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Nanotechnology and Society? 134

Posted by Zonk
from the what's-going-on? dept.
VoiceOfZule writes "Bringing advanced sci-tech and humanities grad students to teach undergrads about nanotech and its implications is a great idea. I was in this class on Nanotechnology and Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this spring, and a lot of the course materials were just put online along with a preprint paper about the new course, and some of the student research projects. The class was a lot of fun (some nano, some scitech studies, some scifi/future stuff), I learned a lot (about the reality of nanotech and its societal implications beyond the B.S. hype out there), and the world of nano now seems like a good career path to me. Are similar experiences going on across the country? In light of recent worries concerning science and engineering in the US, I hope so."
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Nanotechnology and Society?

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  • by gardyloo (512791) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:39PM (#13083150)
    I hope there was very little homework....
  • Alot of universities seem to be offering similar classes of late. In fact, next semester I begin a 4 semester course track about the implications of technology in our society with a focus on nanotechnology. I'm looking forward to all that extra time to nap on the oh-so-comfy 1970's era right-hand-only desks.
  • recent worries concerning science and engineering in the US

    You just said a mouthful there... Nothing is going to pull things out of this nose-dive but a radical restructuring of the US's political and social structures. Not even nanotechnology:

    July 15, 2005

    America's Descent Into The Third World [vdare.com]

    By Paul Craig Roberts

    The June payroll jobs report did not receive much attention due to the July 4 holiday, but the depressing 21st century job performance of the US economy continues unabated.

    • If U.S. companies don't want to hire U.S. engineers because of their salary, wouldn't that mean that prevailing salary for engineers is too high and does not reflect the value of their education and skills?
      • You can certainly make that argument. But I would assert that conversely, U.S. companies want OTHER companies to support a highly-paid workforce, in order to buy THEIR products. In other words, it's a bit like the Prisoners' Dilemma. YOU pay YOUR workers top dollar so they can buy MY products. I pay my workers dirt, because I don't care if they can buy YOUR products. If everybody plays the game that way, everybody loses.

        There are "high value products" for sale in the US that simply won't sell in any third-
      • Not necessarily in a world in which the US currency is the international currency of reserve. Prices get so distorted by trade relationships that the only folks in the US that really make it are:
        1) folks with property
        2) folks in positions protected from both trade and immigration.
      • In the '90s, there was a push by large 2 and 3 letter companies to change engineering from a 4 year curricula to a 2 year curricula (in short, replacing engineers with technicians), focusing on the software tools that those companies used (and avoiding things like theory or sticky stuff like ethics or even worse economics). The university system wasn't interested in such a change of their educational system. Hence the outcry of a shortage of technicians (which are mispelled in the media as engineers).

        With

    • It is very easy to write doom and gloom stories, but it is difficult to come up with good advice.

      Young people should look at the hot technologies and pursue those - that will give them a start in life. Biotech is one. Microwave is another. Of course there is also the old favourite: Military products.

      It is the mature and sweatshop technologies that gets outsourced. Software development is one of them.
      • Software is no more a mature sweatshop technology than is science.

        What you are doing with software is coming up with formal systems that model reality. It is easy to come up with complex models of reality -- just enumerate all the data you have and call that a "theory".

        Where science gets its power is where software gets its quality: Parsimony. The problem with parsimony is that it's hard [google.com]. It's so hard you can't find a better definition for artificial intelligence quality than Kolmogorov compression [geocities.com]

    • As a U.S. citizen and holder of a degree in Mechanical engineering, I don't especially like the movement of manufacturing to places other than the U.S. That said, you know what happens to third world economies? They become sources of cheap labor for other economies. So lets hope that the U.S. goes third world as fast as possible.
    • I know you us guys think that the world is a state of the usa, but sorry. America does not means USA. Sure, most of south america are 3rd ord 2nd world, but you forgot canada. And at the end even if america would be completely 3rd-world-zone: USA is still not America! Get it!
    • This is offtopic fearmongering. It isn't even coherent. The start of the rant doesn't relate to the rest of it.
    • Robert's perpetuates the Industrial Age mentality about jobs.

