Monday, December 24, 2007

Nano gets a little religion

The Haifa Institute of Technology has used a Focused Ion Beam to inscribe a Hebrew Bible on a silicon surface covered with a 20-nanometer-thick layer of gold.

Sounds like the perfect Bar Mitzvah gift for the little mensch on your list.

Nano superhero is, appropriately, a golem
NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Please Stand By

Work that pays is taking priority, unfortunately. But I'll be back soon as a Good Samaritan in the free market of ideas.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lorax Economics And Nano's New Name

Here's a piece of dialog that was in the TV version of "The Lorax," (click above, or here), but not in the book that I read to my kids.

The Once-ler: Well, what do you want? I should shut down my factory, fire a hundred-thousand workers? Is that good economics, is that sound for the country?

The Lorax: I see your point. But I wouldn't know the answer.

Excellent, cutting-edge stuff! Pure greed vs. pure innocence. And, as is usually the case, the villain is a great deal more interesting than the hero. That dirty ol' Onceler has thought about the issues, while the one-dimensional Lorax cannot see the forest for the trees.

Here's another excerpt:

The Lorax: I'm sorry to yell, but my dander is up! let me say a few words about gluppity-glupp. Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop, making gluppity-glupp, and also schloppity-schlopp! And what do you do with this left-over goo? I'll show you, you dirty old Once-ler man, you!

Well, today, that very same dirty old Onceler man -- who, remember, is driven purely by the profit motive (forget about the end of the book, where the Onceler sees the error of his ways) -- could today become a "cleantech" entrepreneur. It's not that he feels bad about the gluppity-glupp and schloppity-schlopp, it's just that different times call for different methods of making profit.

However, just because the Lorax has the megaphone right now does not make him any less naive and unaware than when he could not answer a simple question regarding economics and labor back in the 1960s. The herd stampedes toward cleantech from nanotech and every other tech, yet the profits will come to only a few -- and even then, most likely to the biggest Oncelers on the block and not the small entrepreneurs.

After that, some elements of nanotech will be ready for prime time -- such as the new materials and technologies that will power our cars more cleanly and will clean up the leftover schloppity-schlopp. It will be confusing, since the Loraxes and other self-appointed watchdogs of the environment have already convinced many that nanotech is actually dangerous and polluting. So, nanotech might be sold by any other name, since the ol' nano prefix has run its course in this cycle.

How about this for a new "nano" name? "Thneed!"

After all, everybody needs a Thneed.

Son of McMonkey McBean
Cleantech's the new nano; nano's the new dot-bomb

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The scribe of Copernicus

"It is my hope that the discussions on Howard Lovy’s Nanobot are saved for future generations, because a lot of interesting, healthy debate went on there that probably looks, in form, very familiar to what similar public discussions concerning quantum theory, the heliocentric view of the solar system, representative democracy, and lots of other ludicrous ideas looked like. I get the feeling that the feasibility debate is over or, at least, it’s no longer an issue, I think everyone knows who the major players are and where they stand." More here.

Thanks, Damian. Thank goodness they don't burn heretics at the stake anymore. They just banish them to the status of just another crank in the blogosphere.

My point, however, was never that I believed or disbelieved in the feasibility of molecular nanotechnology. I approached it as a journalist, who saw obvious attempts in the business community to marginalize a school of thought for reasons that had nothing to do with science. So, I helped give voice to the marginalized, and I think I succeeded very well.

I'm not Copernicus. I'm the guy who wrote down what Copernicus said because nobody else would. I'm really not educated enough to know for sure whether the Earth really orbits around the sun.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

She branded me with science


tattoo1   tatoo2

tattoo4"I studied nanotechnology in school and got my enormous Bohr atom during that time," writes the guy above left in a blog post on The Loom called Branded with Science. This image popped up during a routine nanotech search, which brought me to what is apparently a trend among those whose relationship with science goes more than skin deep. You can view a gallery of science tattoos here and also over here.

... in a small galaxy far, far away ...

You've read about the nanotube radio here and here, but have you heard it play the "Star Wars" theme?

Or, if you don't like "Star Wars," try Layla (the original Derek and the Dominos, and not that lame acoustic solo version Clapton did later).

Nano memory: 30,000 movies and nothing on
Nanotube interconnects and hot Indian babes
Nano Tech EnTrancement

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Little art, big production

Turn up your speakers, open your windows, don your Viking hat and click the "play" button!

Pretty little things
Time for a little art
A little splash of color

Cleantech's the new nano; nano's the new dot-bomb

Here's a quick follow-up to the "nano bad, cleantech good" portion of this post.

Just as Lux Research is dropping its nanotech emphasis in favor of cleantech, Lux's pioneering parent (or whatever) publication Forbes/Wolfe is laying down its nano burdens to rebrand itself the "Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Tech Report (covering nanotech, cleantech, and all physical science breakthroughs)."

One analyst I talked to (a tech biz analyst, not a shrink!) finds the rush away from nano somewhat amusing.

"I find it interesting that all of the folks who hyped nano in the first place are scurrying away from it just when it’s really starting to get interesting."

I'd also repeat a point I've been making for, oh, about five years now: Nano is not any one technology. It does, however, enable the next generation of pretty much every technology -- including the "cleantech" flavor of the day.

False claims inform consumers as they 'talk nano'

Recently, a fellow journalist asked my advice on how to pitch a consumer-oriented nanotechnology story to an editor of a mainstream publication.

I told her that it's certainly a timely story, since consumer nanotech information will be all over the news this coming week because of a major online event Oct. 23-24. ConsumersTalkNano, is a collaboration between the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports magazine.

Well, that got me going again on the Wilson Center and its highly questionable "consumer products inventory," which claims that 500-plus nanotech products are already on the market. Close NanoBot followers already know my thoughts on the Wilson Center's nano numbers racket. Nevertheless, this next week will see these numbers repeated often in the mainstream media.

I then burdened my colleague with the following rant on "consumer nanotech" and the mainstream media. I'll reprint most of it here:

Now, here is where my own opinions kind of get in the way. I consider the Wilson Center an "interested party" in the nanotech toxicity debate. Even though they are doing a great job of bringing the issue to the front-burner, I find their claims about how many consumer products are already out there to be highly inflated, since they are based on questionable manufacturers' claims.

I've always had trouble trying to explain my feelings on this, so this will be a good exercise for me:

I've been covering nanotech since it first emerged as a "business" rather than a pure science, and from the beginning the so-called nanotech "industry" has been exaggerating, well, first of all, its status as an actual industry, but also how much real "nanotech" is embedded inside consumer products. The interest they have had in exaggerating the claims is simply to make it appear to potential investors that they are not throwing their money away if they invest in nanotech companies, since nanotech is already inside many everyday products.

The sunscreen and cosmetics example is always given, yet I reported a few years ago that, in fact, these nanomaterials have been a part of L'Oreal's line, for example, since back in 1994 or '95. It wasn't until later that anti-nano activists noticed it and publicized it as something new and untested. It has, in fact, been tested thoroughly inside consumer products for more than a decade. It hasn't been labeled "nano" until now, though, and has not been the subject of scare-mongering until very recently.

