28 June 2007

Consumer Reports Looks at Nanotechnology

Consumer Reports is a veteran magazine of product reviews for consumers. It is fitting that CR does a story on nanotechnology for consumers, on the doorstep of the nanotechnology age.
Imagine these technological marvels: drugs that seek out and destroy cancer cells, paint that changes color when viewed from different angles, molecular “ink” that encodes millions of pages of information in a square inch, and contact lenses that let you check your blood sugar by just looking in the mirror.

Those and a host of other innovations are already here, or soon will be, thanks to a scientific revolution called nanotechnology, which promises to change our world as profoundly as did electricity and the internal combustion engine.

Nanotech researchers create new materials in two main ways. They can reduce the particles in standard materials to sizes as small as a nanometer, or about one-hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair. At the nanoscale, where the ­mind-bending principles of quantum physics can apply, the characteristics of materials change: Carbon becomes 100 times stronger than steel, aluminum turns highly explosive, and gold melts at room temperature.

In addition, researchers can manipulate individual atoms and molecules, like tiny Lego pieces, to form microscopic tubes, spheres, wires, and films for specific tasks, such as generating electricity or transporting drugs in the body.

Exploiting the vast potential of those discoveries, manufacturers are bringing nanoengineered products to market at breakneck speed, spurred by a torrent of federal funding since 2001 for research and development. About $2.6 trillion worth of goods worldwide are expected to use nanotech by 2014, up from $50 billion in 2006. “Nanotechnology is creating fundamental changes in almost everything on earth,” says Mike Roco, the National Science Foundation’s senior adviser on nanotechnology, “and what we’re seeing now is just a hint of what’s to come."

The story then briefly discusses the dangers of nanotechnology to humans, which is appropriate for a magazine like CR. The problem is that no one truly understands the dangers of nanotechnology, not really. We will probably learn about those as they come up.

Michael Anissimov has looked at these issues at his website, as has Brian Wang. The Lifeboat Foundation likewise has devoted a lot of space to studying such threats.

It is nice for CR to mention this issue to its readers, just to cover the bases. But to really understand the issues, you should start with the websites above, or at The Foresight Institute website.


Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts