Tuesday, June 28, 2005

My Yankee Doodle Daddy

dad1   dadviet   dadshow

My dad, a Vietnam veteran, will serve as the Grand Marshal in the Kirskville, Mo., Fourth of July parade. His local ABC affiliate, KTVO, is calling him a Heartland Hero. Congratulations, Dad, but I did not need a news report to tell me that you're a hero. I've always known it. Click on the pictures above for a Windows Media video of the local news report.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tilting at windmills

"He so immersed himself in those romances that he spent whole days and nights over his books; and thus with little sleeping and much reading his brains dried up to such a degree that he lost the use of his reason.”

Miguel De Cervantes, in "Don Quixote"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Foresight backtracks to build a bridge

The Foresight Nanotech Institute -- a pioneering nanotech think tank -- takes another step toward relevance in the world of today, rather than a vague "when molecular manufacturing is reality," in partnering with Battelle on its roadmap to "productive nanosystems." The map, to put it simply, is a plan to get us from here to there and there to here (I guess that's the Dr. Seuss version)

Foresight has been correctly criticized in the past for failing to draw up what exactly will take us from nanopants to nanobots, except a vague idea that a scientific miracle will happen and the nano age will begin.

Last December, I asked the question: "Will they engage in the political and public process or will they continue to lick their wounds while remaining completely oblivious to the relevant opportunities that surround them?"

Sounds like they've answered, although I doubt my criticism was the sole reason. Earlier, in May, the institute adopted some core challenges it plans on addressing, challenges that get at the heart of the hopes and fears that surround nanotech both in the short term and long term. Addressing issues surrounding energy, the environment, human life, information and space travel, the institute planted itself firmly into ground being covered today while also leaving room for its long-term vision.

I asked Foresight founder and vice president Christine Peterson whether molecular manufacturing would be de-emphasized, or whether long-term vision would still a part of the group's mission.

"Yes, definitely," she answered. "Rather than a de-emphasis of that topic per se, I would put it another way -- that our mission has broadened to include the near-term and mid-term, including applications in those timeframes and the policy issues involved."

Yes, yes, I know. I'll get to it. Full disclosures: I'm the recipient of the 2004 Foresight Institute Prize in Communication, and I'm to do some work for the institute later this year.

Keep your eye on pSivida

pSivida is one company I'm going to continue to keep an eye on over the years. I've spoken to Roger Aston, director of research and commercialisation (or commercialization, for those of you who do not speak Australian), a couple of times, and each time I grow more impressed with the company.

I'm not only talking about its biodegradable drug delivery technology, which appears to avoid the toxicity problems associated with its nanoscale cousins, buckyballs, dendrimers et al. For the longer term, this company also appears to have a clear plan to travel around the world to our shores, infiltrate our cancer wards, prolong some lives, and then slowly start to scare the living daylights out of us.

Is the United States ready for implantable microchips that your doctor can set to deliver drugs, monitor, control and disintegrate from the comfort of his golf cart? I don't know, but it will be interesting to follow.

(Incidentally, I'm not an investor in this company. Hell, I don't have any spare change to gamble on any company.)

PSivida Reports Findings In Phase IIa Cancer Drug Trials (Dow Jones)

    "Australia's pSivida Ltd. (PSDV) said Tuesday it has composed a final report on the company's Phase IIa clinical trials with BrachySil as a potential new brachytherapy treatment for inoperable primary liver cancer.

    According to a press release contained in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the global nanotechnology company said the report confirms that the primary endpoint of the trial was achieved in its key first indication in that BrachySil (32-P BioSilicon) was found to be both safe and well tolerated.

    BrachySil is a micron-sized nanostructured silicon particle in which radioactive 32-phosphorus (32-P) is immobilized. It is administered as a liquid suspension through a fine-gauge needle directly into tumors, the filing said. The procedure takes place under local anaesthetic and without the need for shielded rooms or robotic injectors, and patients can be discharged the next day." More here

Related News
pSivida Initiates R&D Collaboration With University Of South Australia (PR, via BioSpace)

pSivida's biosilicon does its job, then goes away
Bigger bucks for better metaphors
Pint-size pushers

Cleveland or bust

Scott Rickert: Founder, president and CEO, Nanofilm Ltd. (Crain's Cleveland Business)

    rickertNanofilm Ltd. founder Scott Rickert, 51, says there are two ways to develop a nanotechnology company - the Cleveland way and everyone else's way.

    The Cleveland way, or more appropriately, the "Northeast Ohio way," Mr. Rickert says, is to develop a product immediately to produce cash flow and make a company viable in the marketplace.

    The other way is to rely on grants, he said.

    "There are very few periods of time in Nanofilm's history that we have lost money," Mr. Rickert said proudly. He is Nanofilm' s president and CEO. More here

'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype
Living on nano time
Safety snapshot from Nanofilm

Not too sloppy for my shirt

Gap StressFree Poplin Shirt With Nano-Tex (Wired Gadget Lab)

    nanoshirtYou could say I wear my food well. I've stained shirts with everything from chocolate to wine to pasta sauce -- if it's delicious, I'll somehow ruin an expensive outfit with it. Thankfully, nanotechnology is here to help klutzes like me stay splotch free. Nano-Tex's science-meets-style fabric treatment is designed to repel liquids and messy edibles. In the laboratory (a k a the WIRED kitchen), I slopped coffee and soy sauce on my dapper blue-and-white striped button-up (available in other colors and styles). I let the splashes set for 10 minutes, then used a moist rag to easily whisk away the muck. More here
Consumer Reports reaches into the nanopants
Nanopants diary
Pogue does the pants
Nano Product Radio

Modzelewski: Dynamic and independent

Former NanoBusiness Alliance leader Mark Modzelewski was recently named VP of Strategic Opportunities for NanoDynamics.

