Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nanobots 'Lost' in 'The Dark Tower'

The makers of ABC's "Lost" have "laughed off the idea that the monster is just a cloud nanobot," according to news reports. Hmm. Sure looked like one to me (althought the only nanobot swarm I have ever "seen" was on the cover of Michael Crichton's "Prey").

Apparently, the writers of "Lost" also pen comic books. And, coming soon, Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series discovers there are other worlds than books and will appear in Marvel Comics.

The connection? I'm getting to it.

The plotline and characters in "Lost" are eerily similar to those in the "Dark Tower."

Secret nanotech research 'Lost' in flight
'Lost' in nanobot space
From the Dark Tower of my memory

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Taking toxicity out of quantum dots

In the "don't like nanotox conclusions, then wait for the next study" department, this report says quantum dots are now safe to sail inside the body. A year or so back, during a talk I gave to a group of eye specialists on nanotech ophthalmologic applications, a guy from Pfizer told me that quantum dots are too toxic for a major drug company to work with. That was the common perception at the time, anyway.

Quantum Dots Pose Minimal Risk To Cells in Tests Conducted By Federal Lab (By Jennifer Rocha, Nano World News)

Using an advanced toxicogenomics tool to study quantum dots, Fanqing Frank Chen, PhD, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and his team (including first author Tingting Zhang) reported that quantum dots pose little impact to cells.

These findings provide further evidence that quantum dots that enter a cell can provide many benefits, such as researching the inside of cells and identifying cancer cells to deliver treatment. Dr. Chen tells NWN, "The coating chemistry allows the quantum dots to be used for almost all in vitro biological applications. The whole genome analysis paves way for in vivo application of quantum dots." More here

And, just an aside here, when Dr. Chen is not working on making life better for us Earthbound humans, he's on the scientific advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation, a group dedicated to launching humanity off this dirty little blue marble.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Crab case can make you safe

Not Just for Eatin': Blue Crab Nano-Sensor Detects Dangerous Substances (A. James Clark School of Engineering)

A substance found in crab shells is the key component in a nanoscale sensor system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations. More here

How Thor the black lab can save the Earth

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Indigestible nanotech claim

In a widely circulated report by the Chicago Tribune's Jon Van, Lack of nanotech safety research 'serious', Andrew Maynard, a science adviser to the Woodrow Wilson Center's project on emerging nanotechnologies, is quoted as saying:

"No projects are specifically addressing the potential effects of nanomaterials in the gastrointestinal tract. Given the large number of current nanoproducts that are supposed to be eaten, such as food and nutritional supplements, that is a curious and serious omission."

A simple search reveals this claim to be false. Here are only a few I had time to find:

  • Gastrointestinal persorption and tissue distribution of differently sized colloidal gold nanoparticles
  • Nanoparticle uptake by the rat gastrointestinal mucosa: quantitation and particle size dependency
  • Preliminary Results on the Effects of Oral Administration of Two Types of Nanoparticles in the Rat
  • Oral uptake and translocation of a polylysine dendrimer with a lipid surface
  • Enhanced oral uptake of tomato lectin-conjugated nanoparticles in the rat
  • Factors affecting the oral uptake and translocation of polystyrene nanoparticles: histological and analytical evidence
  • Mucoadhesion of polystyrene nanoparticles having surface hydrophilic polymeric chains in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Monday, July 24, 2006

    Officially sanctioned nanotech speculation

    roco"After 2015-2020, the field will expand to include molecular nanosystems--heterogeneous networks in which molecules and supramolecular structures serve as distinct devices. The proteins inside cells work together this way, but whereas biological systems are water-based and markedly temperature-sensitive, these molecular nanosystems will be able to operate in a far wider range of environments and should be much faster. Computers and robots could be reduced to extraordinarily small sizes. Medical applications might be as ambitious as new types of genetic therapies and antiaging treatments. New interfaces linking people directly to electronics could change telecommunications."

    Mihail C. Roco, senior adviser for nanotechnology to the National Science Foundation and a key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, writing in the August 2006 issue of Scientific American

    If it isn't materials, it's immaterial
    NanoBot's Discard Pile, Part 2
    Being Mike Roco

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Nanotech's 'difficult foe'

    This mad scientist is a physics graduate student at McGill University. Her research goal is to "better understand interactions between molecules and insulators to assist in the design and implementation of a molecular electronics device."

    Looks to me like she is also learning something just as important -- the interaction between her real work and the way the public perceives it. She writes:

    Moreover, with all of the increasing press "Nano" is getting, especially on the negative side, it will be crucial to the field of nanotechnology and nanoscience (I'm considering the -science as less applied work not likely to directly lead to commercialization) to provide information on the heath and safety of products coming to market. Otherwise, public paranoia is likely to develop which could shut down perfectly safe and viable technologies before they ever get a chance to mature. Misinformation, or worse, lack of information is a difficult foe to fight. More here

    Perceptive nano
    Perception is de facto nano fact

    Nanotech is happy-tech

    Nanotech can make those you love happy and hopeful.