OK. So, you have the nanotech "industry" exaggerating the degree to which it is already a part of the consumer landscape in order to attract mainstream investment -- in some cases, taking a look at the ingredients of many long-established products, noticing particle size and declaring it "nanotech." A few years ago, this was a good thing, since there was a brief period of investment hype over nanotech, and many companies were remarketing their stuff as nanostuff.

It was so bad for a while, that the nanotech "industry" actually believed their own press releases and, most importantly, so did the anti-nanotech activists. It's marketing vs. marketing.

The truth, however, is practically none of the nanoscale ingredients in existing products have been specifically engineered for any purpose, thus in my mind have nothing to do with the manipulation of "atoms and molecules" to create new and improved products (or even dangerous ones). However, in every single mainstream news story you read, you'll see some kind of sentence defining nanotech as the "science of manipulating atoms and molecules to ..." And then alongside that sentence is the Wilson Center's list of 500-plus products.

The truth is, practically none of those products are the result of any sort of nanoscale engineering and manipulation -- much less, bottom-up assembly. But what is left in the readers' mind is that some mad scientist at Sunscreen Central is manipulating atoms to see how they can poison sunbathers.

Now, however, enough doubt has been placed in front of consumers by those with a stake in raising those doubts, that the "nano" prefix has fallen out of favor. Names are changing again. And even Lux Research, which started out as a nanotech analyst firm, has rebranded itself with the latest trend: yes, "cleantech."

Nano bad. Cleantech good. In fact, however, some of the real nanotech emerging -- the true products of bottom-up assembly and manipulation of atoms and molecules -- are enabling cleantech. It has always amazed me how the image of a truly green technology like nanotech has been manipulated by green activists as somehow being unnatural and dangerous. If they actually looked at the real nanotech research happening, they'd see that these technologies are what they have been calling for for decades to help us get out of this mess.

DuPont, in fact, has always taken the bull by the horns and has actually lead research into nanomaterial toxicity. Recently, they partnered with an environmental group to come up with some guidelines on developing nanomaterials. Here's a recent story on that.

OK. That's my rant on that. Probably went too long, but I think it needs to be said because it gets at how this story can be pitched to a mainstream publication in any kind of thoughtful way. Most will go the easy route and simply do the competing press releases -- that scientists and businesses are jumping into nanotech blindly and consumer-product companies are using poor unsuspecting customers and guinea pigs for untested substances.

Easy story, kind of sexy in a geeky way, and it involves fear of the unknown. Great headlines, and journalists don't need to put much thought into it because the "statistics" are being supplied for them by interested parties such as the Wilson Center.

Now, when it comes to selling a nanotech story to a mainstream editor, good luck with that, since every editor has his or her own notion of what nanotech is based on their own personal interests, what they've read recently or focus of their publication.

The semiconductor industry sees nanotech only through their prism. Same with biotech. Hell, even wastewater treatment. And within that, you'll have various editors who run the spectrum of belief between "nanotech is this cool scifi thing that will allow me to download my brain onto a computer chip or revive me in the year 3067," to "nanotech is simply chemistry renamed and there's nothing new here at all."

That is why I have, for the most part, remained safely behind niche publications and my blog when it comes to nanotech.

And I have probably not helped you at all.

Actually, she said that the info. provided in my rant above was, in fact, helpful. OK. Well, I wish her luck.

Indigestible nanotech claim
Nanostuff vs. nanotechnology
Perception is de facto nano fact

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dendrimers: The unpublished story

Here's a freebie for you. I spent a great deal of time on this one, on and off, during the past year or so. But, for various reasons that are really too boring to go into, it never saw the light of day. I'll only say that scientists have disagreements (shocking, yet true), but they do not like them aired publicly. My role is different, however. What I do, is tell true stories.

So, here's the raw, unedited copy. Some of this you'll recognize as having been published in other work I've done, but most of it is new. Enjoy. And, if you really enjoy it, donations to my kids' diaper and daycare fund are welcome and appreciated.

By Howard Lovy

The tiny dendrimer, nanotechnology’s tendriled, tattered and almost forgotten starlet, is at last emerging from nearly 30 years of patent-filing and science-paper purgatory and into the light of real-world products and partnerships. In 2007 alone, dendrimers have attracted about a million dollars in DARPA funds for research into a device that would automatically keep wounded soldiers free from pain on the battlefield; they have come to the apparent rescue of a company that had been having trouble getting its soft-tissue cancer treatment device to stop leaking radiation; and after success as MRI contrast agents, dendrimers are now being taken seriously as a candidate for a long-sought delivery agent for siRNA (gene silencing) therapy.

And by the time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives its anticipated 2009 or 2010 approval to the first dendrimer-based pharmaceutical, the former Dow Chemical Co. scientist who invented his pet molecule will have counted 30 years since he first synthesized this “beautiful” (his word) molecule in his Midland, Mich., lab. But Donald Tomalia says he doesn’t mind the nearly three decades in the cold. In fact, he says, the pattern for any “disruptive” technology is to first pay its dues for about 20 years before general acceptance. “We’re kind of on schedule there when you think about it,” Tomalia says.

Yet, even though an FDA nod for the dendrimer-based HIV microbicide VivaGel would place the stamp of government validation on concepts Tomalia has worked for a generation to prove, the journey itself has ripped the dendrimer’s reputation so ragged that skepticism still prevails in the financial and scientific communities.

Long, fruitless periods of development, intellectual property quaqmires, questions over toxicity, skepticism about cost and scaleability have reduced the once-darling dendrimer to the status of merely the first of many nanotech disappointments. The years since the dendrimer’s sensational arrival have seen the invention or discovery of many other “miracle” nanomaterials that would go through a cycle of hype, disappointment and, ultimately, cynicism and even boredom that would typify the new science/marketing phenomenon eventually known as “nanotechnology.”

Nanotech’s many-armed goddess

But Tomalia has always seen his dendrimers as different from all the exotic nanomaterials discovered later. Much-discussed buckyballs and nanotubes, for example, could carry their payloads in their bellies. But dendrimers have many arms. And it is what Tomalia has called those “beautiful” branches that first made him see what many of his contemporaries could not back in 1979 – the potential to custom-engineer one molecule to perform as many tasks as the laws of chemistry and physics would allow. Each appendage could have a separate task – one to sense disease and another destroy it, for example.

VivaGel, produced by the Australian pharmaceutical firm Starpharma, does a modest task if compared with some of those longer-term dendrimer dreams. Still, those talons of Tomalia’s appear to have come through.

“The specific chemical structure of a dendrimer and the fact that it binds at multiple active sites on the HIV/HSV-2 virus simultaneously … is a critical component of VivaGel's activity and the feature of dendrimers,” says Starpharma CEO Jackie Fairlie.

