Thursday, September 28, 2006

Can we build it?

NanoBot friend Richard Jones (friend to the blog, that is, but not necessarily to 'bots), is in charge of a challenge placed before British scienists for "software control of matter at the atomic or molecular scale." Applications are being accepted until Nov. 6 for participation in "a five-day sand-pit to look for innovative ways to explore whether we can design and construct a tool or method to arrange atoms or molecules to a blueprint." Just remember to play nice, boys and girls, and don't throw sand. Safety first.

Collaborative NanoBot Blueprint
Everything is animated
Tag-teaming with nature to build nanomachines

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Instapundit on the nanocon

Nanotechnology: Good Things in Small Packages (By Glenn Reynolds, writing in Popular Mechanics)

"Then there's the nanotechnology that's just, well, fake. It may turn out to be the most dangerous kind to date. Earlier this year, newspapers reported that a German cleaning product called Magic Nano had been recalled after dozens of users suffered lung problems.

"Was this a sign that industry and regulators couldn't be trusted to keep nanotechnology safe, that we were all doomed, doomed? Apparently not. A few weeks later, it was reported that Magic Nano didn't actually contain nanomaterials. It was just a marketing slogan designed to trade on the reputation of nanotechnology as something revolutionary. Nobody knows why the users got sick, but it had nothing to do with nanotechnology." More here

'Magic Nano' nano? Naahhh
Let the facts interfere with your nanotox story
Nanotech's real danger is the nano con

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another nanobot stars in educational video game

Remember Re-Mission, a video game featuring a nanobot named Roxxi who blasts away cancer cells? That one was aimed at cancer sufferers. Now, a new game prototype has appeared aimed at students in biology and immunology classes. The game is called Immune Attack, produced by the Federation of American Scientists.

"A teenaged prodigy with a unique immunodeficiency must teach his immune system how to function properly, or die trying," the group says in a news release. "Using a nanobot and aided by a helpful professor, the teenager explores biologically accurate and visually detailed settings in pursuit of this goal."

Kids grill scientist dad (with ketchup and mustard)



Bethany and Alex Maynard: The Woodward and Bernstein of the nanotech age? Watch (.mov 20.1MB) how they grill their dad, Andrew Maynard, chief scientist with the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Molecular self-assembly creates biped

Remember my two experiments in human bottom-up self-assembly? (See here, here, here, here, here and here.)

The first one is 2 years old now, but is so tall he is often mistaken for a 4-year-old. And the youngest one is 1, also a giant. But this specimen has recently evolved into a biped. Excellent. Excellent. Once he is old enough to develop his own musical tastes, I hope he retains his love for Johnny Cash. Click above to see the subject "Walk the Line."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Religious voices would enhance nanoethics debate

Congratulations to Patrick Lin and his Nanoethics Group, which was just awarded a three-year, $250,000 National Science Foundation grant to study the ethics of human enhancement and nanotechnology.

Patrick, in a news release, says:

"The ethics of human enhancement technologies is widely held to be the single most important debate in science and society and will define the 21st century. Today, human enhancement may mean steroids or Viagra or cosmetic surgeries. But with the accelerating pace of technology, some of the more fantastic scenarios may arrive sooner than people think – such as advanced cybernetic body parts and computers imbedded in our brains – which magnify the ethical issues involved."

I've been saying for years that this issue is going to become more and more politically divisive -- ever since a warning against enhancement popped up in the nanotech bill in Congress back in December 2003. I hope the Nanoethics Group's study goes a long way toward getting some data involved in the debate rather than pure emotion.

I also hope the group allows more than token religious voices in the study. While some opposition to enhancement comes from the far left (don't mess with Mother Nature), a great deal of the political opposition will come from the religious point of view -- and I do not mean only the religious right.

This is no criticism of Patrick's group, but I have noticed a shortage of the voice of religion within ethical debates over nanotechnology. This is due to many factors, but primarily the traditional antagonism between scientists and the religious.

The result, I believe, is often scientists being "out of their depth" when it comes to discussions about the implications of their own work. At worst, this exclusion means that the concerns of millions of people in the world are laughingly dismissed out of hand. Many scientists have simplistic, or grade-school-level, ideas of religion and the role it plays in the public at large and base their debates on science and ethics on these simplistic assumptions.

To exclude the role of religion in ethical debates over nanotechnology would be the equivalent of a group of religious leaders who have a passing interest in physics getting together to determine the merits of string theory vs. loop quantum gravity, and think it ridiculous to let physicists participate in the debate.

Rational science for an irrational world
Converging ideologies against human performance
You say you want an evolution ...
Better, faster, stronger?
Congress is thinking about thinking
Evangelicals and Nano-Gnosticism
Nano superhero is, appropriately, a golem

Friday, September 22, 2006

Huh? Who?

