Invisible Earthlings! by Khoa Truong-N

March 10th, 2009

To say the least, the exhibit “Invisible Earthlings was not exactly what I expected when I entered the obscure room in the CNSI.  Extremely casual is definitely one way I could characterize the atmosphere of the exhibit. On the walls were the exhibits; in this case, samples of microbes and on a small table in the corner of the room were two bottles of wine and a cheese tasting plate.  It was as if I had stepped from the campus of a university into the quaint studio loft of an artist.  I have to admit, it was a little awkward at first since I was one of the first people there, but after more people arrived and more wine was consumed, the vibe became much friendlier.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do, or what the purpose of the exhibit was for that matter.  Upon closer examination though, I discovered that the samples of bacteria were actually taken from Beatriz da Costa’s (the artist) backyard.  The Nokia touch-pads were a little buggy at the start, but once they became fully functional, the exhibit itself made much more sense.  It was interesting to see how many common places around the home were habitats for microbes.  I had always known that tiny little organisms surrounded us, but I had no idea that there were such a wide variety of them!  There were definitely some bizarre-looking microbes, and I have to say that I probably won’t be groping any metal fences any time soon.  Overall, it only took me about half an hour to peruse through the various samples.  The next thing that I noticed was the quote/passage inscribed on the wall.  It was something Beatriz da Costa had written about the “Invisible Earthlings”.  Basically, it just talked about the relationships between microbes and humans, and the claim that we sometimes take them for granted.  I agree with the statement that our species takes other species, especially the wee ones, for granted.  Looking at our past and current deeds—massive deforestation, a smorgasbord of pollution, global warming, endangering too many species too count—I think I may know why we take microbes for granted.  Believing that we are the most intelligent beings on this planet, we often discard the other beings we deem too weak, dumb, or small. Unfortunately, this type of arrogance could severely damage us unless we fix it.  Some microbes can work their way into our bodies, and if they go untreated, could kill us.    Like da Costa is saying in her exhibit, microbes are everywhere, and we must face that fact sooner than later.
Seeing the various organisms definitely got me thinking about how we as humans sometimes only see ourselves on this planet.  On the contrary, it is mind-boggling how many other beings are here with us, some in our own rooms.  Of course, there are thousands of microorganisms that help us out everyday as well.  In fact, many of them live inside of our bodies and work with our own systems to keep us healthy.  Once we distinguish between the good and the bad microbes, then we can utilize the good ones for our benefit.  For example, scientists today are using microbes such as bacteria to help produce more of the drugs that humans need to fight diseases such as malaria.  Seeing all these new developments sprout up gives me hope that we can finally begin to appreciate the microbes that play such a large role in our lives.

The title of “Invisible Earthlings” is a fairly accurate one.  Microbes are nearly invisible to the naked eye, yet they are still considered as earthlings as well.  Beatriz da Costa’s exhibit was a simple piece, but at the same time, its message was loud and clear: microbes share this planet with us too and we better realize that.  Fortunately, we are beginning to understand this fact, but there are still many people out there who have never even heard of microbes.  I believe that if more works like da Costa’s are exhibited, more of the public will be able to see the millions of microbes they couldn’t see before.


-Khoa Truong-N

Week 9: Nanotech Insight, Applications and Implications. By Ryan Andre Magsino

March 10th, 2009

Week 9: Nanotech Insight, Applications and Implications. By Ryan Andre Magsino

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

According to the authors of The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science, “In both the philosophical and visual sense, ‘seeing is believing’ does not apply to nanotechnology…” Such statement is clearly true concerning visually sensing nanotechnology at work due to the limitations of the naked eye. We can however contend through a philosophical sense that the saying, “seeing is believing,” can apply to nanotechnology. The origin of such a phrase most likely stems from ancient Greece, for their culture was very much inclined on visuals compared to the other senses. In addition, they were also the first to point out “seeing without seeing.” In a philosophical sense, they were referring seeing to the insight of knowing. Taking this reference into consideration, utilizing insight to hypothesize the existence of nanotechnology “looks” logical.

A nanobot, obviously fictional/conceptual, for now...

A nanobot, obviously fictional/conceptual, for now...

But why should we bother with something we cannot even see?

Typing in “Applications for Nanotechnology” into a search engine will yields thousands if not millions of entries. From improved medical diagnosis, chemical catalysts, energy efficiency to consumer goods, the list for useful applications goes on and on. Overall, the grand scheme of nanotechnology (molecular in particular) is the concept of producing anything given the materials. In some sense, it is as though we have discovered the missing piece in the art of alchemy, nanotechnology.