Dendrimers deployed against HIV

Anti-HIV microbicides are a target of opportunity for dendrimers because their development is being promoted by the world health community worried about the spread of HIV among women in the developing world. Microbicide gels are seen as a way to give women a better measure of protection against the disease, yet only a few have made it to clinical trials. The trials involving VivaGel are spearheaded by the Microbicide Trials Network, established in 2006 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to help develop and evaluate anti HIV microbicides for the developing world. The group expect to conduct 17 clinical trials over the next seven years in Africa, India and the United States. VivaGel is now undergoing expanded safety trials at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan.

Public Enemy Number One for these new microbicides is a protein called GP120, which acts as a kind of docking clamp for HIV, seeking out and binding to healthy cells. All the microbicide candidates attack GP120 and try to gum up the works enough to prevent binding. But VivaGel stands out as more effective because the many-taloned polyvalent dendrimer is able to stick to HIV at multiple points simultaneously. Yes. It’s those dendrimer appendages.

But there are still many barriers to widespread commercialization, the main one being the high cost and length of time it takes to produce them. Ask any scientist, entrepreneur or venture capitalist who has looked at dendrimers and most will say the same thing. They are too expensive and time-consuming to produce. And they have gone practically nowhere after two decades of development.

Priostar and the dendrimers of tomorrow

Starpharma is using polylycene dendrimers, which according to Tomalia is now very old-school compared with what he’s got cooking with his new line of Priostar dendrimers. Not coincidentally, Tomalia says, that 20-year time period to general acceptance of disruptive technologies is also about the time it takes for an invention to go off patent. So, a couple of years ago, he decided that it was time to address cost and scaleability concerns while at the same time create a new class of dendrimers that give him a proprietary edge on the stiflingly overcrowded dendrimer patent landscape.

Tomalia’s company, Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc., recently produced a new generation of dendrimers that many analysts say just might live up to the molecule’s original potential. DNT says its new Priostar dendrimers are not only less expensive, but less time-consuming to produce. Tomalia says the product will “beat the pants off” any rivals.

Since the Priostar family was announced more than a year ago, though, skepticism has remained high since he has released very few details about them. Tomalia is doing this on purpose. He said sharing his first series of dendrimer inventions far and wide lead to too many academicians filing his or her own "blocking patent" and pretty much stifling commercialization for two decades.

It’s an interesting statement, considering it is an academician who is among Tomalia’s chief critics.

Collaboration turns into rivalry

James Baker, a leading nanotech researcher and entrepreneur based at the University of Michigan is the brains behind Avidimer Therapeutics (formerly Nanocure Corp.), which is considered one of the few direct competitors to Tomalia’s company. Not only that, Baker is planning on using Tomalia’s soon-to-be-off-patent IP as the basis for dendrimer-based anti-cancer applications – the first of which is expected to go into clinical trials in fall 2007.

Together, Tomalia and Baker control most of the intellectual property behind dendrimers and represent two of the brightest minds and bitterest rivalries in the nanotech world.

Vahe Mamikunian, who has looked closely at nanotech IP as an analyst for Lux Research, says he knows of no other platform of material in the nanotech space that is as interesting as dendrimers. And he is not necessarily talking about the material, itself, but rather the “characters involved and what has happened to them in their efforts to commercialize them.”

Tomalia’s and Baker’s collaboration in the ’90s was a category-defying partnership between chemistry and biology – the kind of convergence that’s necessary as both of these disciplines reach the nanometer scale. But just as their partnership dissolved due to personality differences and priority disagreements, other classes of nanomaterials grabbed the spotlight from the dendrimer. Nanotubes, buckyballs, biosilicon and an increasing arsenal of other newly invented or discovered nanomaterials have grabbed the spotlight and imaginations of those who follow nanotech developments. And that is what seems to frustrate Baker the most – more than 20 years of lost opportunity. As for who is to blame, Baker is about as clear as U-M’s lawyers will allow him to be. “Unfortunately, the folks up in the center of the state have controlled dendrimer IP and that really stagnated the growth in the technology.”

Both Dow and DNT are located in the “center of the state.” It has been about seven years years since Tomalia and Baker went their separate ways, and Tomalia says he just does not want to be drawn into a public fight. So, he responds with a simple: “I think that sounds like Jim’s perspective.”

The Tomalia/Baker story was quite different a decade earlier. Their collaboration in the ’90s was a category-defying partnership between chemistry and biology – the kind of convergence that’s necessary as both of these disciplines reach the nanometer scale.

Baker was one of Tomalia’s few contemporaries to see the possibilities within dendrimers. But Baker, the biologist, saw primarily one thing: its wonderfully small size. Baker, when he met Tomalia in the ’80s, had been frustrated with viral-based vaccines that just could not get tiny enough to really go after disease.

Together, Tomalia and Baker broke new ground in dendrimer discoveries right up until the late ’90s. But from the beginning, Baker thought like a healer, not a chemist. And because dendrimers can get smaller than 5 nanometers and penetrate cell membranes, he always thought of dendrimers as potential anti-cancer delivery agents. Any other use seemed a waste of time. In fact, Baker hints, biology in the hands of a chemist could be quite antithetical to the concept of better living.

“My line to the materials science folks is, ‘Biology always trumps chemistry, because no matter how clever you think you are in doing something, in modifying something, you're putting it into a complex system, like biology, where the implications are just multiple,’ ” Baker said during an interview in June 2005. Baker gave the interview shortly after he demonstrated just what a skilled biologist could do with a dendrimer. He made international headlines when he used a classic “Trojan Horse” trick on cancer cells – essentially using their own receptors against them. Cancer cells crave folic acid more than healthy cells. So, using folate for bait, the dendrimer is sucked inside the cancer cell’s membrane. But the dendrimer also carries in its tendrils the anti-cancer drug methotrexate, which is released with disastrous consequences for the cancer cell. This method can be used also to simultaneously label the cells for fluorescent detection.

This technique, Baker says, delayed tumor growth in mice for 30 days, which is equivalent to about three human years. Baker licensed the technology to Avidimer Therapeutics.

There is a tinge of bitterness in Baker when he talks about his plans to, as he sees it, take more than two decades worth of dendrimer IP and finally put it to work for cancer therapeutics. Baker believes that Tomalia wasted time by playing chemist, rather than biotech entrepreneur, and true progress did not occur until Baker launched his nanotech institute at the University of Michigan about eight years ago, resulting in breakthroughs like the one he’s licensed to Avidimer. Tomalia, at Baker’s invitation, was scientific director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology from 1998 until 2000, when the collaboration went sour and the two went their separate ways.

Tomalia sees it differently. He says he left Baker back in 2000 because he knew he would need to launch a new platform. And to do that, he needed a fresh start at the newly created Michigan Molecular Institute at Central Michigan University. And it was there that he confidently says he “began our mission of reinventing what I would call a disruptive technology.”

The Model-D of nanotech?

And in the middle of Michigan, two figures loom large when it comes to disruptive technologies. One is H.H. Dow, who is often quoted as saying “If you can’t do it better. Why do it? And, of course, the other is Henry Ford. Tomalia was raised on a bedroom community to the General Motors’ plants of Flint and his neighbors, relatives and friends all worked on the assembly lines.

“And I think many of these ideas did get themselves into my thinking not only about entrpreneurship of Henry Ford but about the way he disrupted the automobile industry by coming up with these modular assembly lines,” Tomalia says. “That basically was the driver behind this Priostar platform for making dendrimers.”

Using the famous Ford assembly line as a model for how to take a luxury item and mass-produce it for the people, Tomalia and colleagues at DNT have produced Priostar. “This platform really is based on some very straightforward, simple chemistry that I’ve had experience in for many, many years.”

“We feel, with this assembly line, we’re going to make dendrimers available to the masses, if you like, the way Henry Ford … made automobiles accessible to everybody,” not just the very wealthy, not just the very top of the life science application area,” he says.

‘Click chemistry’ and Priostar

The first hint of what exactly is meant by Priostar came in a paper published recently in the New Journal of Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication produced by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Tomalia reports “a versatile new strategy” for producing dendrimers involving modular “click chemistry.”

“We’ve kind of standardized certain components that we are able to click together, if you like, or hook together very simply and very quickly and so we basically can have a dendrimer factory with all of these parts sitting right next to an assembly line,” Tomalia says. “So, if we want to assemble a dendrimer that had this feature in the core and this feature in the interior and this feature on the surface we can start clicking these parts together.”

Tomalia says this paper is the first of many that will trickle out on Priostar, but he’s not going to give away the store this time around.

“It’s a red-hot area right now, so we’re taking a totally different tack, and that is we are only sharing samples and a lot of deep knowhow with customers that are committed to us, that we have some kind of collaboration going with.”

“There are plenty of dendrimers out there for people to play with and they don’t need our Priostar.”

Government funding and private partnerships

Jack Uldrich is a nanotechnology consultant, columnist and author of the book, “Investing in Nanotechnology,” released in 2006 by Platinum Press Inc. He evaluates nanotech companies primarily on the basis of their business models. Uldrich gives the advantage to DNT because the company’s focus on near-term applications.

“I think that’s how dendrimer technology is going to move into widespread use: First preventative applications, then diagnostics and then treatment,” Uldrich says. “Baker’s just going for treatment, which is fine, but I think that, at least from a business perspective, DNT is better positioned.”

It also doesn’t hurt, Uldrich says, that Dow has about a 30 percent equity stake in Tomalia’s company, giving DNT nice, big corporate shoulders to rest its head on if things ever get ugly. And then there’s Australia’s Starpharma, which owns about 33 percent.

DNT is working with the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL) – established just late last year by the National Cancer Institute – on developing dendrimers as MRI contrast agents. The partnership will help speed time toward approval for the agents as an Investigational New Drug (IND), a precursor to clinical trials.

Uldrich says these kinds of government partnerships, combined with a focus on generating revenue and keeping dendrimer costs down, makes DNT more of a potential winner than Avidimer.

Baker dismisses the cost issue as less important to the pharmaceutical industry than issues of biocompatibility and safety. Pharmaceutical companies, they say, understand that a biological manufacturing process is always going to be more expensive than any synthetic process.

“If you focus on cost, you miss the whole point of the fact that people are dying and we have a health system that really does promote the use of expensive therapies in order to save lives,” Baker says.

Lux analyst Mamikunian warns that it would be foolish to disregard cost – especially for other more cost-sensitive products such as electronics, photonics, catalysts and even printer ink toner – all possible dendrimer applications, but ones that are not likely to capture the attention of the biotech-focused Baker.

Mamikunian sees Tomalia’s Priostar as the last potential “saving grace” for dendrimers after two decades of development and thousands of research papers, yet few real-world applications to show for it and a graveyard full of companies lured in by the “promise and the hype.”

“This could be the architecture that really makes dendrimers a viable drug delivery mechanism,” he says. But, Mamikunian says, with little publicly available, independent validation of Tomalia’s claims for Priostar, he is not yet ready to declare the dendrimer completely resuscitated. At the very least, he says, it’s more economically viable than the old polyamidoamine (PAMAM) architecture – first invented by Tomalia and still used by Avidimer -- that he believes has been developed to its limits since 1979.

But, even assuming a marketable dendrimer-based drug-delivery vehicle is forthcoming, the parking lot in front of the FDA has become a great deal more crowded since the late ’70s.

“I think explicitly in the area that they are playing, it’s going to be a tough battle, not only with other dendrimers but with the other treatments that are being developed,” he says. Iron oxide or gold nanoparticles are examples of other engineered nanoparticles that show promise.

So far, so good on toxicity

And, still more tricky for regulators, nanomaterials are coming under scrutiny from an increasingly cautious or even fearful general public and a relatively new “nanotox” research community that is only beginning to understand these new materials’ properties, along with coming up with standard methods of testing them.

One of the first studies undertaken by the newly created NCL was on dendrimers synthesized by DNT’s staff. Tomalia says they were “practically dancing on the table” early this year, when dendrimers were found to be "incredibly benign … no immunoresponses, no acute toxicity responses of any kind."

NCL Director Scott McNeil confirmed those results, but cautioned that the dendrimer tests were performed in vitro and the results do not say anything about in vivo toxicity or biocompatibility. But, McNeil says, the trend looks good for dendrimers when it comes to toxicity. They appear to be fairly benign and biocompatible. Early work (about five years ago) on “naked,” or untreated, dendrimers were found to be somewhat cytotoxic, McNeil says. But the newer generations are more functionalized. Surface charge and surface chemistry, he says, are more important factors than size. The notion that dendrimers and other nanomaterials can just be attached or filled with therapeutics “is not holding up to in vitro scrutiny,” he says. “Immense difference” occur when surface charge is altered.

Nanotech analyst Mamikunian says that these differences between dendrimer types – not only in surface charge, but also the polymer strands that make up the “branches” make dendrimers “open to the highest degree of customization than any nanomaterial.”

And it appears that it is these branches – these “beautiful” branches – that are making the difference in the VivaGel trials.

In that way, the dendrimer might just be a first tentative showing of “real nanotech” that manages to crawl its way out amid the wreckage of sci-fi fantasies, investment hype and unfulfilled marketing promises.

What makes 'nano' technology?
A fat Pfizer pushed away the pioneers
Dendrimers could have cancer in their clutches

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Nanotech to put rust to sleep

Maybe this bit of news belongs on my other blog, where I chronicle how economic corrosion is both consuming my home state and creating opportunities to begin anew. But one of many ways nanotech can help communities rise from rotted 20th century infrastructure (both physical and economic) is through new methods of preventing rust.

In the U.S. Department of Defense, the folks in charge of maintaining equipment are well aware of the dangers they face from their invisible, corrosive enemy. A new portal has just been launched, called CorrDefense, to gather and disseminate information on the topic, and on Nov. 13, the Stevens Institute of Technology and NACE International are scheduled to hold a symposium: Nanoscience/Nanotechnology & Corrosion.