Some of you might remember that Mark and I have had a few very public disagreements over the past few years -- each of us playing our respective roles very well, I think. (For background, go here, here and here.) A journalist's job is to question and challenge, and a business representative's job is to defend his interests. From the perspective of time, I think that too many people took these roles too much to heart -- with consequences that reverberate today.

I'm very proud of what I wrote then, and still stand by every word. However, Mark and I have been communicating over the past year or so, and have discussed some issues as two professionals. I asked Keith Blakely, NanoDynamics CEO, to give me some insight into why he chose Mark for this job. Here's what he said:

"As you know, I have spent over a quarter century on the 'business' or 'corporate' side of advanced materials and technologies. My contacts, experience, insights, and skills lie there. Mark, on the other hand, has spent considerable time on the government, financial, and academic side. Both of us, as you know, believe strongly in the power of nanotechnology but have reached that conclusion from entirely different backgrounds and experience. It should come as no surprise then that after bumping into each other at various nanotechnology meetings and functions, we were intrigued by the potential synergy of joining forces.

"Mark is an exceptionally bright, independent thinker and brings NanoDynamics one more way of looking at opportunities and creating high impact with our nanotechnology-enabled products."

I cannot argue with that. Congratulations, Mark. From one independent thinker to another, I wish you well.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Irresponsible NanoHype

Those responsible boys at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology are fired up over accusations of nanobot hype-mongering and are blasting back at the U.S. government's nanotech program. The best part is that Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder do not even need to write any commentary around it. Using U.S. science policy leaders' own words, they reveal exactly where the hype is coming from. Read the intro, Part 1 and Part 2.

I found the passage below particularly amazing:

  • Enabling the blind to see better, the lame to walk better, and the deaf to hear better
  • Curing and preventing AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other afflictions
  • Ending hunger
  • Clean, renewable energy
  • Supplementing the power of our minds, enabling us to think great thoughts, create new knowledge and gain new insights.

What molecular manufacturing nutcase is making those irresponsible claims? U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Phil Bond, the same Phil Bond who, just a month before making those comments last year, told me that it's time to "aggressively" counter nanotech misinformation.

Sounds like the patriots at CRN are carrying out the undersecretary's orders.

'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype
Commerce's call to nano arms
Blogging responsibly

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Blue Brain blues

brainBlue Brain, eh? Isn't that a condition where the sufferer begins to think an arousing thought, but then stops short and cannot follow through?

But I suspect that it's just a case of premature gesticulation among ethicists when they begin arguing over a planned "uploading" of all the brain's electrical patterns.

My dad's a shrink, but I'm not crazy enough to pretend I know all there is about the brain (hell, I don't even know much about my own). However, isn't there something more that we're not getting? Leave no molecule behind, get all the 1's and 0's ticking away correctly, and I'm still not convinced you have the equivalent of human consciousness.

As I discussed here, life is analog, not digital. I'm not so certain science has the vaguest idea how to re-create "nurture" -- the way synapses are created and killed in response to experience or can improvise to fit specific situations; nor even the "nature" part of the equation -- genetic predispositions toward specific thought processes.

Beyond the idea of neural networks, how much is really known about why and how the brain recognizes and reacts to patterns, not to mention how to re-create that digitally?

Nahh, I think there's still a long road ahead before our "consciousness" is truly understood. Just in case, though, maybe I should create another Gmail account to hold my brain digits. Perhaps after I'm gone, some basic brain functions can be stored on my computer -- like catching up on e-mail or blogging.

Those who are getting themselves all hot and aroused by Blue Brain might be a bit premature. But, you know, "it happens to everyone."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Nanotech insider information

Pssst ... Hey you. Yeah, you. Ya wanna hot nano tip? Forget about nanotechnology "trade shows," stock-chart Bollinger Bands or the price of coal in China. Pay attention to where the real deals are being made between companies that produce nanotechnology products and processes, and the companies that can use them. The item below is just one example. Most of the rest of the stuff you read about nanotech "products" about to change the world is a dog-and-pony show. Simple.

Does Your Organization Need Help Using Nanoparticles in Product Development and Formulation? (NineSigma)

    Program Objective: NineSigma, representing Nanogate Advanced Materials (NAM) is seeking proposals for joint development projects exploiting NAM’s unique capabilities and expertise in product development using nanoparticles. NAM seeks partners for joint development of final product formulations or systems using nanoparticle technology. More here
How's NanoBusiness?
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype

Anatomy lessons

Today, the dog was annoying and my phone line was being repaired, so I escaped to my local coffee shop to "work" with the other unemplo ... I mean, "freelancers."

Medical and nursing students study here, too, and I overheard a pickup line that stuck with me because I cannot decide whether it's clever, sleazy or both.

A scraggly-bearded man walks up to two female nursing students and asks: "So what part of the anatomy are you working on today?"

Cleveland's NANO Week rocks!