      It is true that jobs are disappearing but blaming it on the third world is incredibly short-sighted. You only have to visit a modern factory and realize that automation is here, and it is just the beginning. Experts like Rifkin suggest that industry has not fully embraced automation (probably for fear of community backlash) and automation remains at about 5% of what is possible. What will happen to jobs when automation moves to 50% or 100%?
      • The real problem, as I continue to point out, is not job loss: the problem is how to more equitably share the productivity gains of centuries of progress.

        And the real problem as I continue to point out [geocities.com] is that you should solve the equity problem before you remove people's means of livelihood -- not after you have disenfranchised and rendered them politically impotent as most certainly they have been by the globalists [rescueamericanjobs.org].

        • Agree, but only in an ideal world situation.

          Unfortunately, humans always resist new ideas and change, at least initially. Then there is luddite factor which is wedded to doing things the 'old' way.

          It is too late to close the barn doors, the horse has bolted. But this does not mean we can't do anything about it. In fact, the restoration of people's means of livelihood can be achieved, at least in part, by utilising advances in production technologies to bring down the cost of living.

          The problem is th
  • Heh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the world of nano now seems like a good career path to me

    During my comprehensive exams, one of my committee members cynically advised me to rephrase my answer using the prefix "nano", since that's what funding agencies like to see on grant proposals.
  • ...you should ask Wesley Crusher how much trouble a bright young man can cause with those little buggers.
  • Silly bus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:51PM (#13083216) Journal
    This section of the syllabus seems to capture what the course is about the most concisely.

    to consider the societal implications of nanotech in the context of social, scientific, historical, political, environmental, philosophical, ethical, and cultural ideas applied from other fields and prior work;

    My question: How is this different from any other major technological advance? For goodness sake, there were backlashes against the railroad, against the first steam engines. More recently we have backlashes against cloning, and nuclear power.

    Every time we run into some topic like this, we have a very polarized debate. In practice, society adapts to the change and goes on with life. Ultimately, the market decides which innovations become wide spread, and how they are implemented.

    My impression from the syllabus: fluff class looking to cash in on a hot button topic.
    • I believe this was addressed (albeit in a roundabout way) in the second post for this article. It absolutely is using the buzzword "nano" to generate interest in a class which has a much larger scope.

      That is not to say that the class is worthless, social reaction to new technology needs to be studied (imo) more intensively than it is now (i.e. real funding, not just hyped up studies).

      • You've got it completely right.

        A lot of the funding today is going to actively involve the public in sci/tech policy. The controversy around GMO food and the Euro market (GMO-free until recently) being largely closed to the pro-GMO U.S. food industry has opened a lot of eyes. If we're going to avoid this kind of controversy in the future, we need to dump research dollars into finding out what people think about new tech and developing it accordingly rather than expecting people to just get used to whatever
      • Agreed. By the time I read the syllabus, and posted my comment, the other had appeared. Please don't tell people that I RTFA. I might get banned ;)
    • Re:Silly bus (Score:3, Insightful)

      Actually, *The Market* did not determine the fate of Nuclear Power, an underinformed public, led by demagogues on both sides, couldn't tell Reactors from Bombs and therefore litigated the industry into submission. Before that, the type of reactors to be used was determined in part by military desires (capable of producing plutonium), not by economic factors (thorium, for instance, which is more plentiful but doesn't produce divertable byproducts).

      A class like this could be very valuable, if it trained t
      • Remember, DuPont used to boldly proclaim "Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry". That's still true, but no modern Ad agency would dare say that for fear of reminding the undereducated that the world is made out of Chemicals. Courses that attempt to prevent that sort of dichotomy from occuring with Nanotech, etc, are frankly a good thing, as long as they're not led by the fear-mongering Rifkins of the world.

        It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of peo

    • My question: How is this different from any other major technological advance? For goodness sake, there were backlashes against the railroad, against the first steam engines. More recently we have backlashes against cloning, and nuclear power.