I did a little research on rust a couple of years ago when I co-wrote a report for the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) evaluating MEMS and nanotech companies for partnerships in unarmed land vehicles.

Back then, I found out that corrosion of military equipment costs the Defense Department billions of dollars in maintenance and repair every year. So, the Pentagon was placing a priority on funding new technologies to prevent it. For military vehicles, that may mean new, engineered surfaces that protect not only the vehicle, but also the systems that they carry.

Corrosion, of course, is more than skin deep, so the military is seeking new kinds of preservative oil additives that can protect the engine, transmission and drive components during long-term storage.

In the longer term, an ideal coating would not only contain anti-corrosive properties, but also may be embedded with nanoscale sensors that can detect corrosion as it happens, or contain a self-healing coating. While much has been written about this kind of technology, it's not quite ready for prime time.

With the focus of attention and funding these days on "cleantech," maybe some of these applications have progressed further in the past few years.

Related links
The nanoworld of corrosion

Nanotech's cleanup crew
NanoLife vs. NanoDeath
'Integration' and 'Vision' at Michigan Small Tech

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nobel? Yes; Nanotech? No

Timeout, everybody. Yes, it's wonderful that the folks who "made the iPod possible" have won the Nobel. But the headlines that say their early ventures into magnetoresistance represents the first applications of nanotechnology are jumping the gun. It's complicated, but the best way I can think of describing it right now is that the Nobelists have shown the way toward true nanoscale MRAM and spintronics, but we're not quite there yet.

Will NVE get your Moto working?
Spintronics pioneer teaches online class
Cypress: An also-MRAM
Spin there, done that

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who can save science journalism? Readers

Online Journalism Review writes about the disconnect between scientists and journalists, with the former rarely able to connect in an understandable way and the latter focusing purely on conflict. I think this is generally true, but not always.

And what the article suffers from, in an otherwise fine report, is the generally false assumption that readers are unable to weed through the competing voices in science and science journalism on their own to arrive at their own conclusions.

Can science blogs save science journalism? (By Jean Yung, Online Journalism Review)

Due to traditional media's budget considerations, a science reporter is often responsible for several scientific disciplines, and that inevitably leads to a lack of intelligent, dependable coverage, or worse, over-coverage of wacky, pseudoscientific studies such as Jessica Alba's score in an index of female desirability.

On the other hand, many scientists cannot talk in layman's terms about what they do. Neither are they trained to do so. 'No effort has been made to help us reach out or learn to talk to the media and to the public,' Johnson said, admitting that scientists as a group are 'very bad' at communicating. More here

Nano memory: 30,000 movies and nothing on
Serious nanotox reporting, for a change
Wilson Center's nano numbers racket
Nanotech's real danger is the nano con
A response to 'I, Nanobot'

Monday, October 08, 2007

Nanotechnology gets a Second Life

Welcome to Nanotechnology Island on Second Life, where all the geeks are as good-looking as they've always fantasized and those pesky laws of physics need not apply.

Total immersion in Second Life story

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Just sitting here watching the wheels

I turned 42 today and, in the words of some folk song I've heard somewhere between Oct. 7, 1965 and now, "all my life's a circle ..."

Proof: A little more than three years between here and here.

All the other Small Times founding editors are gone now, after having left it a shell of its former self. Now, it is just another freelance gig for me, but one that I view as a lost child come home.

Who is the lost child? Me? Or the publication I had poured my life into from 2001-2004? Not certain.

Take it, Harry:

All my life's a circle
Still I wonder why
Seasons spinning 'round again
Years keep rolling by

Happy birthday to me ...

NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A place for all your little crap

It's about 2:30 a.m. and I'm all pooped, but just got all flush with excitement over this pico-potty, courtesy of Gizmodo.

But, alas, I see that it is an old commode from '05 being passed as new by Wired, the little shits.

But, I do have to give the headline writer credit when he asks: "Does the Electron Nanotoilet Contain Schrödinger's Scat?" Poetry.

OK. Gotta go drop the boys off at the pool now.

Play 'Freebird'!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

'Transhuman cybersomething crazy ...'

Warning: Do not sip your coffee and watch this video at the same time, unless you'd like to give your desk a wide caffeine spritz.

I have seen the future of science journalism and her name is Madeline Minx. Here, she interviews Ben Goertzel, research director for the Singularity Institute. This is Episode One of her video podcast, The Minx Mandate

Thy nanorod and staff they comfort me

Here's an intro to a press release worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille production, courtesy of Laura P. Wright of Blabbermouth PR:

But lo, aspiring nanotechnologists! Though ye may wander the Valley of Death, the Nanomaterials Application Center art with you!

Entrepreneurs among you know the "Valley of Death" as more than Davidic metaphor. It is a very real place, where businesses caught in its shadow do fear evil -- it is where good ideas die for lack of funding.

Still, Laura informs us that our cup can runneth over at NanoTX '07, going on now at the Dallas Convention Center. The event is featuring a Business 101 course designed to shepherd entrepreneurs through this Valley and into green pastures or still waters.

A PDF of the course can be downloaded here -- all 94 pages of it, which is considerably longer than the 23rd Psalm. But, then, King David probably had a better editor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nano, Info, Cogno, Roco and other 'hive' jive

Well, it is no wonder that the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has been distancing itself these past few years from its key architect, Mihail C. (Mike) Roco. Take a look at some of the Mad Romanian's wacky ideas below.

I've retained the paranoid commentary contained within's "Television and the Hive Mind" for comedic value, but the quotes from Roco's 2002 paper "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance" are indeed accurate (although the writer makes reference to a "recent report." I suppose if you measure time by the long march toward world socialist domination, 2002 is "recent):

"A recent report co-sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Commerce Department calls for a broad-based research program to find ways to use nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive sciences, to achieve telepathy, machine-to-human communication, amplified sensory experience, enhanced intellectual capacity, and mass participation in a 'hive mind.'

Quoting the report: 'With knowledge no longer encapsulated in individuals, the distinction between individuals and the entirety of humanity would blur. Think Vulcan mind-meld. We would perhaps become more of a hive mind--an enormous, single, intelligent entity.'

There is no doubt that we have been brought closer to the 'hive mind' by the mass media. For, what is the shared experience of television but a type of 'Vulcan mind-meld'? (Note the terminology borrowed from Star Trek, no doubt to make the concept more familiar and palatable. If Spock does it, it must be okay.)

This government report would have us believe that the hive mind will be for our good--a wonderful leap in evolution. It is nothing of the kind. For one thing, if the government is behind it, you may rest assured it is not for our good. For another, common sense should tell us that blurring the line 'between individuals and the entirety of humanity' means mass conformity ..." and blah blah

Yeah, that does explain why we haven't heard much from Roco for a couple of years. As a nanotech goodwill ambassador, he makes the Drexlerians, cryonicists and space elevator true believers seem like a sober panel of Royal Society fellows.

