoelectronics will leave viewers running for the fridge or the remote. Instead, it chose to try for the imagination, using cultural icons and humor.

A few months ago, I wrote:
    To harness human imagination – now, that has the potential to create the kind of popular groundswell of which U.S. policy-makers can only dream. The elements are already there – if only the nanotech political, business and media communities would take a glance beyond their insular worlds and see it.
The voice-over in the GE ad promotes the company's "medical imaging that allows doctors to navigate the brain with precision that until today was pure science fiction. ... GE: Imagination at work."

Friday, August 13, 2004

Military Nano Complex

Researching the weapons of the future: ‘micro-fusion’ weapons (Jane's)

    Nanotechnology ... has the potential to produce further miniaturisation of weapons. ... Assembler-based NT has implications far beyond the Pentagon’s current vision of a ‘revolution in military affairs’, although its applications to advanced weaponry are certainly fertile ground for fantasy. Proponents of ‘micro-fusion’ nuclear weapons insist that they are the only types of warheads capable of retaining relatively high yields of energy through the process of miniaturisation. More (abstract only)
Pentagon Looks to Directed-Energy Weapons (Associated Press)
    A few months from now, Peter Anthony Schlesinger hopes to zap a laser beam at a couple of chickens or other animals in a cage a few dozen yards away. If all goes as planned, the chickens will be frozen in mid-cluck, their leg and wing muscles paralyzed by an electrical charge created by the beam, even as their heart and lungs function normally. More
The Arms Race Has Begun (Responsible Nanotechnology)
    Yesterday Mike posted an article on "Nanotech Arms Races". How prophetic. Today, India's new President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam called for India to develop nanotechnology -- including nanobots -- because it will revolutionize warfare. More
US Army orders weapons supercomputer (NewScientist.com)
    The US army has commissioned a new supercomputer to simulate complex weapons systems. Once built, it will rank as one of the top 20 most powerful computers on the planet.

    Charles Nietubicz, director of ARL MSRC, says Stryker will be used to model the behaviour of materials used in the development of new weapons. “The more closely we can represent the physics [underlying weapons systems], the more we know our predictions will be accurate,” he told New Scientist. More

NanoBot Backgrounder
An Army of Nano
The Princess or the Dragon

Related Resources
Defense Tech
Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Nanopants miss the Bullseye

feetup   Modz

CNBC's Bullseye just put nanopants to the test and, I'm sorry to say, it was not a great TV moment for nanotechnology. Host Dylan Ratigan spilled a cocktail of wet and sticky stuff on his pants and, well, the water rolled off the nanofibers, as advertised, but the coffee most definitely stained. A little mustard and ketchup were added just for fun.

But I have to hand it to Ratigan's guest Mark Modzelewski, managing director of Lux Research (former NanoBusiness Alliance chief). He put his best leg forward with the grape-juice test. At this moment, Mark might be walking down Wall Street with purple streaks in his pants. Oh well, Mark did change the subject nicely when he held up the nanotube tennis rackets and a box-o-quantum dots. We might need to work on the pants thing, but cancer detection is kinda cool, too.

I cameraphoned the show, but unfortunately I'm out of my T-Mobile area now and can't seem to e-mail them to myself. I'll post the pictures as soon as I can figure out how. Update: Pictures above. At left, is me assuming my vacation position while watching the show; at right is Modzelewski showing off his quantum dots.

By the way, I'm a veteran of many coffee spills on my nanopants. I can say that the stuff works. Or, maybe that explains the chuckles that I always hear whenever I leave a room.

NanoBot Backgrounder
The people want the pants
Consumer Reports reaches into the nanopants
Nanopants diary

Work in the Great White Nano

In case the U.S. brings back the draft, it might be helpful to know that you could line up some work at the new Canadian Nanotechnology Job Centre. You just have to endure a longer winter and learn to place your R's before your E's.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nano knowledge going south? Blame Canada!
Nano sure is a piece of work

Related Resources
Working in Nanotechnology
Careers in Nanotechnology

Monday, August 09, 2004

Conquer the Divide

Reading this headline from SciDevNet, Small is not always beautiful, I was prepared to dismiss the article as just another "nanotech will ruin the environment, kill your fish and insult your grandmother" story, but then I read further. It's an excellent commentary by David Dickson. Here's an excerpt:

    What, then, should be done to minimise the risks of what some have described as a 'nano-divide' opening up between the rich and the poor nations of the world?

    The first is to ensure that the latter are encouraged to develop the skills and the infrastructure that are essential if they are fully to grasp the opportunities that nanoscience is already creating.