      Some technologies disturb people due to the so-called "yuck" factor. They feel that it will lead to unemployment, societal breakdown or moral decay. Other technologies are aguably so dangerous that they threaten the very existence of human life (as opposed to the sta
    • There's a difference IMHO. Not visible at first sight, because it applies mostly to certain small part of nanotechnology: nanomachines (but seeing as people confuse the two all the time...who knows if that's not the case with this course). The same was true with nuclear power to lesser extent, and will (?) be true with AI to much greater extent. Basically: those are the technologies that could destroy us. So the background this course gives is much appreciated. It'll help to realise how to handle with new s
  • CBEN at Rice (Score:4, Informative)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:53PM (#13083225) Homepage Journal
    CBEN [rice.edu] at Rice University, had a similiar program [rice.edu] directed to science teachers in the Houston area. It was a refresher course on physics and chemistry. It also explored the scope and uses of nanotechnology, predictably focusing on fullerenes developed at the university. It was nice because there was so much home grown knowledge on the subject.

    The course also explored the possible environmental effects of nanotechnology, and the possible regulation that might help manage those effects. When dealing with one class of nanotech, like fullerenes, this is quite a broad and complex topic. When on introduces the everything that might be nanotech, it becomes nearly unmanageable.

    Another project that has some popularity is the nanokids [rice.edu].

    There is actually quite a bit from the course that can be used in any number of high school courses. And, since Nanotech is likely to tbe defining technology of the next generation, kids who are familiar with the concepts are going to be better prepared than those who are not.

    • There was a much better class than this directed at students at Rice called Nanotechnology: Content and Context [rice.edu]. I never took the class (I'm a grad student, not an undergrad), but from the syllabus it seems like a great course idea.

      Now, the poster says nanotech seems like a good career path. Here are some things I can tell you right now that I never did as an undergrad that I should have:
      1) Take chemistry. Lots of it. Even if you do physics, take at least up through organic, if not physical chem.
      2) Take so
  • Here's the text book [wikipedia.org] they used
  • by Eunuch (844280) *
    Nanotechnology is interesting mainly in that it has uses in transhumanism(machine neuron interfaces and such). The singularity institute is forming ties with the foresight institute to tie transhumanism with nanotechnology.

    But it's easy to see how transhumanism is the greater of the two. When we are posthumanism, we'll be able to analyze nanotechnology much better.
  • EH&S issues? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drphil (320469) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:05PM (#13083287)
    I'd be interested in hearing what the course covered with respect to environmental, health and safety issues around nanomaterials. While these new materials bring interesting properties, they could also present some interesting, unexpected health hazards.
    By virtue of their size, nanoparticles can cross the blood/brain barrier. For some materials this new route of entry could be the difference between toxic and nontoxic. Materials that previously were thought of as nontoxic in the micron and above particle range could now have toxic effects. - Material data safety sheets generally don't consider a material's particle size, except to state "dusty" type warnings.

    That the nanoparticles can have this new route of entry is proven - that this results in new toxic effects for previously nontoxic compounds is not (at least not that I've seen in the lit) - so there may be no issue - or there may be a big issue. Hopefully we don't find out the asbestos way where we make the material ubiquitous then be stuck with huge remediation and civil lawsuit issues!
  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:08PM (#13083301)
    Politics 101,

    Nonotech is a compettitive threat to a LOT of entrenched industries who have cozy monopolies. So you can better believe that there will be strong push to "regulate" it for peoples "safety" and the "protection" of society.

    The inportant thing to understand is that there are two types of laws. Ones that seek justice by punishing people who make bad choices, and ones that try to "prevent" problems by limiting the kinds of choices people are "allowed" to have. It should always be understood that the former is usually good and the latter is almost always BS, and causes more harm than it "prevents".

    • how is it a threat? There is no nanotech industry, it is a direction all industrial research is going in currently. How can an industry be threatened by their research?
    • The punishment part of laws do little to deter the problems. We punish people who rob and kill, yet the crime rate is little affected by the punishment. Crime rate is mostly affected by employment and policing to enforce expectations.

      In business having a known set of expectations is even more important. Rational persons will want a known baseline so that everyone can compete from the same expectations. For example, builders have codes that must be followed. Without regulation, a builder might gain a

  • I'll be applying to colleges next year. Is Madison a well-known school in the Midwest/Northeast? I hadn't heard of it until I started my college search. Are Madison grads typically presented with good jobs/career paths? If anyone knows anything about this school, I'd love to hear it.
    • They have some fantastic people in the math department. The school's ranking and reputation, of course, depends entirely on what you plan to study.
    • I'm a Madison alum, and I can't get the head hunters to stop calling. I graduated in 2003 and have been gainfully employed since then. First as a consultant doing software engineering for a fortune 500 company, now as a full time employee for a startup in Massachusetts. Though to find a job in software after graduation you have to put in your dues and intern or coop as an undergrad.