You wanna make an easy 150 G's? All you need to do is come up with a workable nanotechnology business idea. The International and North Coast Nanotechnology Business Idea Competitions are accepting applications now. Who knows? You win, you could find yourself in Cleveland (a city that, unlike my hometown Detroit, proved that the Rust Belt never sleeps) to accept the award as part of NANO Week, October 17-21. More information can be found here.

I do not normally run press releases on this blog, but Chris Thompson of Edward Howard & Co buttered me up with insincere flattery, writing: "Several web sites have picked up this story, but since your blog remains the most entertaining read on all things nano, I hope you'll make a mention of it in the near future."

Take note, PR/marketing professionals. Say nice things about me, and maybe I'll run your announcement. Now, Chris, about those VIP passes to the Rock Hall ...

Prizes, Prizes, Prizes
Here's the plain deal on biomedical nanobots

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NanoBot 2006 at a Detroit-area Hooters?

    What has America come to when we listen to topless women about cutting-edge scientific experiments? What's next? Will Hooters be hosting the next Nobel Prize convention? More in Wired News: Rants & Raves
Hmmm. Not a bad idea at all. Not the Nobel right away. We'd have to work up to that. Perhaps a Detroit-area Hooters could be the location of the first NanoBot trade show and convention. Attendance should not be a problem, I could skimp on fabric for the souvenir T-shirts and I hear they serve some pretty good chicken. Anybody game?

A new wrinkle for Eddie Bauer
Wired News runs with THONG
Naked aggression

Steve Jobs' commencement speech inspires

Now, THAT is probably one of the most-inspiring speeches I've read in a long time. Sure, there may be a few cliches in there for you academics who sit through painful hours of commencement speeches every year. I suffer under no such burden. I need to print it out and frame it in my office just to remind myself what the hell I'm doing. The full version can be found here, where he also discusses how getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to him.

'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype

My old colleague Jeff Karoub, whom I had a hand in hiring about four years and a lifetime ago, must be making his presence felt at Crain's Detroit Business, where he is now managing editor. Crain's Detroit covered the 24th Annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in Ann Arbor, where panelists asked and answered the loaded question: “What’s Real and What’s Hype in Small Tech.” Nanofilm CEO Scott Rickert dusted off the "nano-robot" punching bag as an example of "hype" -- at least, that's the way the story made it appear.

    For example, Rickert said nano-robots aren’t much more than science fiction that exists in “someone’s imagination.” But others are real and provide solid opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. More here
I'll ask the question again: Who exactly is hyping nanobots? And how exactly is the longer-term vision of molecular manufacturing -- the vision that truly gets the public excited about nanotech -- worth singling out as "hype" as opposed to, say, Scotchgard renamed nano, "energy" patches, questionable "nanofilters," muscle potions or over-the-top investment promotions? Just to name a few off the top of my head. I'm wondering whether they talked about some of the real hype in small tech.

Again to his credit, Ardesta CEO Rick Snyder (my former big boss for whom I retain a great deal of respect), cut through some of the garbage to mention one good thing about hype: "In many cases, it is spawning a responsible discussion of health and societal issues," he said.

And, of course, one of only a handful of news "organizations" that hosts this kind of discussion is ... well ... NanoBot.

Related News
Nanotech: "Hype or Reality?" (complexifly flickr)

NanoBot's discard pile
Nanobots: Possible only when convenient
Where is the hype?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tomorrow Ever Knows


I've neglected to promote the first three incarnations of the Carnival of Tomorrow at The Speculist, so make sure you look at all the futuristic, speculative goodies in 4.0. Eye-rubbing wonders, bionic diesel vehicles, apocalypse delayed and efficient solar power all await -- along with the cool image above.

My favorite year!

maxbirthday   maxtunnel

maxslideHappy first birthday, Max! You help me see the little things.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Europe sees some nano 'action'

Looking small, thinking big – keeping Europe at the forefront of nanotechnology (Welcomeurope)

    The European Commission has today announced the ways in which it intends to keep Europe at the forefront of the fast-moving field of nanotechnology in a safe and responsible way.

    Applications of nanotechnology – activities at the level of atoms and molecules – are bringing a range of benefits including more effective ways of delivering drugs to treat diseases, faster computer processors and more efficient solar cells. An action plan proposes measures to be taken at national and European level to strengthen research in this area and develop useful products and services. More here

Survey aims to re-create creativity
The sounds (and videos) of science
Here's to Euro health in 2020

Attention nano stakeholders: Make your voice heard

Many of my recent posts (here, here and here) have to do with scientists communicating effectively with citizens, and concerned citizens' desire to have a voice in how science and technology develops.

Anybody who is interested in having his or her voice heard might want to attend this first meeting, of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Board of Scientific Counselors Nanotechnology Working Group on Friday, June 24 in Research Triangle Park, NC. It's open to the public and will also be Webcast. More details on the group can be found here, select "Advisory Boards & Committees."

This meeting is significant in that it's the first official opportunity for the general public to speak to government agencies about their concerns over health effects of nanomaterials. The meeting is going to be mostly federal agencies discussing nano efforts in their organizations, but there will be time allotted for public comment.

The NTP's Kristina Thayer tells me the the toxicology program is an "interagency program whose mission is to evaluate agents of public health concern by developing and applying the tools of modern toxicology and molecular biology. This involves conducting toxicological evaluations of substances of public health concern, developing and validating improved (sensitive, specific, rapid) testing methods, developing approaches and generating data to strengthen the science base for risk assessment, and communicating with all stakeholders."

The Nanotechnology Working Group was created specificically to address public concern and disseminate information to all stakeholders.

I repeated "stakeholders" on purpose. That's you. All of you. From THONG to thientist ... um ... scientist. Here's the advantage of living in a democracy as opposed to, well, not.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Naked aggression

Here are some snippets of reaction to my Wired News article: "When Nanopants Attack." I'll let them speak for themselves, but let me just offer a simple thought for scientists who do not believe they need to be paying attention to this.

Yes, the protesters have their facts wrong in so many ways (most of which has already been pointed out on this blog over the past couple of years), but does that not place the burden on you to make sure the general public understands what it is you're really doing? And what you're really selling? And what you really do not yet know about nanomaterial toxicity?

In any revolution, it's almost always the intellectuals who are first to be carted away.

Now, here's what others are saying:

    "This is not helping our future it is only showing how stupid people can be."

    I suppose it doesn't hurt to bring up issues, but I can't help but notice these are zealots leading the cause of environmental awareness.

    "I think we all agree that it would be bad for nanocytes to be roaming freely through the environment, but the nanowhiskers in Eddie Bauer pants are not self-replicating entities. People don't understand that uncontrolled self-replicating monsters are far more likely to be developed if this is all pushed underground. ... Anybody who thinks that China and other high tech players are going to sign on to any form of nano nonproliferation treaty are gravely mistaken. While we wait, the sun rises in the East." More here

    It’s just a bunch of neo-luddites operating under the guise of “environmentalism” trying to stop the only technology that will actually answer all their calls for “renewable, clean, green” technology that allows the earth, humanity and our essential tool using consumerism to exist in harmony. More here
    Not to put too fine a point on it…

    …but what a bunch of ridiculous morons. No, really, morons — the kind of ignorant people who think “natural” means “safe” [or anything at all], that Man’s relationship with nature is all about unknowable deep wholistic truths unattainable by mere mortal men [as if there was such a thing as “Man”, “relationship” and “truth”], and that they’re being oppressed and endangered… by marketing jargon. About laundry. More here

Better watch your backside ... beware the pants
Nanopants miss the Bullseye
Nanopants: 'Century City' style
Nanopants diary

Friday, June 10, 2005

Nano World: Stem cell tag team

Blogger's Note: UPI's Charles Choi gives us another sneak preview into his latest Nano World column, appearing Monday. -- Howard

choiThis week I'm writing about how the cutting-edge science of nanotechnology is now helping advance the equally pioneering new field of stem cell research.

Technologies include capsules that help analyze stem cells and nanofibrous scaffolds that help stem cells grow.

Nanomedicine journal to debut in March
Mr. Nano, come here. I want you!

Stop dialoguing and get back to work

End this two-way process
Scientists are too busy discovering hard facts to engage the public in constant dialogue, says John Warren
(Education Guardian)

    As a scientist in the 21st century I am not only expected to unravel the mysteries of the universe, but also to engage the public in dialogue. Unlike my predecessors, who were simply encouraged to go forth and educate the masses - or more politely - "enhance the public's understanding of science", I am told to be involved in a two-way process; so let's kick-off.

    What do you wish to discuss, sub-atomic partials, the human genome or nanotechnology? Sorry, I can't help you there, they are not my field. Before I could get involved in any worthwhile dialogue on these topics, I would need to do some reading or talk to an expert. Yes, I would need to 'enhance my understanding of science'. I don't have any problem with that, but no, that is old hat, we must have a two-way process. The trouble is, for a meaningful two-way discussion to occur there must be at least some understanding on the part of the non-specialist.

    Let me give you an example of the problem. I was recently involved in a government-funded project that was designed to find out how much the public values biodiversity (and hence how much they would be willing to pay to support nature reserves, or more environmentally friendly farming and so on). The problem with this is that many members of the public have virtually no understanding of what biodiversity is. More here

The abstract 'public' is right here
You can trace time

I'm quitting journalism, studying nanotech


Community college courses in high school cut time at UCD in half (The California Aggie)

    She took only 13 units during her first quarter, but soon realized that she could graduate within two years if she scheduled her classes strategically. Timoshek, a declared chemistry major with a minor in psychology, and began to take more units, averaging about 18 per quarter.

    People who lived with her in the residence hall did not believe she had accomplished so much so soon, she said. Most of her friends, Timoshek said, are not amazed by the fact that she’s an “overachiever,” which she’s content with.

    "I don’t want to come off as cocky," she said.

    In addition to juggling labs and other coursework, she found a position in a research lab working in the field of nanotechnology under leadership of Frank Osterloh.

    Osterloh said this past quarter, Timoshek has been helping with a project looking at the number of linkers needed to connect two gold nanoparticles. He said her passion for chemistry is evident in the work she contributes to the lab, where she began last summer.

    She has a strong work ethic,” Osterloh said. “She always comes in interested in her work." More here

Dear NanoBot: I'm sold on nano, but now what?
Wilkes-Barre's Camp Nano
Nano on top of Ol' Smoky

Wired News runs with THONG

It has danger, it has romance, it has nanopants. It's the feel-good hit of the day.

When Nanopants Attack (By Howard Lovy, Wired News)

    On a chilly Chicago afternoon in early May, environmental activists sauntered into the Eddie Bauer store on Michigan Avenue, headed to the broad storefront windows opening out on the Magnificent Mile and proceeded to take off their clothes.