One interesting application for nanotechnology would be planetary terraforming. In Engines of Creation, Drexler hints at using (nano) machines to rid the world of pollution. “With replicating assemblers we will even be able to remove the billions of tons of carbon dioxide that our fuel burning society has dumped into the atmosphere.” What if we were to utilize these replicating assemblers for terraforming? By altering planets (i.e. Mars) or other heavenly bodies’ atmosphere, temperature, and ecology, such specified place could have the properties of a live-able environment similar to that of Earth. Could this be a solution to the imminent overpopulation on Earth?

The Terraformation of Mars, a reality with nanotechnology?

The Terraformation of Mars, a reality with nanotechnology?

What then? What will happen to society and the value in products?

If the future of nanotechnology results in the ability to produce anything given the initial materials to do so, change will be imminent. In an ideal world, the repercussions of such a scenario would be breathtaking. Several social and economic issues would then be resolved. For example, starvation would be a problem of the past since food can be easily assembled on a molecular scale. Furthermore, people will be judged by who they are rather than how much they are worth or what they possess due to the drop in material value.

Then again, I am ashamed to admit that we do not live in an ideal world. Rather, the actuality of this scenario would be to place limitations on nanotechnology. Especially since nanotechnology is not something that occurs naturally, inventions and designed systems in the field are completely up to be patented. Also, the technology will most likely only be available to certain nations or corporations. Thus only those with the technology will be able to profit.

Josh Bohbot Sec. B Nano Tech Dreams

March 9th, 2009

Nano Technology:

Use of nanotech will obviously be growing in the coming decades. In clothing a great technology to be used is the Nansulate coating system. Nansulate can effectively block heat transfer therefore objects coated with Nansulate can be put through incredibly high temperatures and will not burn. This video shows how well Nansulate holds up to flame.

I can see many uses to this from insulation to firefighting outfits.

These are todays practical uses of nanotech, the Nokia morph we saw in class would the next step but seems extremely far possibility. Nanotech is bringing scifi to reality. A device that could be  folded in several places to become phone to wristwatch mp3 to full blown computer. One things is for sure, nanotech is making scientists dreams slowly conceivable.

wk 9—–nanotechnology and biotechnology? ethics? imagination? shiyang zheng

March 9th, 2009

Professor James Gimzewski’s lecture on nanotechnology is inspiring. And I was surprised by the huge impact of nanotechnology today and coming future. As Professor James Gimzewski said, it is age of nanotechnology. I expect to see how everything is getting small. In the discussion, we watch a video of Nokia Morph Concept.


The cell phone is flexible, can detect dust and bacteria, and has solar recharge system etc. The technology has been developed rapidly since 20th century. We can see things are getting smaller in size but greater in functionality. Everything is getting portable such as laptop.


The world smallest laptop:


Especially after Internet is introduced, we have greater and more frequent interaction among other social groups, friends, and family even in distance. Through Internet, it’s easier and more efficient to share ideas. There is no doubt technology accelerates human civilization. Imaging one day when everything is portable and smaller by nanotechnology, I believe we have to change our lifestyle again. Nano-book, nano-mobile, nano-luggage, nano-medical props that can cure our illness inside our body etc. However, nanotechnology involves more than just creating things on a small scale. Nanotechnology is the natural amalgamation of all fields of science and technology in understanding and manipulating matter on an ever-smaller scale. But it’s important to remember that nanotechnology enables the development of new materials and systems with novel properties.


Beside nanotechnology, biotechnology is another emerging field. Recently I read an interesting article about the integration of biotechnology and nanotechnology. The first applications of nanotechnology in biotechnology are in diagnostics. There are companies like Agilent, Nanogen and Affymetrix are using nanotechnology to build arrays to help diagnose multiple ailments. In the next decade, drug delivery systems are likely to use nanotechnology, as will medical implants. In the future, as specialists predict, there will have nanomachines that act as biological systems working together could carry out tasks such as delivering medicine, altering genes and attacking cancer cells. These would be nanosize assemblies that would perform biological tasks, which means nanotechnology could mimic biological systems such as viruses.


