Week 9: Nanotech by Leah Sitler

This week’s topic of nanotechnology was incredibly interesting.  The guest lecture by Gimzewski was particularly fascinating to me.  One recurring theme was the good and the bad side of nanotech–The good being the cures and technological advances that nanotech has been a part of and the bad being the absence of toxicology and warning done on products which have nano parts.  It was particularly frightening to think of all the nanoparticles that are introduced into foods as preservatives and color and filler.  It’s incredibly disgusting if you think about it.

Professor Vesna was right when she said that nanotech encompasses everything we have studied so far in the class.  Nanotech is contributing to robotics, biology, and even space with carbon nanotubing.  Breaking everything down to its fundamental particles allows for endless possibilities.  In the 1500’s Alchemists were trying to convert mercury into gold, but the result was unattainable.  Modern day chemists and physicists can see just how close mercury is to gold (there is one proton and one electron difference).  And, thanks to modern science’s ability to rearrange at the fundamental level, it is now possible to convert mercury into gold. (Although it is very expensive and highly impractical).

http://thescitechjournal.blogspot.com/2008/04/turning-mercury-into-gold.html

The talk on Thursday reminded me of a book I read when I was a child, it was part of the His Dark Materials Series and was titled The Subtle Knife.  It was the second in the trilogy, the first being The Golden Compass.  In The Subtle Knife, there is a knife that has the ability to cut through molecules, opening up pathways to parallel worlds.  Similar in theory to the youtube video we watched about the 10 dimensions, each world represents alternative “endings” to our universe.  The knife that in this story seemed so magical to me now may be a reality.  Not that the ability to splice molecules will lead us into other universes parallel to our own, but that nanotech could one day be able to break apart the fundamental particles that make up our universe.

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Just as the possibilities and limits of space are endless, so with nanotech.  It seems that we will never be able to reach a limit to the largeness or smallness of technology.  Infinity in both directions.  Although, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we developed technology that could cut through the fundamental particles that make up the universe.  Is this where dark matter comes from?  Or maybe it’s the source of black holes? If the particles can be split, does that mean that they really are the most fundamental form of matter?

I suppose we will simply have to wait and see.  One of the things that stuck out to me the most about the guest speaker’s talks was that there are endless possibilities with nanotech, but someone just needs to think of what to do next.  Technology is not the limiting factor, but creativity and imagination is.  He called for us to think and be creative.  It was a nice way to tie the whole course together, and bring it back to the original concept: the convergence of art and science.

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