    The strip show aimed to expose more than skin: Activists hoped to lay bare growing allegations of the toxic dangers of nanotechnology. The demonstrators bore the message in slogans painted on their bodies, proclaiming "Eddie Bauer hazard" and "Expose the truth about nanotech," among other things, in light of the clothing company's embrace of nanotech in its recent line of stain-resistant "nanopants." More here

Update: And now it's entered the Slashdot-o-sphere

A new wrinkle for Eddie Bauer
QuoteBot: Naked protests work
Nano industry hits bottom

Little white coat lies

One-third of scientists admit to research violations (Star Tribune)

    A third of the scientists in a nationwide survey admitted to violating some of the bedrock rules of scientific research, according to a report by a team of Minnesota researchers.

    The survey, of more than 3,200 U.S. scientists, found that hardly anyone admitted to falsifying data outright.

    But a surprising 33 percent confessed to other kinds of misconduct -- such as claiming credit for someone else's work, or changing results because of pressure from a study's sponsor.

    The survey indicates that the misconduct involves more than a 'few bad apples,' said the lead author, Brian Martinson.

    Martinson is a sociologist at the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Bloomington." More here (free registration required)

What up with BBC doc?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

You can trace time

Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station column on personal fabricators mentions Neil Gershenfeld's new book, FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop--From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. It reminded me of a fascinating news conference the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms gave in late March. I was taking care of my son, with CSPAN on in the background, when I found myself enthralled by Gershenfeld's talk (there's a RealPlayer link here, but it's not working for me, for some reason.)

What really impressed me was what he said toward the end. This isn't an exact quote, but I quickly scribbled down the essence of what he said. The people who should be paying attention to his work are not the ones who read Science and Nature. Those publications were not written for those who ultimately will accept or reject new technological concepts.

This is the assumption I wake up with every day -- that there is a crucial need for as many people as possible to understand that we all, in our lifetimes, will experience vast technological changes that will forever alter the way we interact with our environment, with one another and with our own bodies. It will not be too long before we rub our eyes, look around and wonder what happened to the world in which we were born.

At times, I blog out of shear frustration over how inadequately I see these changes being covered by most of the science and technology publications and Web sites I read. They're either tailored toward a closed-in set of technogeeks who speak the same code understood by nobody, or written in language that parrots the scientists and oh so impresses themselves, yet is impenetrable to a broad audience.

At the end of Gershenfeld's talk, I blurted out "Yes!" And that's when my then-9-month-old son learned that his father was crazy. He was bound to find out eventually.

Related Story
The Dream Factory: (Wired, Dec. 2004)

The abstract 'public' is right here
The sounds (and videos) of science
Images of the possible
Remember, we know more than you do


"(The university) is inclined nowadays to develop only disciplines such as nanotechnology and hotel administration, which bring in money to the university."

Hebrew University history professor Esther Cohen
Quoted in Haaretz on the "slim" chances of the university developing the field of women's history

Why nanobusiness as usual with China?

Take a look at the story below and tell me whether you're uncomfortable with nanotech companies worldwide doing business in China. A lot of business. In fact, China is truly the land of opportunity for nanotech companies, where their products are likely to reach consumers sooner -- from nanocatalysts for fuel to drug delivery devices.

This is not a rhetorical question. I've had very mixed feelings on this issue since 1989, when I found myself yelling at the TV in outrage as I watched Brent Scowcroft toasting the Chinese leadership so soon after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

And the arguments over which dictatorial regimes to punish with economic sanctions are too wrapped up in U.S. politics to make any kind of sense. Liberals credit sanctions for toppling apartheid in South Africa, yet blame sanctions for impoverishing Cuba. Business-friendly conservatives argue in almost all cases that economic engagement with the people living under dictatorships is the surest way to change a society from within -- that is, unless we're talking about Cuba.

Even though it's a question that's broader than our own nano world, I still think this issue should be discussed among nanotechnology's other "societal and ethical implications."

China defector can stay - Australia minister (Reuters)

    "A senior Australian minister said on Thursday that a Chinese diplomatic defector pleading for political asylum in Australia is in no danger of being sent home.

    Chen Yonglin, a 37-year-old political affairs consul at China's Sydney consulate, has told Australian authorities he fears for his family's safety and would rather die than return to China.

    'Mr Chen is in Australia, he is being dealt with in accordance with the ordinary process of Australian immigration law and he is at no risk of being sent back to China,' Health Minister Tony Abbott, a close ally of Prime Minister John Howard, told reporters.

    Howard himself tried to calm concerns that Chen's fate might be influenced by Canberra's booming trade and economic ties with Beijing.

    'Let me simply say that, just as in relation to the U.S., we have steadfastly refused to mix trade with politics and strategy and national security -- so it is in relation to China, and I'm sure that our Chinese friends will know that,' Howard told a business lunch in Sydney.

    China, which is Australia's third-largest trading partner with annual trade worth almost A$29 billion (more than $22 billion), is in talks with Canberra on a free trade deal and a separate pact to import Australian uranium." More here

People-to-People's State Partnership
'Dual-use' nano vs. export controls
China's Great NanoLeap Forward
Sleeping nanogiant stirs
U.S. to China: Let's share power
China, garment workers and nanotechnology

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Please stand by

I see that other bloggers apologize to their readers if they skip a day or a few hours, so I'll do that here. Sorry.