NanoBot's discard pile
NanoBot's Discard Pile, Part 2

Friday, September 21, 2007

The knowledge void: Here there be monsters

I've written before about the vaccine/autism debate as an illustration of how agenda-based pseudoscience might receive wide distribution and popularity among audiences predisposed to believing the information, yet the popularity of an opinion does not, of course, make it so.

The BBC brings us up to date on the (hopefully) now-discredited opinion that the "MMR vaccine causes autism." The result of this long-running controversy was not merely people believing in huckster science, but actively putting other children at risk by refusing to vaccinate their kids.

There are lessons to be learned here in other areas of science, like nanotechnology, where popular opinion is being manipulated by groups who step into the void of actual scientific evidence and gladly fill it with Gods or Monsters.

Somewhere between scientist and consumer, the message is lost
The Asperger/Nano Connection
Playing God with Monsters
'Societal Concerns' vs. Scientific Accuracy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

HP teaches us the 'n' word

Hey, kids. What are some of the things "n" is for? Well, "n" is for "nemployed" (without the "u," since we're talking about me), "n" is for "navel contemplation" and, of course, as Hewlett-Packard informs us in the entertaining video above, "'n' is for Nanotechnology."

Jim Carrey and Conan talk quantum physics II
Government Created Killer NanoRobot Infection
Kids grill scientist dad (with ketchup and mustard)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One giant leap for nanotech engineer

South Korean nanotechnology engineer Yi So-yeon, left, proudly flies (with) her country's flag during zero-G training somewhere above Moscow on Monday.

"Nano"-Yi will not be taking that one small step for Korean-kind, since she will serve as a backup to the guy on the right, boxing medalist Ko San, who beat Yi to the punch as the first Korean civilian scheduled for a flight in space.

But the rocket ride to the International Space Station is not scheduled until April. And while I'm sure that Ko can certainly pack a KO punch, a lot can happen between now and then.

I mean, any little thing can go wrong in one of those space suits, forcing last-minute changes in personnel. Isn't that right, nanotech engineer Yi So-yeon? Any ... LITTLE ... thing?

Classic Dave Barry on the space elevator
Google Earth gives 'space elevator' a lift
Space Elevator: The Music Video

Friday, September 07, 2007

The great little balls of Britain

Yes, yes, men. You are correct. Buckminsterfullerenes are strong, and so are you. But I hate to say this, guys, since you seem so ... um ... confident. But in real life, those buckyballs are really, really ... yeah, really ... tiny. Still, you blokes should go have a pint in celebration of your ... erection ... of the tip of the new Bristol (UK) Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information. Watch the whole Flickr here.

A little story about drugs, bass and balls
Kroto kasts a spell
Nanotube jug band

Monday, September 03, 2007

Nano memory: 30,000 movies and nothing on

Reuters, reporting on IBM's recent breakthroughs in nanotech-enabled memory and storage, opens its story with this:

Imagine cramming 30,000 full-length movies into a gadget the size of an iPod. More here

I have said this before in different contexts, including a white paper I wrote for NanoMarkets a few years ago: "To think of molecular memory within the framework of existing applications is to severely limit the possibilities of this technology ..."

If 30,000 movies is the best we can come up with, then we have a severe crisis of imagination. I don't blame the Reuters reporter. Like the overused and inaccurate "human hair" comparison, "30,000 movies" places the technology in a context the average reader can understand.

And it is often not the inventor who decides how and where to apply new technology. It's the entrepreneur, the investor and ultimately the consumer who supply the imagination.

The business of imagination
Nantero sings a happy tune
Nanotube interconnects and hot Indian babes

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Serious nanotox reporting, for a change

nanotoxFor those who are interested in the issues surrounding nanotechnology and toxicity, but would like to get beyond the bumper-sticker pseudoscience of the anti-sunscreen crowd, the relatively new journal of Nanotoxicology sounds like a worthwhile read. The publication just came out with its second issue.

Well, I can't actually, um, read it since I can't afford the $164.45 subscription rate (now, if it were only $164.42, then perhaps I could bust open the piggy bank for it), but I'm sure someone out there will fill me in. Although I'm sure this journal lacks the side-splitting humor of the recent Friends of the Earth anti-sunscreen manifesto (pdf), I'm sure Nanotoxicology makes up for it in serious scholarship.

Truth is stranger than prediction
UK sets up a fragmented nanopolicy
Made-up science attacks makeup
Nano is a concept by which we measure our pain

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The anti-idiot box

Where can you find hot new videos featuring Structural Evolution of the Protein Kinase–Like Superfamily? Why, at SciVee TV, of course. Careful, though. It's still in Alpha. It crashed my system twice. I guess you need a quantum supercomputer to run some of the videos. Still, a great idea that can be built upon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My plural marriage with Utah students

My contribution to higher education for the coming semester: My rescue and reposting of a video clip of Jim Carrey and Conan O'Brien teaching drummer Max Weinberg a thing or two about quantum mechanics has made it onto the syllabus for Physics 3740: Introduction to special relativity and quantum mechanics at the University of Utah. Not bad for a former English and Journalism major.

Government Created Killer NanoRobot Infection
Welcome, Rice University students
Einstein's dice and the nano Sopranos

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Brand X nanotech blog

X-OLOGY marks the spot for nano in Michigan, from the dendrimer wars to modeling DNA. But it could be a limited-time offer. The local tech/lifestyle magazine is trying out this blog thing for August to promote its special summer nanotech issue. My contributions (free registration required) can be found here and here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Made-up science attacks makeup

The Angry Toxicologist says: "... don't eat your sunscreen. Good advice anytime."

Thank you, AT. At last, an answer from a pro to the "Friends of the Earth" use of made-up science to attack nanotech in sunscreen.

FDA should put in more face time
Friends of the Earth releases nanotox report
Truth is stranger than prediction

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Truth is stranger than prediction

This is why you should never post anything on a blog at 3:31 a.m., no matter how much sense you think you make at the time ...

So, government bans are bad, yet drive innovation, so they are good. A scientific opinion is fact if enough of the culture believes it to be so ... until the belief falls out of fashion or is dropped out of sheer boredom ... A police state is peace, British Petroleum is green, left and right each support fascism (left in Iraq, right in the U.S.), the environment can be cleaned up through bumper stickers and rock concerts, and we all lived with Fred Flintstone and Dino just a few thousand years ago, sunscreen is dangerous nanotech while molecular manufacturing is impossible, therefore safe ...

I mean, you just can't make this shit up. Stranger than fiction. Welcome to the future, my friends. More here

I love my responsible friends at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. And friends don't let friends contemplate their own belly buttons for too long.

The truth is, most science fiction -- even in the "golden age" (a time period usually defined by whenever the reader was a lonely teenager with no friends holed up in his room reading SciFi to escape real life) becomes caricature over time, since the future is never really "one thing."

"Predictions" of early 21st century life from the vantage of the last century all appear to me to be cartoonish, since it is ridiculous that we should become "a society of ..." fill in the blank. Instead, life goes on much the same, as our toys become more sophisticated. Almost all pictured either a new fascism arising out of those who control the new technology, or some kind of dull "Star Trekkian" egalitarian society somehow free of bigotry, superstition, hate and humanness.

Even the oft-cited "1984" in the end seems cartoonish to me today, despite the fact that any form of government control or monitoring of anything at all turns "Orwellian" in the exaggerated pen of lazy writers who feel they can just use the catch-all "Big Brother" epithet to end all debate.

I would find the whole lament over lack of decent science fiction pretty funny, except there's a slight edge of truth to the claim that SciFi influences the direction the future will take. I'd go a step further and say that it influences the present, since all one has to do is bring up the specter of an exaggerated, imagined dystopia to get some segments of the public all riled up against any technology.

Why, even sunscreen can be a harbinger of an Orwellian future. "Friends of the Earth" (the group's own self-appointed designation), in its just released Anti-Nano-Sunscreen Manifesto (pdf), very correctly, and I might say responsibly, includes the fine print that the "jury is still out on how readily and how deeply nanoparticles penetrate skin." So far so good. Then it goes on to mention food packaging. Yes, good. Very real. Then, uh-oh ... we're off in Asimov-land:

"And the technology could potentially further affect our lives – from crippling our security and privacy with the creation of never-before-seen weapons and surveillance systems to altering the fabric of the clothes we wear and creating batteries from viruses constructed at the nano-scale. ..."

Heeelllpp!!! Run for the hills!!!! The nano-virus batteries in our suntan lotion and stain-free nanopants are altering my DNA and turning me into a DARPA robot!!!!

I love escapist science fiction. But. Nahh. We really don't need any more SciFi influencing current debates. Like I wrote at 3:31 a.m. to my friends at CRN. Just take a look at the bizarre events swirling around technology in real life.

Irresponsible NanoHype

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bourne and Bourne again

bourne1   bourne2    Bourne and Bourne

While a fictional Jason Bourne broods, shoots and stumbles his way onto the silver screen today, a book released almost simultaneously, Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayalappears on the shelves. In this one, our favorite amnesiac gets some mind-altering nano ... um ... things implanted in his brain in the hopes it might shake his memories loose. Of course, something goes wrong. Horribly, Horribly wrong, with the nanobots in Bourne's brain.

Now, this new Bourne book is not to be confused with the other Bourne nano book scheduled to be shipped Aug. 18. In this action-packed thriller, nanotech analyst Marlene Bourne discusses the very real nanotech embedded into everyday products.

And, while I have been accused of writing fiction in the past, I can tell you with absolute authority that Marlene Bourne's “A Consumer’s Guide to MEMS and Nanotechnology” is nothing but the facts. I helped her review the manuscript as she was writing it.

So, nanotech fiction today, nanotech fact Aug. 18. Now, that's worth remembering.

Nanotech analyst Marlene not Bourne yesterday
Straight-up info on nanotech regulation
QuoteBot: Wet Dreams and Nano-Hype

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nano analyst's quantum leap

How many nanotech analysts can dance on the head of a pin? God only knows. But it appears there are a limited number in the mortal world. John Roy going to Global Crown Capital essentially shuts down all nano analysis (PDF) at his old company, WR Hambrecht & Co.

Nanotube jug band

nanotube2A model nanotube made from plastic jugs hangs above NT07: Eighth International Conference on the Science and Application of Nanotubes in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil at the end of June. Ralph has pictures.

Nanotube interconnects and hot Indian babes
NanoTube: 'Infest Wisely'
Nanotubes and nanotox? Maybe not

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What makes 'nano' technology?

I've had dendrimers on my mind lately, for a number of reasons that I'll reveal soon. But, first, I wanted to share the illustration above. It's not a new one, but you're going to see it used in the news more and more as Starpharma's dendrimer-based anti-HIV microbicide, VivaGel, goes through clinical trials. (They're still recruiting patients, by the way.)

I've been asked many times why I'm so bothered by the perception out there that any kind of nanoscale particle contained in a product makes the product "nanotechnology." No. It doesn't.

Who cares? What's the difference?

Well, the dendrimer pictured above is a simple, yet illustrative example of what is meant by “nanotechnology.” The dendrimer is not a passive nanoscale material just waiting to bump into its target. The dendrimer’s tendrils are engineered to seek out and neutralize specific areas of HIV, working in a coordinated attack at various points.

That's why Donald Tomalia's invention is finally proving itself, by performing much better than other microbicides undergoing clinical trials in the fight against HIV in the developing world.

I'll have much more to say on this in the future. Stay tuned.

A fat Pfizer pushed away the pioneers
Nanomedicine story: The writer's cut
The Tao of Dow, revisited

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spock's (nano) Brain?

Hey, I was just joking when I wrote last month: "... it would be fun to speculate on whether it'd be ethical to program your nanobots to download an exact replica of your own brain into your neighbor's poodle ..."

Somebody took me so seriously, they done went and created a Webinar on it, scheduled for July 20: Downloading Human Minds into Bio-Nano Bodies (Couldn't resist the reference to "Spock's Brain" above.)

rothblattNow, the press release says the event will be subsequently archived for free public access. I wonder if the archive will include the digitized mind of Martine Rothblatt, himself (pictured here), who is scheduled to speak about "Using computing substrate for a human mind."

Makes you think, doesn't it? But not too much ...

The ethics of creating 'nano ethics'

Friday, July 13, 2007

Spread some jelly on your quantum dots

"Jelly Dots:" They're shinier than regular ol' quantum dots, plus they're less toxic. (The following sentence is to be read aloud in the style of Homer Simpson) MMmmmmmmm ... shiiinyyy ... less toxic ... jelllyyyy dotttss ... yummmm ...

Taking toxicity out of quantum dots
The Springfield Syndrome

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nanotech Stocks: Newton's Third Law Edition

Followup to this post (same fine print applies).

This ain't a stock chart. Around these Midwestern parts this summer, you have to be at least 52 inches tall to ride and it's called (appropriately enough) the Maverick.

Attention investors: Raise your arms, let out a yell and try to smile for the camera on the way down!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Stray thought on Digg

I wonder if the children running understand that truth and popularity rarely have much to do with one another.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wilson Center's nano numbers racket continues a line of questioning I've been hammering away at for a while, and that is the Wilson Center's list of more than 450 nanotech-enabled "products."

They really should change it to "nanotech-claimed" products, since the center apparently simply reads the labels and takes nanotech claims at face value. The 450-500 products number is increasingly being cited by the mainstream media as absolute fact.

I'm not certain why the Wilson Center continues its unquestioning nanocount. But it is important to remember that its Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies exists as a self-appointed watchdog for environmental and health risks. The more nanotech products it can claim, the higher the public alarm. The higher the alarm, the more the media and citizens are going to come to the Wilson Center for "answers."

This is especially true if the center reinforces "the unknowns" about the health and environmental impacts of nanoparticles. When it comes to public perception, it doesn't even matter if you take whatever unknown percentage of the Wilson Center list that actually does contain nanoparticles and check to see whether they have, in fact, been studied.