However, The initial challenge for merging nano- and biotechnology will be getting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval due to the potential effects of foreign material and implantable devices in the body. Besides there are a series of ethical questions and regulations needed to be discussed. Technology is useful, but we might really need to seat and think about its application seriously. While I was writing my final project, I was very enjoying my powerful invention. Unfortunately, it might be dangerous and harmful to society if it was improperly used.  Therefore, I feel it is necessary to educate everyone of the development of our technology and its effect to our daily life. There are many chemical and electronic products today. However, we do only know its benefits and method of usage but any potential harm to our health. For example microwave. It is harmful to stand in front of microwave while it is operating. It could generate certain wave frequency, which is harmful to your physical and mental health. Therefore, it’s necessary to collective unit of organization or people to supervise security and quality of the product. There are many existing organization such as FDA protecting consumer’s benefit. However, everyone individual might have different requirements and needs. It’s an analogy to see the doctor when you are sick. Everyone has different health and physical condition. And everyone has different prescription.



I’m very agree with Professor James Gimzewski, this is the age of nanotechnology, at same time, I also think we are living in the world of imagination. He also mentioned the difference between scientists and artists. In his opinion, scientists discover the new but do not know how to create new application. Artists have imagination and creativity that scientists do not have. And thus, He expects artists and scientists work together. After staying in desma9 for 9 weeks, I start to see the integration of art and science from a possibility to an unavoidable trend and fashion. “Apple” is a great example! I like one sentence he said in the end very much “the imagination decides future”. In my imagination, I can find my passion and ambition. It’s the source of my determination and perseverance. My imagination decides my attitude and the content of my imagination will decide my direction.



Week8_Space_Crystal Lin

March 9th, 2009

I must admit, space straight out scares me. I suppose it’s because my greatest fear is being alone. I already don’t like being alone in a room, and I shiver at the thought of being alone in a stadium. I get nightmares about being the last person in the US; the last person on the planet; the only person in the solar system; the only person in the galaxy; the only person in the universe. I imagine myself floating out in space, trying to travel to the nearest tangible object, but continuing in the same direction, and never reaching an actual object because it is just too far away to reach in a life time.

I suppose the concept of space is fascinating when you think of it in a completely objective and removed point of view though. The video that the speaker showed in class of each frame being 10 times as big as the previous every 10 seconds was pretty cool. I had seen the video before, but it still gets to me when I watch it again, especially when the screen travels towards its farthest range. At this farthest range, when you take in to consideration how long it took you to get to this point, it makes me realize just how tiny and insignificant I could be if space was really that infinite. That brings up another topic in space that always made me think twice. How do we know that space is that big? Do we send out satellites that give us video or picture evidence of what is really out there? And how do we know where everything is situated? Have we traveled every square inch of the space in between? I think the concept of space is just as questionable as evolution, which is just as questionable as religion.

The concept of multiplying and diving space by factors of 10 reminded me of a philosopher I learned about in high school. Parmenides, a Greek Philosopher, proposed that “before an object can move any distance, it must first move through an infinite series of fractions of that distance; but since one can never actually get through an infinite series of steps, no distance can be moved through at all.”

I think this is an interesting topic to consider when thinking about space. If you take an inch, and divide it by 2, you get half an inch. Divide it by two again and you get one-fourth of an inch. Divide that by two again, and again, and again, and again. Theoretically, you can keep going, so when does it ever end? When do you finally reach the other side from where you are measuring? When you do, what happened? Why couldn’t you take half of that distance before you got to the other side? It’s an interesting philosophy.

Week 9 - Nanotechnology by Adriana Rosas

March 9th, 2009

I never really knew what nanotechnology really was. I always associated nanotechnology with technology that was really small, but did not have a full understanding of the subject. After this week’s lecture, however, I learned that it is defined as being the engineering of functional systems at a molecular scale. On a more relative note, one nanometer can be compared to one-hundred thousand times thinner than a strand of hair.


Because of innovative thinking and the creation of nano-particles is possible, the medical field, space exploration, the electronic market, and energy production are all able to expand. For example, with the help of nanotechnology, scientists have begun research on a nano-particle that can diagnose cancer. Nano-particles would also be used to recognize the molecular signatures of cancers and adhere to hidden cancerous cells (making them visible to an MRI or fluorescent light).Not only would these particles be accurate and cheap, but they could also be linked to anti body that can recognize cancer cells and be taken in by the tumor. The particle would then release a type for inferred light into the tumor which would ultimately get rid of the tumor without harming neighboring cells. Additionally, researchers are trying to find a cure for Parkinson ’s disease by replacing organs such as kidneys and lungs that have been destructed by this disease, with nanomaterials that will be effectively used as synthetic tissue.


