| Nanotechnology as a subgenre of science fiction, new photos, and some music to help your forget the nano |

Theoretical Model of a Nano bearing

The nano is within me and without you as I embark on my fourth month of research into the Gray Goo Scenario (an apocalyptic vision of nanotech popular from 1986-2001 wherin nanomachines self-replicate to no end, devouring the earth) for my senior thesis. Let’s just say I’ve done a lot of squinting.
In more upbeat news, Robert Hamers, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has created his school’s mascot with tiny carbon nanofiber hairs. For scale, 9,000 of these rascally teddy bears could fit on the head of a single pin.

As always, research into the production of very small things requires a tip of the hat to Robert Feynman who got all excited in 1959 over the inevitable miniaturization of technology. He would shit a pin-sized brick today if he knew what we were doing with nanotech (and if he were alive).

Luckily for us, the field hasn’t been moving forward as quickly as people have hoped. We haven’t written his speech on the head of a pin (his challenge within his 1959 speech). But most importantly we don’t have a number of the things nanoethicists have been saying were just a few nanotech breakthroughs away.

nano-blood-robotThere’s no robotic submarines that swim around our blood, repairing our every ill, and we also don’t have fly-sized assasins capable of injecting sarin gas into the jugular of the nearest Russian Mob boss.

These silly predictions make it an exciting field filled with utterly confusing consequences for man and bear. To cope with this technological insecurity, the field depends on a heavy component of mythology and imaginative futurism. Everything theoretical is possible simply by virtue of it’s ability to be imagined. Confused on how to deal with it? Me too. Nanotech has convinced a lot of people that we will have ultimate control over matter. Anything made of matter can be produced. If technology = matter and we can imagine any technology, then anything = possible. We just need to work out the kinks of about ten trillion problems before our godlike control of matter becomes a reality. Think 40-60 years.


99% of scientists
have read this book

What I’m dealing with specifically in my thesis is the notion that nanotechnology writing has taken too many liberties with futurism. As a socio-political lubricant of technology transparency (vital for democracy), science journalism (or any link between public and scientific spheres) has failed the public, jamming up the works. The allure of juxtaposing apocalyptic consequences of theoretical technologies with their utopian counterparts is partly to blame. The field has not yet learned to temper its deterministic narrative. It’s for this reason that Nanotech writing has been called a “subgenre of science fiction.” The whole world makes for interesting reading on a cold night such as tonight [24F].

All the systems (NGOs, civil society organizations) employed to respond to the news of outlandish and theoretical nanotech fears have expended energy on a distant and uncertain threats and failed to address current nanotech issues like nanoparticle stability in the environment and the effects of nanotech inhalation. The extremely high surface areas of nanomaterials is believed to complicate particle toxicity. As a result of the lazy NGO action, we now have nanotech in 300 products and still no function to regulate them. The FDA response was to assign approximately 3.2 monkeys to whack repeatedly at small banana-shaped joysticks.

In response to many many many calls to enforce the labelling of nano-containing products for consumption, the FDA responded with this conclusion:

Recommendations for Consideration

Because the current science does not support a finding that classes of products with nanoscale materials necessarily present greater safety concerns than classes of products without nanoscale materials, the Task Force does not believe there is a basis for saying that, as a general matter, a product containing nanoscale materials must be labeled as such. Therefore the Task Force is not recommending that the agency require such labeling at this time. Instead, the Task Force recommends that the agency take the following action:

* Address on a case-by-case basis whether labeling must or may contain information on the use of nanoscale materials.

Nano lacks compelling regulatory efforts by either the epa or the fda. The EPA was about to team up with a major corporation to create an environmental risk asessment but there was too much of a holler in the academic halls.

And get this: A bloody “nano-silver” clothes washer just came out, promising to soak your clothes in a soapy-silver dust (an anti-bacterial agent):

silver%20washer%20samsungThe Silver Nano Health System is a comprehensive system developed by Samsung to improve your quality of life by eliminating bacteria from the places that count most. Despite our hopes, the appliances we rely on often become breeding grounds for very bacteria and odors we hope to remove. Just as a dirty washer never truly cleans clothes, only clean air conditioners and purifiers can supply clean air, and a clean, bacteria free refrigerator keeps food fresh longer. Samsung has found a solution in the safety of silver, ionizing silver into ions for an effective coating that lets your home appliances remain remarkably free of bacteria and odors. We���re creating a zone of protection for the health and safety of your family���s future. It���s here, it���s clear and it���s silver. [link]

Busy days

On a personal note, I’ll be working feverishly over the next two weeks on a

  • Latin History final paper
  • Biological and Chemical Weapons Arms Control Research Paper (I’m writing on Nanotech Arms Control)
  • A bioethics research paper on the moral distinction between ‘enhancement’ and ‘treatment’ in regards to Genetic Medicine and Genetic Therapy
  • And last but not least, working on my thesis. A rough draft is due January 28th. I can’t tell you about it because it’s secret.

New Photos

The Dirty Projectors, Video Hippos, and Ponytail came to vassar Nov 30th. I took whipped out the soul catchercam: Jump into a slideshow or view the set here.

And Here’s some tunes like I promised ya:

Mgmt – Electric Feet
King Herbert and the Knights with Jack Harden – Chicken Strut
(if the above playlist stop working, just let me know in a comment)

2 thoughts on “| Nanotechnology as a subgenre of science fiction, new photos, and some music to help your forget the nano |

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