The point is to not confuse the public with facts, but to lead it toward the "obvious" conclusions based on the limited information contained within the loaded question.

In my mind, the exaggerated claims by the Wilson Center are no different than the manipulation of information put out by some green organizations or get-rich-quick investment gurus.

QuoteBot: Nano 'snake-oil'
Dear Boston Globe: A 'mashup' is not a survey
Ex-FDA official concludes FDA needs more dough
Nanotech hocus group
Indigestible nanotech claim
Guaranteeeeed, Jen - U - Wiiiiine Nano!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Russian Nanotocracy

Sounds like Russia is handling nanotech in a typically Russian fashion. Set up a single nanotech government bureaucracy to dole out billions to researchers who can figure out how to make their pet projects sound "nano-ish." Wait a minute. Isn't that how the ol' U.S. of A. is doing it, too?

In any case, here's a skeptical look from the Russian media:

Nano Corporation: investments in future or money laundering?:

"However, there is an opinion that the corporation will also serve as a money laundering machine due to its size and undefined tasks. It is to control all nanotech projects implemented in Russia and set out priorities. It is expected that the government will allot about 200 billion rubles (approximately US$7.75 billion) for a three-year period to finance the corporation activities, which is incredibly much for unsettled tasks. For this reason many are afraid that this money can be used improperly or simply stolen.

There is a problem that worries even scientists – the corporation is to form a monopoly in the nanotech field, which respectively limits opportunities of the free market to select the most competitive ideas. Today the Russian research centres work mostly on nano-materials, while such prospective and promising spheres as nano-biotechnologies and new nano-projects in the energy-producing industry are undersold." More here

Putin' nanotech in Russia
Fearless Leader Putin invented nanotech
Sakharov on Freedom

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sakharov on Freedom

"... intellectual freedom is essential to human society — freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and unfearing debate and freedom from pressure by officialdom and prejudices. Such a trinity of freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorship. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee of the feasibility of a scientific democratic approach to politics, economics and culture."

-- Andrei Sakharov

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

Friday, June 29, 2007

A hill of coffee beans in this crazy world

There's a great deal of nanotech in the news these days, leaving me lots of blogortunities to rant and rave. But nanny no-shows, freelance work and the job hunt have forced me to temporarily neglect this blog.

Sorry about that, folks. But I am working on a couple of exciting nanotech related freelance stories that I'll reveal when they appear in print.

Meanwhile, I'm back to working out of libraries and coffee shops, including The Coffee Beanery on Woodward Avenue in Berkley, Mich., where apparently the media elite hang out.

In just a few hours here, in walked world famous "momtini" blogger Melissa Summers, who clacked away on her laptop for a while.

Then, just when I was about to get on the phone to interview a world famous nanotech scientist/entrepreneur (whom I will reveal when the story runs), I noticed some talk about MEMS a couple of tables down. It was my old colleague Patti Glaza, who downsized me from Small Times almost exactly three years ago.

She was engaged in a conversation with a gentleman regarding MEMS, and apparently did not see or recognize me. Probably just as well.

Well, that's all the Z-List celebrity-spotting news I have for today. Thanks for staying with me. We're living in interesting nano times, and I'll have some more interesting nano news.

Luddites at the Beanery

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Critique my resume, please

I've used pretty much the same format and wording on my resume for about 20 years. In fact, it's been transferred and "saved-as" over and over again since I typed it on my first Mac around 1988. So, time to change it a bit. The last three or four years have been confusing, since I've worked so many contract-only and freelance jobs. So, I thought I'd top it with my most-recent freelance work in journalism and corporate communications and go from there.

You can download the word file here or look at the Google Docs document here (spacing and indents got a little weird in the translation, so ignore those). I took out my phone numbers for these versions. Only potential employers get those. If you are one, by all means please contact me.

Questions: Is it OK to mention projects that have not yet appeared in print? Also, for space (somebody told me somewhere, sometime that a resume needs to be one page only), I cut out the first eight years of my post-college career -- the smaller newspapers I worked for. Should I put those back in? Anybody see any typos? Thanks, folks! -- HL

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The ethics of creating 'nano ethics'

Making the kids (a late) dinner while listening to a Science Friday podcast discussing nanotech. The question of "ethics" came up, and the best example of a nanotech ethics problem one of the guests could come up with was whether one nanotech scientist should report another nanotech scientist for cutting corners on lab safety precautions.

Truth is, that is pretty much all there is to talk about when it comes to nanotech ethics (and this lame example could be used in anytech). All else is speculation based on technology that does not yet exist.

I supposed it would be fun to speculate on whether it'd be ethical to program your nanobots to download an exact replica of your own brain into your neighbor's poodle, but we'll leave it to these new nanotech ethics departments at universities all over the world to deal with those and other hypotheticals. More later.

Fwd: From: 12488542730 Msg: Kids look like clowns in whiteface. Need clear nano sunscreen.

Daddy day care; Apologies to those I owe work. Day 2 with no nanny. Posting via mobile phone.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Putin' nanotech in Russia

"So, you see, Mr. President, we shrink this down to nanosize and implant it into your body so you will have long life. Trust me. It will be fantastic."

Related News
Russia stakes billions on nanotech

Fearless leader Putin invented nanotech

Great Nano Chicken *

Nanotech Nervousness (Environment Report)

Researchers are studying whether nano-sized material could purge bacteria from the digestive tracts of poultry. The bacteria doesn't harm chickens and turkeys, but it can make people sick. The hope is that using nanoparticles could reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry. More here

* Apologies to Ed Regis

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nanobots perform 'Crazy Horses'

Ladies and gentlemen, performing a cover of "Crazy Horses," I give you Nanobots.

Nano Tech EnTrancement
Grindcore nanotech
Space Elevator: The Music Video

Nanotube interconnects and hot Indian babes




A new technique that could lead to carbon nanotubes replacing copper as interconnects in integrated circuits will supply some rather sophisticated duct tape, but this is not the beginning of true nanotech-enabled computing. It was IBM that led the transition from aluminum to copper in 1998, but copper was never anything but a temporary solution. Nanotubes will be just as temporary until molecular and quantum computing are ready for prime time.

What's happening now is that chips are getting so small and so fast that soon not even the copper interconnects will be able to bear the load and the heat over such small spaces. The Semiconductor Industry Association is worried about the problem and is funding research. Most or all other companies and research groups looking at carbon nanotubes to solve the interconnect problem are a using "direct-growth" method - meaning the nanotubes are literally created already in position on the chip.

I do remember Arrowhead Research Corp. had funded a Duke researcher, Jie Liu, who said he had an alternate approach.

I don't know how he's doing with that, so instead I'll gaze at these Indian beauties. There's really no reason they are adorning this post, other than the fact that they came with the story I'm linking to at Versions of this story ran in newspapers around the world last week, but I'm betting they really know what they're doing at newKerala when it comes to making a dry semiconductor story seem a bit more interesting.