A redesigned Small Times Web site introduces a larger ad well, links to white papers and, apparently, says goodbye to old rubbish.

Flirtin' with freelance disaster

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dr. Nano's Travelin' Medicine Show

haney   haney   haney

Checking the readout on my nanoscamometer, this latest slice of NanoBaloney scores three Mr. Haneys (out of, oh, let's say six), since this snake oil is probably less harmful than steroids and I give the writer credit for the ability to use a broad range of impressive sounding words (and even one acronym) to say absolutely nothing.

SportMedix, Inc., a subsidiary of ProtoMedix, Inc., has announced their first group of nanotechnological-based sports supplements specifically designed for professional and amateur athletes is ready for market. These sports supplements, called C.L.E.A.N. (Compete Legally Excel Athletically with Nanotechnology), have been endorsed by ASAP (Anti Steroid Athletics Program) as a safe way for athletes to improve their health and mental abilities. ...

SportMedix Inc. is a developer of nano-structured bioregulators, controlling the biological processes responsible for normal functionality of all organs and tissues, as well as optimizing and correcting the operation of all three major body systems: endocrine, nervous and immune. More here

Nanotech's real danger is the nano con
'Super thick non-digestible' nano
Son of McMonkey McBean
'Nano' for your aura
'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype
Dirty diesel done 'nano' cheap?

Monday, September 18, 2006

My other life as a nanotech pitchman

This feature on Arrowhead Research Corp. in Fast Company magazine, written by my friend and former Small Times correspondent Michael Fitzgerald, was based on an idea I pitched to Michael back when I did some public relations work for Arrowhead.

I do not want to insult Michael or Fast Company by making it appear that they are overly influenced by nanotech pitchmen, and Michael is experienced enough to know fluff from substance, but this is one example of how I can help nanotech companies get some media attention.

I have discovered that many firms are discouraged with professional PR agencies that not only have little clue as to what appeals to journalists, but also struggle with explaining their technology to the masses. I have no such problems.

Anyway, I've pitched a few companies (nano and non) recently on my ability to get results as a PR person. More examples are available by request. Here's a snippet of Michael's Fast Company story:

Nano Is Nice
Bruce Stewart is building a nanotech research conglomerate.

Bruce Stewart doesn't look like a nanotechnology magnate. At 69, he's old enough to dodder. He doesn't always finish his sentences. He doesn't have a PhD, and his background is in investing, not science. His business strategy? Be nice.

"My dad told me, 'Always have a smile and be friendly, and it'll pay back tenfold,'" Stewart says. He plans to make money with a daring approach to funding technology: He's trying to corner key nanotechnology research, then develop it commercially. His company, Arrowhead Research Corp., has assembled more than 160 key patents in nanotech. It has started four promising companies, and it's sponsoring research at Duke, Stanford, and the California Institute of Technology.

Arrowhead is far enough along, in fact, that two of its shareholders upped their stakes by almost $20 million in January, although the company likely won't deliver significant revenues for at least two more years. "If nanotech is going to be a big business, Stewart will have built the model," predicts Doug Thomas, president of JET Investment Research in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. More here

Friday, September 15, 2006

Zombie nanobot warfare

This video really needs no introduction or explanation. Just enjoy.

Finding the Molecular Foundry


"If Ikea made nanotech laboratories, this is what they would look like," reports the Chemistry World blog in a teaser to the publication's planned feature on the new Molecular Foundry in Berkeley later this year.

"Bare wood and beige carpets" contradict the "foundry" image that brought anti-nanotech protesters out to the construction site during the past couple of years. No, this is not some nanotech update to a Diego Rivera mural of an industrial plant, where exploited workers and unsuspecting townspeople are breathing in nanofumes belched from nanosmokestacks.

This is a new kind of multidisciplinary foundry of the mind, where scientists from many disciplines now find their work converging on the nanoscale. I can't wait to find out what comes out on the other side of the assembly line.

A Sad Jab at the 'Bad Rad Lab'
Nano not hep to this cat
Lost and Foundry

NanoCon Quiz

haneyNanoCon? This refers to:

A. A dwarf criminal

B. A small-town snake-oil salesman

C. A tiny, ideologically driven foreign policy adviser to the Bush administration

D. An unfortunate name for a nanotechnology convention

Nanotech's real danger is the nano con

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A bunch of nano characters

Those who are interested in nanotech and toxicity, or want to know what measures the U.S. government is taking to ensure the safety of nanomaterials being proposed for pharmaceuticals, might want to subscribe to this new publication by the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL).