      Its got a top-notch engineering school and also is in the big ten. If you're looking for a school to get a world class educ

  • by sakusha (441986) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:17PM (#13083361)
    This class represents everything that is wrong with modern college education. Some poor physics teacher is stuck spending hisr time giving "Science and Society" classes to students seeking an easy A to fulfill their core science requirements. What ever happened to teaching real science classes involving math and physics, instead of "soft science" classes involving primarily politics and social issues?
    • Because not everyone is a science major. I'm going to be majoring in English in the fall, why would I want to spend my time taking grueling math and science classes? I have far more important things to worry about.

      Besides, I feel classes that discuss the social repercussions of science are plenty valuable. Science always has to answer to society, it doesn't have carte blanche to do whatever it chooses (at least, here in the US, I can't really speak for the rest of the world). Generally, a new technologica

      • Ah, I see. What you're saying is that English majors should be ignorant of Math and Science, they don't have to bother with such things.

        I take it back. The Nanoscience and Society class is not representative of everything that is wrong with college education. It is people like YOU who represent everything that is wrong with college education.
        • Ah, I see. What you're saying is that English majors should be ignorant of Math and Science, they don't have to bother with such things.

          No, that's not what was said. How much English did you take during your time studying? You don't have to be such a troll -- but it is harder to use your head. Try it sometime.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          What you're saying is that English majors should be ignorant of Math and Science, they don't have to bother with such things.

          Welcome to the real world, where for most people the ability to do complex differential equations and understand the low-level chemistry involved in their daily life is of little consequence.

          OTOH, the ability of non-science majors to understand and perform complex analytical reasoning about the nature and consequences of science and technology is important, because like it or not i
        • Yes, my priorities be damned. I can see where several grueling classes in microbiology or biochemistry would come in handy for someone who wants to live out their days writing fiction novels and/or short stories. Why should I bother to take difficult science classes? I've taken college level AP courses for calculus and biology, and am far more competent in those and other sciences than the average person need be. Why should I spend more of my valuable time taking rigorous classes for which I have no use whe

      • "Because not everyone is a science major. I'm going to be majoring in English in the fall, why would I want to spend my time taking grueling math and science classes? I have far more important things to worry about."

        Like what? What part of you major will impact the lives of people as much as science has?
        Will anything you learn prevent children from being crippled by a virus? Will anything you learn feed millions of people? Name a work of fiction that has the same impact on peoples lives as the clean drinki
        • Why do I care how much an English major impacts the world relative to science? Not everyone wants to spend their lives curing disease or trying to stop world hunger. Obviously no work of fiction has the same weight as some of those things you mentioned, but what's your point? Fiction works are pointless because they don't solve planetary problems? Let's just stop having books, music and movies, they're obviously useless.
          • I love books, music, and movies. It was this one line.
            " I have far more important things to worry about."
            This is all part of the attack of the Liberal Arts people. That they have some keen insight into human nature that those that study science do not. It is not just English but History, Sociology, and Philosophy that are in a clueless daze of self inspection. They have become nothing more than mental masturbation. You asked "Why do I care how much an English major impacts the world relative to science?" I
            • Being well acquainted with math and science, I don't feel a need to defend my proficiency in them. I just hate them. I would prefer to study English and not worry about String Theory or the citric acid cycle. That's why people can choose their professions. Those drawn to science can do as they choose, and when they put their commas outside of the quotation marks, I won't hold it against them. It seems that others have a problem seeing the inverse of this, however.
              • Oh yes English sucks. My wife speaks several languages and is also of that opinion frankly I will take her word for it. However I would never think that I could offer any insight into proper grammar or spelling. I fear it is one of the effects of being dyslexic.
    • Speaking as a trained Physicist, I think it's vital to teach technologists to understand the social and political implications of science. Also, it's vital for non-scientists to learn the rudiments of science. The existance of this sort of class in no way precludes 'hard science' classes. Arguing that this sort of class has no place smacks of over-specialization.
    • In today's society, understanding the arguments surrounding the regulations of science and technology are based around politics and social issued masked in technical standards. The class teaches you to sift through what is presented to you, debunk the myths and see for yourself what the motivations behind such laws are. It's part of the greater learning, while a course I'm taking now is similar to fill my "Natural Science" elective, the hardcore math and physics wouldn't suit me well working as a graphic
    • Huh? Are you serious? If you point was true than give me one valid reson why I, student of psychology, couldn't say: why should anybody be bothered too much with such unimportant stuff like technology, stuff that doesn't really matter, when we can focus on the true essence of ourselves?
  • America is facing a serious fulcrum. Either we can continue to busy ourselves with our moral and ethical dilemmas which I feel partly stem from our Puritan ancestors and let the rest of the world pass us by. Or, we decide that we'd like to be a recognizable technological force in the 21st century and realize that our ethical dilemmas are rather unfounded.