    Some of this is required at a basic educational level. Other needs exist at the level of advanced training in relevant skills. Both are essential if countries are going to develop the capacity to secure and develop nano-products that meet their social needs.

    Secondly, major efforts are needed to build the dissemination channels that will ensure these needs are actually met. There is no lack of imagination within the nanotechnology community of the potential applications of their work; the difficult task is creating the systems of innovation that will ensure that ideas turn into realities.

    This may involve new forms of public-private partnerships, where one side on its own is incapable of meeting demand satisfactorily. It will certainly mean addressing obstacles, ranging from market failure to intellectual property rights, that increase the difficulties of this happening satisfactorily.

    Finally,informed public debate is essential if those who stand to benefit most directly from the new technology are not frightened off by stories about its potential dangers. More here

I know of a few new and upcoming efforts to bridge this potential divide, and I plan on highlighting them in the near future. Stay tuned.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics
You say you got a real solution …
Do they know it's nanotime at all?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Letter from Leelanau


Judging from my stats above, it looks like a lot of important people (or at least the cleaning crews in their offices) follow the writings of one unemployed blogger. Should I be frightened or flattered?

Sorry for the blogging silence for the past couple of days, what with all the nanotech news happening (Nanosys, Royal Society), but I'm taking some time to finish a few freelance projects and then wander the woods of Northern Michigan. I'm writing this now from my father-in-law's machine shop up in the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, where the workspace is filled with macroscale metal contraptions that he buys at auctions, fixes himself and sells. He's earned a reputation as an honest, friendly businessman who builds loyalty the old-fashioned way -- by doing his work well, doing it on time and taking the time to get to know his customers. It works for selling large, industrial machines. I don't see why this kind of business practice couldn't be scaled down to the microscopic level.

Speaking of meeting customer demands on time, I need to get back to work. Then, I'm going to do nothing but hike through the woods and walk on the beach with my family for a few days to remind myself of the things that are truly important.

Thank you again to many of you who have offered me work. I plan on tackling many of the projects that have been offered and I'll respond to everybody individually. Meanwhile, look for my work to appear in some major publications. Keep your browser on this blog, and I'll point you in the right directions.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

IPO no-go

Some days, I feel like Jon Stewart delivering the news.

Today, a small startup company with no products, no clear timeline on when it will release products and has lost $25.8 million since its founding in 2001 decided not to go public, and blamed it on "adverse market conditions."

NanoBot Backgrounder
Initial Perilous Offering

Monday, August 02, 2004

This nebulous 'nano'

With public interest -- and special interest -- in nanotechnology renewed thanks to the Royal Society's report released last week, I've decided that it would better serve readers to collect as many points of view as possible and give them an airing on this blog rather than fill it with only my opinions. I urge everybody to feel free to use this site to post your own thoughts and comments. Let's keep the worldwide discussion going.

Those who have followed this site for the past year already know my feelings on how this phenomenon of fact, fear and fiction have coalesced to become "nanotechnology" in the public mind. This nebulous "nano" is not any one thing, yet it still begs to be defined. Those who have ignored the feelings of the masses, or the importance of public perception wholly divorced from the realities of science, should raise their eyes from their cloistered world and join the discussion with the people who really matter: concerned citizens outside the worlds of the board room and laboratory who now, more than ever, need nanotechnology explained in an accessible way.

Those who understand the business, political, scientific and cultural realities of nanotechnology, yet fail to make an attempt at true communication, are at best neglecting their duties and at worst silently standing by while a new era of irresponsible policy and regulation is ushered in worldwide. Stay tuned, though. I'm planning to do my part.

NanoBot Backgrounder
First, blame the media
Meet the new nanoboss
Virtual villagers with pitchforks

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Nano with Seoul

Nanotech Moving Up to Forefront (Korea Times)

    Nanotechnology Research Association will begin operations on Tuesday in order to promote nanotechnology as one of the new industrial initiatives that will play a crucial role in Korean economic growth in the future, the association announced Sunday. More here
Related News
The Smartest Man In Europe Is Bullish on Asia (July 30, 2004 Tech Central Station)
Daedeok Aims to Become Global Research Hub (July 29, 2004 The Korea Times)
Samsung serves up nanotechnology (May 20, 2004 eTaiwan News)
Korea-Germany Combine Know-How in Technology Institute (April 29, 2004 Digital Chosun)

Nano Korea 2004
Korean Nano Technology Research Association
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Korean Ministry of Science & Technology