The NCL was created as a resource for all private-sector nanotech cancer researchers to help them transition their concepts to clinical applications and to facilitate contact with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

I spoke a little while ago with NCL Director Scott McNeil. I caught him just as he was taking a break during a conference on nanotoxicity. McNeil said he found it "remarkable" that, outside the media spotlight, groups like Environmental Defense and government agencies were able to meet and do more than just argue.

The NCL was created only a year ago, and one of the first issues it is working on, McNeil said, is the need for similar characterization methods and standards. Let's make sure that scientists at Stanford and MIT, for example, can compare results by speaking the same language.

I couldn't tell you what the different measurement standards are, but I can imagine it might be about as confusing as when I drive through Canada to get from Detroit to upstate New York. Paying Canadian dollars to buy "imperial gallons" of gas leaves me wondering exactly how much the darn transaction really cost me.

Another area where there is a "critical lack of understanding," McNeil said, is in structure/activity relationships. For example, what makes a drug-delivering molecule like a dendrimer more or less toxic? Is it size alone? What about when scientists monkey around with the surface charge? What happens in various size/surface charge combinations with different types of nanomaterials?

To put it even more simply: When you read in your local newspaper about how scientists are unsure about all these "strange new properties" that exist at the nanoscale and that's what scares the bejeezus out of everybody, remember that it's not only about the size of your particle, baby. It's how you charge it. And don't believe the claim that the U.S. government is not doing anything to figure this stuff out.

The NCL. Don't launch a nanotech initiative without one.

Nano ISO standards
Hey, Nano, what are your measurements?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nanodiagnostics, where are you?

It has been a hazy 48 hours. My 1-year-old had a fever-induced seizure and I spent a wonderful night with him in the ER and pediatric ward. They're common, yet incredibly frightening if it happens to your kid. He's fine now. The only damage is to daddy's sleep cycle (don't even want to think about the bill right now). The experience did remind me what nano is all about when it comes to diagnostics, though. Can't we get those damn test results in sooner?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy 9/11!

Without realizing it, I've made Sept. 11 an almost-annual tribute to my daughter. 2003, 2004 (2005, I was on a blogabbatical). So, happy birthday, Sonya. It's a sure sign of aging, I know, but I can remember the day of your birth 15 years ago with a great deal more clarity than I can recall any single day of last week.

Friday, September 01, 2006

NanoBot Held Hostage: Week Two

But enough about me, let's talk about me. As we established in Week One: NanoBot Held Hostage (until Howard gets a job), I am a well-respected man among those who have worked with me, followed my work or have used my tummy as a trampoline. But, you may ask, "Is that all there is to you, Howard? There are a great many other competent editors out there looking for work. To say you're a dime a dozen would be an insult to the dime. What else can you do?"

And, to that I would answer, "Mom, please try to say positive things about me in public, but you do have a very good point."

What my resume might not reflect (and, come to think of it, I should probably add this to the document) is my research work these past two years since leaving Small Times. In addition to providing countless backgrounders for members of the media looking for information about nanotechnology in general or about the companies I've done contract work for, I also:

  • Researched and co-wrote a lengthy report on nanotech-enabled memory and storage for the market research firm NanoMarkets. Also for NanoMarkets: I edited and rewrote a research paper on batteries and fuel cells;
  • Researched and co-wrote a report commissioned by the U.S. Army tank command here in the Detroit area, evaluating MEMS and nanotech companies for possible partnerships in unarmed land vehicles;
  • Researched companies and labs working on ophthalmic drug delivery technologies for a major pharmaceutical firm.
  • Evaluated an author's proposal for Artech House, publisher of books for high-tech professionals. Then, about a year later, critiqued and fact-checked the author's final manuscript.
  • There's more, but I do take the phrase "nondisclosure agreement" very seriously and will certainly not blog them. And, as you might know, a large part of the job for a magazine assigning editor -- especially one covering a technology that had never before been covered as a business -- is conducting research during the assigning, rewriting and editing process. So, during the five years that I've devoted to covering this little nano corner of the world, I've done a great deal of behind-the-scenes work that you will not necessarily see in my clips, but that has resulted in better final products.

    Despite my loudmouthed, opinionated, egotistical, nutty-for-nanobots blog persona, I am also quite comfortable quietly sifting through background material on the nanotech of "here and now" and using my insights and experience to help spot trends. Those of you who read a great deal of literature about nanotech as a science, business and investment have probably read my work and not even known it.

    chopperOh, and my son Sam tells me that I should have "researched" the weather a little better before making him sit in the stroller in the rain during the recent "Fly-In" at Woolsey Memorial Airport in Northport, Mich. As you can see, to use a cliche in community journalism, the rain did indeed "dampen the enthusiasm" of at least one spectator watching a helicopter take off.