It's a good thing, though. I'm doing some work for money for a change. NanoBot readers will, of course, be alerted to Lovy sightings in other publications and will get some of the "cutting-room floor" stuff if it isn't too embarrassing. I'll be back to blogging soon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Kroto kasts a spell

Joke of the day from buckyball co-discoverer Sir Harry Kroto, via Richard Jones: "After going through a spell-checker his name comes out as 'Sir Harlot Crouton.'"

Well, that should spell "job security" for nanotech copy editors. Wait ...

Greatest American Heroes

The Discovery Channel and AOL are using a scientific method to determine who exactly is the Greatest American of All Time: They're taking an online poll, of course.

It's narrowed down to 100, so now each candidate is going to be profiled in a four-part weekly show. But no purchase is necessary. You can see the candidates and voice your opinions on Discovery's blog.

Among the nominees that might interest NanoBot readers:

Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Bill Gates, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Jonas Salk, Carl Sagan and, of course, Tom Cruise ("Minority Report" featured some cool nano.)

The abstract 'public' is right here

"Open dialog with the media and the public would make sure that people did not see nanotechnology as a threat or build up irrational fears," says risk expert Christoph Lauterwasser of the Allianz Center for Technology. I agree. NanoBot may be a one-man media outlet, but it's the only one that's devoted to public understanding of nanotechnology and that can claim a broad readership of environmentalists, policymakers, business leaders, scientists, innovators, educators, students ... and the "public" that's so often referred to in the abstract. They're all here. Let's talk.

A new wrinkle for Eddie Bauer
You say you want an evolution ...
NanoBot's discard pile

Monday, June 06, 2005

News from the Bottom: The Backstory

Blogger's Note: As a bottom-feeder, myself, I of course had to get the lowdown on "News from the Bottom". When I discovered that, no, it was not a porn site, I reluctantly continued my investigations, primarily to determine whether these damned college kids are any threat to me. Aren't they supposed to be doing a lot of ("bottoms-up") drinking and dancing? I watch MTV, I know what college kids are supposed to do. But, no, these young folks decided to (imagine me saying this in a high-pitched mocking tone) "think about nanotech's implications." What a bunch of dorks. Anyway, I decided to let them speak for themselves. This is the only college bottom I'd ever hope to attract -- even back in my own dorky college days. -- Howard

By Ashley Shew
Associate Editor
News from the Bottom

News from the Bottom - the Only Online Student Journal of Nanotechnology's Implications - is proud to feature the work of students and non-academics on the societal, ethical, legal, epistemological, and historical implications and aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Written and edited by students, News from the Bottom's name refers to two things: Feynman's "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" speech envisioning nanotechnology and the bottom rung of the academic ladder (at which we are operating).

News from the Bottom is supported through the help of University of South Carolina's Honors College and NanoCenter. Founding editor Jamie McIntyre has experience in journalism and on research in the societal implications of nanotechnology. She positioned the journal to address a variety of issues with nanotechnology and to give voice to people of many levels.

Papers in Volume 1 of News from the Bottom come from a very varied group of people: from a law student who spent 20 years working in the electronics industry to we undergraduates who try to envision the nanoscale. The content in each issue has no less variety. Issue 2 features papers of students thinking about the medical implications of nanotechnology, about the way technological language can be incorporated into English language courses, about a code of ethics for nanotechnology, and about Indian music playing the nanoscale.

We invite papers from all levels of student and from regular joes. We're interested in incorporating voices that might not otherwise have a venue into a discussion on nanotechnology. We're students, and we're thinking about this stuff too.

Please check out News from the Bottom at http://schc.sc.edu/nfb/ or email us at NanoEditors@gmail.com.

Buckyball gangs goo up the ground

Buckyballs could restrict growth of soil bacteria (nanotechweb.org)

    Researchers at Rice University and Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have found that the nano-C60 aggregates that may form when C60 molecules are exposed to water can have a detrimental effect on soil bacteria. Under certain conditions, the aggregates restricted the bacteria’s growth and respiration rates.

    “We have found that these C60 aggregates are pretty good antibacterial materials,” said Joseph Hughes of Georgia Tech. “It may be possible to harness that for tremendously good applications, but it could also have impacts on ecosystem health.”

    ... Current guidelines in the US for the handling and disposal of buckyballs are based on the properties of bulk carbon black. But Hughes says that buckyballs have different properties from this bulk material and should be treated differently.

    “As information becomes available, we have to be ready to modify these regulations and best practices for safety,” said Hughes. “If we’re doing complementary studies that help to support this line of new materials and integrate those into human safety regulations, then the industry is going to be better off and the environment is going to be better off.” More here

A future filled with fullerenes?
When nanotubes meet buckyballs ...
The nano-brain barrier

Survey aims to re-create creativity

Survey seeks top scientists for study of research creativity and innovation (EurekAlert)

    Who's doing the most innovative and important research in the fields of human genetics and nanotechnology? A team of U.S. and European researchers will be asking that question through a survey that 1,200 leading scientists, industrial researchers, editors and research program directors will be receiving in June.

    The questionnaire is part of an 18-month study to determine what factors lead to especially innovative and important research -- with a goal of determining what institutions might do to foster it.

    The Project on Creative Capabilities and the Promotion of Highly Innovative Research (CREA) is being carried out by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in Germany, the Technology Policy and Assessment Center (TPAC) in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, and Sussex University's Science and Technology Policy Research Unit in the United Kingdom.

    Using the results of the survey, the researcher team aims to identify about 60 scientists and research teams on both sides of the Atlantic that are responsible for creative research that has produced innovative breakthroughs in human genetics and nanotechnology. Using in-depth interviews with the individuals and systematic studies of scientific productivity, the CREA study will then attempt to determine the factors, both personal and environmental, that helped those researchers work so effectively. More here

'Swarm,' 'Prey,' whatever ...
Europe fires its nano-engines, aims at America
NanoSurvey says ...
The people want the pants

People-to-People's State Partnership

China, US establish Nano-tech institute (Xinhua)

    A Sino-American institute specialized in nanometer-related technology will be set up in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, delegates from both sides announced Monday.

    The institute, jointly sponsored by Zhejiang Provincial People's Government, Zhejiang University and the US-based California Nano systems Institute (CNSI), will include eight research centers in the fields of information technology, biomedical and the study at molecule and nanometer scale.

    With an investment of 250 million yuan (30.1 million US dollars), the institute, located in the Zhejiang University, will also incubate and industrialize its research results. More here

RatBot strikes again
'Dual-use' nano vs. export controls
China's Great NanoLeap Forward

Innovation knows no regulation

Arrowhead Research Corp. and Stanford University have the right idea. The best way to beat government regulations or bans on scientific research is to simply innovate around them.

Update: Instapundit has more.

Straight into my nano heart
Regulate this!
Read this if you're a real American

Sunday, June 05, 2005

NanoBot's discard pile

Blogger's Note: This is one of many false starts that ended up suffering the digital equivalent of being ripped out of the typewriter, crumbled up and tossed in the garbage where it belonged. This blog is, among many things, also my notebook for later reference, so I'll burden you every once in a while with some of my outtakes. Be kind. Remember, I rejected it, too. -- Howard

"This is March 31, right?"


"March 31. This is March 31, right?"

A few minutes earlier, I had climbed into my interrogator's taxi at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Unshaven and appearing as though he had been parked there all night, the cabbie jerked his head toward the rear-view mirror to see who was in his car. He looked disoriented, as if he had just materialized into this body and into this time, like Scott Bakula's character in the science fiction series "Quantum Leap."

Or maybe it was me who was disoriented. I had just arrived from Detroit to get what many saw as my comeuppance with some pretty powerful science policy leaders.

Under "Quantum Leap" rules, the first thing you do when you materialize is to figure out "who" and "when" you are without giving yourself away as a body-switching time traveler. I caught on to this immediately. I am not a time traveler, myself, but my teenage daughter, who has a form of autism, most certainly is. The first thing she said when her baby sister was born was, "This is what Sarah looked like when she was a baby."

"March 31, 2004," I replied to the cabbie, making sure to emphasize the year, since I was sure that was the vital information he was seeking. I wasn't going to guess what was happening in my cab driver's internal world. I, too, am a man who lives mostly inside his own head, so I'm more accepting than most people of those who blurt out only the syllables that rise to the surface.

The cab pulled onto a highway on-ramp, then my driver slammed on his brakes. He looked up at me through the mirror and wordlessly gestured toward the traffic jam ahead, as if this is the only explanation that I needed. Then he told me that it'd be best if I got out of the cab and took a subway. I just deadpanned. Nothing really surprises me anymore. I'm getting too old to be shocked even at a cabbie who hates to drive in traffic jams. My silence was his answer, so he drove on – he in his traffic jam, and me in my own internal one.

You see, I was stuck inside my own private Zeno's Paradox – trapped in the infinite steps between 0 and 1.

Zeno was the crafty ancient Greek who proved that motion is impossible if you assume that space and time can be subdivided infinitely many times. Zeno also proved that you can never leave a room because there are an infinite number of fractional distances to cross along the way.

I was thinking a great deal about Zeno's Paradox then because I was reading "The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity," by Amir D. Aczel. It was about how mathematician Georg Cantor was consumed with paralyzing depression every time his work became trapped in that same continuum of infinite interdependent realms.

The book connected with me like none other had in years. Before devoting myself to "nanotech journalism," my previous obsession was with Judaism. It infuses just about every cell of my body – the stories of the Holocaust from my survivor relatives, the meanings of Judaism in modern life, my own fall from ritual. When you're a writer, you get to turn your obsessions into careers. I was managing editor for a Jewish wire service in New York before I turned my attention from the great to the small. But it wasn't until I read "Aleph" that I was able to tie quantum physics together with Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

Later, my discovery of Kabbalah/quantum/nano connection would open up new insights for me, and open some of my work up to ridicule.

Whether my obsession with nanotech, and in my particular way of writing about it, is sickness or a necessary character trait of a good journalist, I have no idea. Later that year, when I won a journalism award from the Foresight Institute, a nanotechnology think tank, I told the group, "I'm obsessed with nanotechnology in the same way that 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."

So, riding under the influence of Zeno, I thought of my career as this paradox. I thought of my new "spirit mythical monster," the nanobot, as entwined mysteriously with my life so far on auto pilot, my career seeming to move but never arriving, of the Kabbalah and its images of steps leading to Ein Sof, the unobtainable infinite, of Zeno. Under NanoBot/Zeno logic, nothing should really exist because it could never be finished, and nobody could ever go anywhere, since you can never really get from one end to another. Yet, somehow, a great miracle happens here as it arrives to become itself.

Slam. Screech. My cabbie waved his hands forward, gesturing at the traffic. I shrugged at him. "You trouble," he said.

Yeah, I thought. I trouble. Tell me about it.