    The rest of the world doesn't seem too have much trouble figuring out where they stand on issues like abortion, gay marriage and nanotech. Why do we?

    • The rest of the world doesn't seem too have much trouble figuring out where they stand on issues like abortion, gay marriage and nanotech. Why do we?

      Really? I think "rest of the world" is overstating it a little bit. Have you had extensive exposure to foreign media or residents on a global basis to know that these issues have been resolved universally? Seems like we don't hear that much here in the U.S. about other countries social issues unless it involves people getting blown up. I don't really see

      • The rest of the DEVELOPED world would be reasonable. And the EU is (quite rightly, IMO) opposed to genetically modified foods which have not undergone sufficient testing. Our standards are higher than yours; we have fewer powerful food industry lobbyists to tell the governments what to do, after all. When something has been tested sufficiently, we are generally happy to use it (of course, like everyone else in the world, we have luddites who would no sooner eat their GM food than their next door neighbor).
  • The implicatations of democratized Molecular Nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] in the near future is not "bullshit hype" as implied in the summary. A bottom-up molecular manufacturing device, or "replicator", in every home, will be hugely disruptive to the current scarcity-based, top-down manufacturing economy, but will ultimately be the great economic equalizier.

    When anybody can make anything, virtually for free(1), they are then self-sufficient and truly liberated from the wage-slave supply-chain-gang. This "make anything

    • A bottom-up molecular manufacturing device, or "replicator", in every home, will be hugely disruptive to the current scarcity-based, top-down manufacturing economy, but will ultimately be the great economic equalizier.
      Maybe. On the other hand, our relatively new-found ability to store and transmit large quantities of information has not destroyed the scarcity-based economy of information. Rather, we have devised laws to create scarcity.
      • On the other hand, our relatively new-found ability to store and transmit large quantities of information has not destroyed the scarcity-based economy of information.

        That's largely because the scarcity that matters is material, so while that's still a fact of life, many will want to create artificial scarcity in order to trade to put food on the table, and clothes on their children. But, once material scarcity becomes material abundance, the incentive for artificial scarcity is MUCH less.

        However, mater

    • There will still be wheeling and dealing SOB's out there, until you can tell me there's a machine that can create a SAFE and delicious range of food products in a very short period of time. Food has always been the one scarcity that is not only real scarcity, but a life-and-death issue.

      Jasin Natael
    • "Nature already does it."

      Sorry, what do you mean? Living creatures replicate themselves but there are no general purpose programmable replicators in nature that I'm aware of.
    • There will be no replicators. You've been watching too much Star Trek.
  • Politics 102

    Once nano takes off, people will likely be able to manufacture things in their homes, and there will be two types of industries.

    One will see the entire purpose and meaning of the nano age as a tool to leverage their patnet holdings for unlimited growth and profit, extracting royality for every last thing that everybody creates in every private home. They will try to secure this "right" by force.

    The other side will see the entire purpose and meaning of the nano age as an opportunity to provid
  • He's working on molecular computers or something.

    Apparently 1/4 of every dollar has to go to impact research, evaluating whether it will destroy the world.

    I think Bill Joy has done more than his fair share of damage, this field of research is hamstrung by paranoia about the possibility of a grey goo which is impossible.

    After all, Bacteria would LOVE to be a grey goo, eat everything, reproduce endlessly, destroy the world. That's really what bacteria are all about, they just can't manage it. So how in t
    • I think Bill Joy has done more than his fair share of damage, this field of research is hamstrung by paranoia about the possibility of a grey goo which is impossible.