    I do not think I am cutting-edge enough to understand this. I am feeling very 40. Nano-Fest destiny?

    Let the nanotech patent games begin

    Attention patent lawyers: Is this the first wave of the nanotech lawyer invasion? Initial nanopharma products will be reformulations of existing drugs.

    Elan Sues Abraxis Bioscience for Patent Infringement on Cancer Drug (AP)

    Irish drug maker Elan Corp. has accused rival Abraxis Bioscience Inc. of infringing its patents by selling the breast cancer treatment Abraxane.

    A lawsuit filed Wednesday in a Delaware federal court says Abraxane, a nano-particle formulation of paclitaxel, trespasses on two patents issued in the 1990s that cover methods of formulating anticancer drugs.

    Abraxis is a Los Angeles-based biopharmaceutical company formed by the merger of American Pharmaceutical Partners and American BioScience. It recorded $134 million in Abraxane sales in 2005, the first year the drug was approved as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer. More here

    I wrote about Abraxane for The Scientist last year. Searching through my files, I just noticed an odd coincidence. It looks like a writer from The Times of London and I think so much alike, we use practically the same wording -- poor sod.

    My wording:

    Marketed by American Pharmaceutical Partners, Abraxane is the anticancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol), reengineered and reborn into a nanoparticle that hitches a ride on albumin, a protein already found in the body. Patrick Soon-Shiong, American Pharmaceutical's executive chair, says this is the first example of a nanoparticle-coupled human protein. The albumin molecule allows paclitaxel to cross blood-vessel walls to deliver the drug to where it's needed. More here

    The Times' wording:

    The breast cancer drug Abraxane, recently approved in America, is actually the existing anti-cancer drug Taxol re-engineered into a nanoparticle. This hitches a ride on the protein albumin, which is already in the body, and allows the drug to cross blood-vessel walls to the cancer. More here

    Song of Soon-Shiong
    Abraxane again
    A Spoonful of Nano
    Nanoparticles clobber cancer with sneak attack

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Roxxi the Foxxi 'Bot has the cure

    When Pam Omidyar was a research assistant in an immunology lab back in 1990, she would grow cancer cells in a lab by day and relax with some video games by night. Now, she combines both worlds at HopeLab, a nonprofit she founded in 2001.

    The result is Re-Mission, a video game for cancer patients featuring a "microscopic, yet intrepid, nanobot named Roxxi" who blasts away cancer cells. The 10-minute video above explains the research that went into Re-Mission's creation.

    There have been a lot of stories written about Re-Mission lately, each one explaining what a wonderful idea this is. But this one from IGN also looks at it from the perspective of, well, is it a good video game?

    News at a Clancy
    Would 'Professor Z' get a government grant?

    Cramer not mad about Headwaters

    CNBC's Jim Cramer is "in a flummox," so the "Mad Money" magnate turned to Headwaters Inc. CEO Kirk Bensen for some unflummoxing. Headwaters does many things, among them is a better (nano) way of making catalysts that cuts down on waste and makes coal-to-gas technology more efficient. (I explained the technology in more detail here.)

    "What the heck are all these alternative energy companies doing at a 52-week low?," asks Cramer in this video clip. A comparatively mild-mannered Bensen gave an honest answer that just did not satisfy "C."

    So, the verdict: "Don't buy, Don't buy." "Damn that's tough," Cramer says. "I wanted that one to be a good one."

    Philippines to launch NanoPower Revolution
    Philippines to launch NanoPower Revolution: Part II
    Headwaters Inc. makes nano waves

    Celine sings 'nanotechnology' in seaside serenade

    Have you ever, like me, let your mind wander during that semiconscious period just before sleep, that if only you could listen to the voice of Celine Dion serenading you on the beach with her musical interpretation of the word "nanotechnology" ... in French ... then you can call your life complete? At NanoBot, your wishes really do come true. This is a public service announcement done by Dion for the Sainte-Justine Hospital Foundation.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Science Friction

    Yes, I admit it. I chose to post a link to this article just so I could use that headline.

    Towards frictionless nanomachines (

    Friction is a big problem in nanosized devices because they have huge surface-to-volume ratios, which means that their surfaces quickly wear out and seize up. Traditional lubricants are useless in such machines because they become thick and sticky when confined in tiny enclosed spaces. Scientists therefore need to learn how to conquer friction if nano- and microscale devices are ever to become a commercial reality. More here

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Nanotech Video: Oklahoma and the 'itty-bitty'

    This video illustrates how nanotech research and commercialization efforts are being picked up by local media as avenues for state boosterism and another yard(nano?)stick to measure how their state "stacks up" against the others -- much like the local sports team.

    The talking hairdo anchorman in this clip from Oklahoma has it right in his opening line: "Attracting investment into the state is literally a global competition." (Then, the insight is ruined by a giggling description of nanotech as the "study of the itty-bitty.")