I had spent the previous three years helping to launch a magazine that covered "nanotechnology." I thought I knew what that was way back in '01. But in my quest for its meaning, I ended up caught in a continuum of my own -- between competing definitions of "nanotechnology" that never quite met, making quantum leaps from one end of nanotechnology theory and practice to another.

My naivette and relative lack of education was, I discovered, an advantage as a journalist, since I came with no baggage, no preconceived ideas of what nanotech "is" and "is not." I was under the impression that with nanotech, all things are possible. But as I explored the "nano world" and its internal divisions, I discovered that it was not only a contest of competing methodologies. It was a contest of competing "mythologies." "My method is correct, yours is a myth and defies the laws of physics." That's how scientists argue. There are no two methods. My world is my world, and if you propose a method from another, you are not only wrong, but you are also dangerous – dangerous because you spread "myths," dangerous because what you say is "possible" will be misused by those who would like to put a stop to all of our work, and dangerous because it is not mine.

But the argument about what science "is" and "is not" goes further back than this dawn of the nano age. Like most worthwhile ideas that have ever been pondered, the ancient Greeks thought about it first. Once upon a time, there lived a philosopher named Democritus. And Democritus got this crazy idea that all matter is composed of individual particles he called "atoms." He was dismissed as a kook and humankind had to wait another two-and-a-half millennia before realizing Democritus got it right, after all – at least, some of the basic concepts.

Around the same time there was Plato. In Plato's “Republic,” Socrates describes the limits of human understanding through the allegory of a cave in which we are all bound prisoners, gazing at shadows of objects cast by distant fire. We mistake the shadows for the objects, themselves, since that is all our limited senses can detect. The goal of enlightenment, Plato argued, is to look beyond the shadows to find the object’s true form.

Democritus, the materialist, breaks it all down to its component parts -- atom literally means “indivisible” -- vs. Plato the spiritualist, who saw mankind’s perception of reality as merely shadows cast by the world’s true forms that he had reasoned into being. To cast it in modern terms, Democritus is the engineer, the biologist, the chemist, who deals with the solid and tangible. Plato is the physicist, who reasons forces into being based on extrapolation from snippets of observable phenomena.

You could say that Eric Drexler, whose 1986 "Engines of Creation” launched nanotech as a modern science, is a modern Plato, while Rick Smalley, America’s preeminent materials scientist, co-discoverer of the buckyball, is a modern-day Democritus. Today, Democritus rules. However, if you look at the anti-nanotech movement, and the logic it employs, you can see the seeds of Plato taking root. What is "unseen" is presented as a reason to fear. Nanotech's true form, they say, is evil if left unchecked.

But on this day, on March 31, 2004, I was no closer to finding nanotech's true form. Because of the random acts of journalism I had been committing the previous year, I was in big trouble. Leading government officials – the ones who set science policy for the United States – awaited me at the conference center in D.C., and I knew they were going to have a few things to say to me. Not very nice things.

You see, 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. And it has taken me on some wild rides into the nano realm.

Yes, I thought from the back of my cab. I'm a journalist. But maybe not a very good one. I knew that at some time in the future, I would need to write about this day. And I've already begun it with a journalism cliché – a writer talking about his cab ride. That's what lazy reporters do on deadline, grabbing the first "real" person they see for comment – often the cab drivers who take them from the airport to the hotel.

We arrive, and he says, "I'm gonna push you out of this car."

And those were the last words I heard before I passed once more through the looking glass and into the bizarre quantum realm of political nanotechnology.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The sounds (and videos) of science

Athenaweb – a portal for audiovisual information on science is launched by the European Commission (eGov Monitor)

    nanogermanThe European Commission, in association with a number of professional media and science organisations, is launching an innovative web portal designed for audiovisual and scientific communities in Europe, to support their work in promoting and communicating about science. Functions of this new platform include an electronic library of science programmes, an online agenda of key events, a European science news service and a forum for co-productions and partnerships.

    Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research said “Most European citizens get their information from television, including on science and research issues. We need to make sure that the information available is of the highest possible quality. AthenaWeb is an innovative response to some of the problems faced when communicating about science and technology.” More here

I have not done a thorough search yet, but there's a link from the site's homepage (free registration required) to a video called "The Principle of Nanotechnology." Unfortunately for me, I do not speak German (although listening to the narrative does give me chills. Can't help it.)

Here's to Euro health in 2020
Sprechen sie nano?
EU news service grows small coverage

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ghosts of 'obstructionist' past

medGadget is highlighting a New York Times piece (free registration required) that takes a look at the history of "scientific obstructionism in America." History: Is it "bunk," or are we condemned to repeat it?

A new wrinkle for Eddie Bauer
Nano is the new GM
'Nano? We don't need no stinking nano'

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Please tip the nano help

This is not a formal "pledge drive," but times are bad in the House of 'Bot. If you value the service I provide, please consider hitting my tip jar. Thank you, fellow nano nuts!

I'm amazed at the time-consuming process of being treated like a piece of dirt in this new edge-of-poverty world I'm discovering. It's no wonder it's difficult for the poor to bootstrap themselves out of it. The hoops you're forced to jump through. Not feeling very humorous these days.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Collaborative NanoBot Blueprint


In the new spirit of open access research, I sent Damian my drawing of a happy nanobot. Damian improved on my concept here. Collaborative nanotech research is alive and well through GE ad campaigns.

Imagination at Work