Contrary to its name, the possibilities of nanotechnology seem huge. Although it is a rather new field of subject that hasn’t been highly established yet, there is a lot of research underway that will have an extensive impact on our lives. Like I previously mentioned, finding a cure for cancer using nano-particles is an extremely important research topic. Another area where nanotechnology is being utilized is in environmental conservation. In what is known as greener nanotechnology, scientists use less toxic compounds to produce their experiments and research. In addition, research is under way of trying to reduce the world’s dependency of electrical power consumption using nanotechnology. However, all of the nano-technological research that must happen cannot take place without funding. Although all of these breakthroughs will eventually boost our countries economy and serve as an overall benefit in the medical, electrical, environmental, and astronomical fields, it is estimated that it will cost the average person millions of dollars. In a time of recession, we as a nation cannot afford such a huge budget. Hopefully in the future the funding will be made available to carry out these amazingly advanced projects.

Week7_Memory+Consciousness_Crystal Lin

March 9th, 2009

Memory and Consciousness are interesting topics, especially in animals. Actually, I think its interesting the think about in any other living organism other than yourself, because one can never REALLY know the mind of another.

The concept of colorblindness used to really confuse me. I used to think, what if someone just grew up being told that this color placed in front of them is called red, and this other color placed in front of them is called green. How would we know that one person’s perception of red is the same as another persons? We don’t really know, because we can’t experience the mind of another. But then, wouldn’t it be cool if we all saw the world in a completely different way, but we would never know it? I used to imagine having a super power of being able to “walk in someone else’s shoes,” but in every sense of the phrase. When I stepped into their shoes, I would think like them, act like them, feel like them, everything. But I would still be able to retain my own train of thought so I could make a comparison between their mind and my mind. How insanely cool would that be if that were possible?! I would be able to know and feel what it’s like to be truly artistic, or innately athletic. I would know what it feels like to walk with a straight spine, be 5 feet tall, or 7 feet tall. I could see if we really saw colors in the same shades, if we really felt the impact of our surroundings in the same degree, if we really thought in the same manner and feared the same fears. The thing is though, we will never really know. So when it all comes down to it, we in a sense don’t really KNOW, we just have too much in favor of it, and not enough, or absolutely nothing against it.

One of the topics brought up during discussion that I thought was really cool was the video of the elephant painting a picture of an elephant. Its cool to watch the elephant perform such a humanistic act, but I believe it was merely an unconscious, or trained behavior. If you guide the elephant in to painting that exact picture over and over again, he will eventually be able to do it on his own. It makes for a cool one-time video, but if you give the elephant a new piece of paper, I bet he could only draw the same exact elephant again. Then the elephant isn’t thinking on its own and being creative, it is simply responding to a task.

I think to truly be conscious of what it is doing, it should be able to draw something else other than this specific picture. As discussed in discussion however, this also all depends on your definition of consciousness.

We can have unconscious behaviors, like sneezing, but in the same sense, we are conscious of the fact that we made an unconscious act. In another view of the topic, if we are completely unconscious of ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to consciously report about our unconsciousness. This reminds me of the Terry Schiavo case. She was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state, but her parents believed she was still conscious. Her husband wanted to remove her life support because he believed she didn’t want to stay on it for so long, but her parents took him to court, saying that she still wanted to be on life support, and was still conscious. After over 7 years of legal issues, her husband won the battle, and her life support was removed. In the autopsy, her cause of death was undetermined, but it was evident that Schiavo’s brain weighed less than half of what it was supposed to, due to severe loss of brain tissue.

I think consciousness is an interesting topic to discuss and study, but is amongst the list of things we can never REALLY understand.


March 9th, 2009

This week’s nanotechnology lectures were actually very interesting to me.  There have been many significant waves in the history of science, such as the discovery of electricity, modern computing, integrated circuits, nuclear power, quantum mechanics, etc., and it seems like nanotechnology is the newest one.  After learning about the basics of nanotechnology, I have a deeper understanding of the idea of “top-down processing,” or as I like to call it, “how small can we make this?”  From the nano-abacus to the nano-radio, it seems like reinventing something when you’re making it 9 powers of ten smaller.  In addition to top-down processing, I learned about the other aspect of nanotechnology that’s not so obvious: going from simple to complex.  Our modern chemistry has advanced to a point where it is possible to synthesize nearly any structure of molecules.  Now, modern chemistry is focused on synthesizing extremely complex structures through the use of self-assembling molecules, such as the carbon nano-tube or fullerene.  The race to control matter on an atomic scale is on.
File:Types of Carbon Nanotubes.png

Carbon nanotubes have many distinct uses.  For example, carbon nanotubes can be engineered to deliver drugs in a person’s body, as a solar cell, in motors, to make extremely powerful capacitors, in touch-screens and flexible displays, as a versatile component in circuit boards, to treat cancer, and to detect certain chemicals in the air.  One example of the uses of carbon nanotubes is the Nokia Morph concept video we watched in section.  It amazes me that so many different features, such as the flexible telephone screen, the real 3-D buttons, and the hydrophobic surface, can be created from different arrangements of rings of carbon atoms.