    Reporter Jessica Lowe does a variation of the tired old "human hair" analogy by using an inch-long piece of thread and asking us to imagine it subdivided into 25 smaller pieces, then each of those into a million smaller pieces. Each of those million pieces represent a nanometer. This, of course, sends me tail-spinning back into the realm of Zeno's Paradox (see here, and here), but I give Lowe lots of credit for the attempt.

    The report then focuses on the work of NanoBioMagnetics Inc., based in Edmond, Okla. Lowe interviews company founder Charles Seeney, but does not mention that he was also the driving force behind the recently created Oklahoma Nanotechnology Initiative.

    No more dust storm blues

    'Super thick non-digestible' nano


    Did you know that "nano" will make you both rich and thin? Hot diggity! Where can I get me some of that nano?!

    Nanotech's real danger is the nano con
    Son of McMonkey McBean
    Nano mythos

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    The Nano Kahuna

    surf1   surf1   surf2

    An Hawaiian company is using nanotechnology to build -- what else -- a better surfboard. Story here

    Homunculus is not ridiculous

    Highly accomplished author and journalist Philip Ball has a wonderfully insightful blog called homunculus, beside which NanoBot appears to be the little man. He provides some great cutting-room-floor material from his Nature articles, including this post on fear of nanoparticles.

    And Ball is all business on his blog. None of those immature, off-topic ramblings that annoy so many blog readers. Ball's Blogger profile brags that he (links added by me) ... "will not include any pictures of or stories about my holidays, friends, dogs, or gripes about the world ..."

    You tell 'em, Phil.

    Cookie cutter nano portals

    flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag  flag

    According to this news release, India Tops in Nanotechnology Related Google Search. Yes, well NanoBot readers already know that. But that's not what's interesting about this release.

    What I noticed first is the source, a site called NanoIndian. It's apparently an offspring of NanoDaddy. These sites claim to be run by "nanotechnologists having several years of research experience." But as near as I can tell, these nanotech portals contain no original content and run purely off RSS feeds and a combination of Yahoo and Amazon ads.

    Not that there's anything wrong with trying to make a few bucks or rupees by automating news aggregation. In fact, mazel tov to the entrepreneur. He's likely to make more money in his first month than I have in three years of blogging.

    Still scary after all these years

    My third blogiversary came and went two days ago and I hadn't even noticed. But my first NanoBot post, on July 11, 2003, was actually just a condensed version of my column in a trade sheet I worked for at the time.

    So, today is the anniversary of my first original NanoBot post. And you know, I think it holds up very well after three years. It also appears that I had time to write longer posts back before the births of my two sons. Anyway, set the Wayback Machine to July 13, 2003, Mr. Peabody, for an excerpt from The Hulk, Prince Charles and other scary things

    ... But here is where cartoon reality ... meets up with the almost equally cartoonish world of political debate and policymaking. Nanotechnology, and the implied idea that mankind is manipulating creation for his own benefit without a thought to the purpose of the creation itself, bothers many on the left and right -- it goes against God's law (right), or it goes against the laws of nature (left). The closer that manipulation comes to the human body, the louder the protests become. Left and right are joined against genetic manipulation, against the idea of man messing with the makeup of his own humanity -- "Playing God," in the eyes of the dogmatically religious. Of course, for the dogmatically left, you have your unwitting human guinea pig being experimented on by a government lab. Now, you have the absolute evil you need to keep the Hulk story moving.

    And keep political futures moving in the other cartoon world of politics -- where exaggeration is fact, worst-case scenarios always happen and what is unknown is always deadly. It's exhilarating in our movies, but fosters ignorance and sets mankind's technological clock running backward in the reality of government oversight, funding and regulation. More here

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    FDA should put in more face time

    The confusion continues over nanoparticles in cosmetics. This uncertainty over safety is one of many reasons why nanobio researchers wish the Beauty Industrial Complex would find a different marketing term and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would get more aggressive in sorting out safely engineered nanoparticles from untested, nanosized zinc oxide.

    The FDA does not have as much authority over cosmetics as it does over, well, food and drugs. An argument can be made, however, that the more-sophisticated cosmetics out there -- L’Oreal's nanosomes, for example -- could qualify as drug delivery devices.

    Update: Shopping for answers: Nanotechnology: Another concern for cosmetics users? (By Leigh Grogan, Sacramento Bee)

    Straight-up info on nanotech regulation
    Friends of the Earth releases nanotox report
    FDA tries to get a virtual grip on nano
    Nerd American Idol

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Happy Independence Day, from Northport, Mich.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    'Freedom [is] the first-born daughter of science.' -- Thomas Jefferson

    Greetings from Northern Michigan on this July 4. May the spirit of independence guide your inquiries, and may you pass it on to your children.

    -- Howard Lovy, July 4, 2006

    Feynman on freedom