      After all, Bacteria would LOVE to be a grey goo, eat everything, reproduce endlessly, destroy the world. That's really what bacteria are all about, they just can't manage it. So how in the hell is mankind supposed to outdo several billion years of evolution's attempt to make grey goo.


      That's because bacteria live in an ecosystem with natural
  • Personally, I have seen quite a bit of nanotech at various research and academic institutions. Right now it isn't huge, and there isn't alot at undergraduate levels, but the graduate/post-doc research is very active.
  • Nanotechnology is probably too broad of an area to specialize in. I think picking one particular area of nanotechnology would be a good idea. There are many areas of science and engineering that fall into this area.

    For example, most of electrical engineering is now nanotechnology. Microbiology is where most of the work in biology is being done.
  • I recently graduated from Louisiana Tech University [latech.edu]. During my last quarter there, the university was offering a NanoSystems Engineering intro course similar to the one the parent thread talks about. LaTech has actually been approved for a Nanotechnology Undergraduate degree [nanotechwire.com], the first in the U.S. I belive.
  • nano hype (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mako1138 (837520) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:50PM (#13083531)
    "Nano" is getting redundant, because most technical fields have an interest in getting to smaller and smaller scales. Whether it's electronics or chemistry, things are going nano. It's not like you can major in nanotechnology alone and expect to handle anything in the nanoscale. Realistically, you have to choose a field of concentration.
  • I am a student at UCSB and we just got built a $200+ Million dollar Nanotechnology facility. Ive been wondering what practical uses there are for nanotech (I know there are plenty) But i dont know WHAT they actually are... Can we make a nanotech comb that brushes away dandruff and fixes the scalp? Anyone done any brainstorming or have articles pointing to already accomplished processes?
  • by Veteran (203989) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @08:18PM (#13084155)
    These are first order "back of the envelope" calculations about the effects of making things small.

    For reasons which will become apparent as you read this I doubt that true nano scale weapons will ever exist. What could possibly be built are micro
    scale robotic devices of a non self replicating type which could possibly be used as weapons. Let us find out how practical they might be.

    Let us start by examining the effects of scaling on things. We'll start with my Nissan Maxima and reduce it in size by a factor of ten. Instead of being about 17 feet long the scaled car will be about 1.7 feet long. Instead of weighing about 3000 lbs it will weigh about 3 lbs. Why is that? The answer is that the mass of a scaled object is proportional to its volume - which goes as the cube of the dimensional ratio. Ten times as long, ten times as wide, ten times as high has 1000 times the volume.

    The scaled engine would be 3 cc in displacement instead of 3000 cc. Instead of 222 Hp it would produce .222 Hp. Fuel consumption at this level would be one thousandth of that of the full size engine. Since the fuel tank is also one thousandth of the size of the full size vehicle one might be tempted to think that the distance between fill ups would be the same.

    However, the fuel consumption of the smaller vehicle is proportionally greater. Why? The smaller vehicle is one thousandth the weight but the frontal area of the vehicle - the size of which determines the drag - is one hundredth of that of the larger vehicle. Thus at the same speed the drag of the smaller vehicle is proportionally ten times as great as the larger vehicle.

    The optimal speed of the smaller vehicle is lower than that of the larger vehicle. Because drag goes as the square of the velocity, one thousandth of
    the fuel consumption will drive the smaller vehicle at a speed which is about 32% of the speed of the larger car and its range will also be about
    32% of the full sized car's range.

    If we tried to make a car scaled down by a factor of 100 its speed and range would both be only one tenth (square root of a scale factor of 100) that of a full size car. We are forced to conclude that the product of speed and range of any vehicle with an internal fuel supply will scale directly with
    the scale factor.

    For example reducing the size of a jet plane by a factor of 100 makes it fly at one tenth the speed and one tenth as far. By the time we scale to nano
    sizes we have objects which won't go very far or very fast. A nano device is an exceptionally crappy weapon delivery system compared to a full sized device; it can only move slowly, and it can't go very far.

    However there are other things which occur which would effect our attempt to simply scale an engine down in size. The first of these is the change in
    heat loss. In simplest terms the rate of heat production is proportional to the volume of a heat source, which means that heat production scales with the cube of the scale factor, but heat loss is proportional to the surface area of the object which scales as the square of the scaling factor.

    A smaller engine requires much less of a cooling system than a large engine does, if the engine is small enough it doesn't require a cooling system at all - it will lose heat naturally fast enough without one.

    Because of the square - cube relationship for heat loss there is a minimum size flame which is possible. A small ball of flame loses heat faster than a large one. If a ball of flame is too small it can't produce enough heat from internal combustion to maintain its temperature above the ignition point, and the flame can't exist.

    This means that if we try to scale our engine far enough it will refuse to run, it will lose heat too fast for the fuel to burn. Even making the engine out of heat resistive materials like ceramics only works to a certain size;
    eventually the heat loss will keep things from burning.

    This is part of the reason that biological cells use c
    • You have raised several good points there, but one thing I have noticed you didn't take into account is our ability to manufacture with greater precision, your miniturised car would be even lighter than you suggested. Who wants a nasty heavy engine block made out of metal when you can build a diamonoid one for a fraction of the weight and capable of sustaining even higher pressures which in turn results in a higher power output.
    • How about energy stored in an internal flywheel? Such as in Neal Stephenson's quite revolting Seven Minute Special:

      Just to name one example, there was Red Death, a.k.a. the Seven Minute Special, a tiny aerodynamic capsule that burst open after impact and released a thousand or so corpuscle-sized bodies, known colloquially as cookie-cutters, into the victim's bloodstream. It took about seven minutes for all of the blood in a typical person's body to recirculate, so after this interval the cookie-cutters w

  • If it is so easy for socially irresposible brats (script kiddies) to disrupt society by writing or modifying computer viruses / worms / trojans / backdoors, then think what wiil happen when it is easy to give those evil code snippets nanobodies?
    Total disaster.
    The end of the world as we know it.
    THe sky is falling!
  • The ECE Department at UF had Dr. Scott Thompson [ufl.edu], an Intel Fellow and former Director of 90nm Logic Technology at Intel, teach a class on semiconductor nanotechnology. This was a great class because Dr. Thompson didn't overburden the students with tedious homework but rather would assign projects to help us get a better understanding of the different nanotechnologies. He lectured about the future of these technologies and how soon we could be seeing such technologies. [slashdot.org] He went into great detail about MOSFETS,
  • by typical (886006) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @09:40PM (#13084484) Journal
    My first thoughts on nano were probably the same sci-fi ideas that everyone else has -- self-assembling nanobots could build just about anything, and do anything.

    But real-life applications of nano are much less groundbreaking, and much more mundane -- making circuits and storage a bit smaller, and so forth. Nano is more of a psychological barrier than anything else.

    If self-assembling robots were really such an awesome idea, for getting work done, we would have done them at the far-easier-to-work-with size scales that we are comfortable with.
    • Uh, you're confusing things, self-assembling is a mean not an end.
      The goal is to build lots of nanobots able to work with molecules directly.
      The only way to build enough nanobots to be useful is self-assembly, but self-assembling in itself is not interesting.
      It is also likely that self-assembling is only useful for step 0: with self-assembly you build a factory of nanobots, those nanobots are powerful but complex and not very efficient, so you use this nanofactory to build a specialised factory to produce e
  • Reading thru the various materials, the person who put the course together chose to follow the mainstream ingore/dismiss MNT ideology. Too bad.

    The NNI promotes this kind of thinking. I call it 'Nanotechnology: By Chemists, For Chemists' because it shies away from the most powerful applications of molecular manufacturing in order to not offend the gray-haird 'experts' trying to defend their turf.

    So what we're left with is buckyballs and other stuff we can already do with bulk processes. Yawn.
  • There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
  • by symoo (876672)
    Didn't the FORVE in STARWARS envolve the ability to control nanides? IS THE FORVE...REAL???
  • My recently-released book deals directly with nanotech and its impact on society.

    The story is about a little girl, Gordona, who is thrown into a situation as the result of being exposed to advanced technology in the form of an escaped lab animal with a bloodstream full of microbots (based on nanotech, it will be a REALLY long time before we have true nanobots). She gets "infected".

    While those near to Gordona struggle with the understanding of what happened to her, the corporation behind the research is

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