Interesting videos on nanotechnology:

Military Nanotechnology:

Nanotechnology Running Shoes:

Week9_Nano_Crystal Lin

March 9th, 2009

This week’s topic, nanotechnology, is quite thought provoking, if you find an interest in that sort of thing. Actually, I think it would be impossible not to have an interest in it. Though there are those who dwell in the past, most people look to the future for what we can do, what we will do, and what we want to do. Nanotechnology is going to be the leading force in the world for the generations to come.

My previous knowledge of nanotechnology was very limited. I have to admit, when I thought of nanotechnology, I just though of super small particles doing really high tech stuff. It was therefore really exciting for me to hear the Professor, and this week’s lecturer, talk about nanotechnology in this day and age.

I first found it interesting that nanotechnology came before nanoscience. I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising though, that we would begin to imagine creating things at such a small scale even before the actual science became available. The talks this week really reiterated the exact scale related to nanotechnology. One source made a comparison to a strand of hair, but I really like the comparison made to a strip of tape: imagine a thickness of a strip of tape being as tall as the tallest skyscraper, and your basic unit of measure is the nanometer. That’s insane! One of the things that really stuck out to me though, and made me literally drop my jaw in awe, was the video shown in discussion of a cell phone/watch of the future made with nanotechnology. It was as thin as a sheet of metal, and could bend around the shape of your wrist, then become firm after locking it. When it is off your wrist, it becomes a flat device that you can type information on. One fold later and it becomes a cell phone. There were so many other amazing, seemingly impossible features of that device, but I guess they aren’t impossible with nanotechnology! It would be super cool if I could live to see that device get put into production.

Though this deviates from the main point of nanotechnology, I really liked the intro paragraph to the assigned reading for this week.

In both the philosophical and visual sense, ‘seeing is believing’ does not apply to nanotechnology, for there is nothing even remotely visible to create proof of existence. On the atomic and molecular scale, data is recorded by sensing and probing in a very abstract manner, which requires complex and approximate interpretations. More than in any other science, visualization and creation of a narrative becomes necessary to describe what is sensed, not seen.

When I read this, I started thinking about religion. What if the existence of God was like nanotechnology. It is in a form invisible to the human eye, or even in a form unfathomable to the human mind. In any case, there is just simply a lack of nanoscience to understand the nanotechnology that is a God.

But that is a side note. Another thing that excites me about nanotechnology is its presence in the field of food. One company has designed, using nanotechnology, a way to deliver nutrients to your body through a simple sip of a drink. Imagine cups of spinach, loads of vitamin c, broccoli, lettuce, apples, etc, all packed into one nano-sized molecule of healthiness. That’s what Max International is hoping to do.

Inventions like this could possible solve the issue of world hunger!

Week 9 – “Nano” by Derek Spitters

March 9th, 2009

Nanotechnology is an amazing new field, which seems to offer an infinite number of practical applications. This promising new technology has even begun to find its way into mainstream entertainment. Nanobots are the focus of Michael Crichton’s book Prey. This novel describes some of the dangers surrounding emergent new technologies. In this story, a cloud of nanorobots with artificial intelligence has gone rogue. The nanobots are programmed based on the swarm behavior of insects. The nanobots have gotten loose from the facility in the desert where they were being manufactured and studied. They create a hive in the desert sand and suffocate all scientists who try to stop them.

Additionally, nanomachines make many appearances in the popular video game series Metal Gear Solid (MGS). In MGS1, the protagonist is injected with nanomachines that maintain his core temperature so that he can survive in the cold climate of the Alaskan archipelago where the story takes place. Throughout the series, characters communicate via CODEC, a technology that uses nanomachines to allow radio transmission directly to the small bones of the ear. In MGS4, soldiers from various mercenary groups are injected with nanomachines that control their behavior. They are physically unable to attack those who employ them. Lastly, there is one character, Vamp, who has such advanced reparative nanobots that he seems immortal. He is even able to survive a gunshot to the head.

The following trailer ( describes the way that nanomachines are used to control soldiers in MGS4. Although it may be a little difficult to try to follow the plot if you haven’t played through the series, just concentrate on the uses of nanotechnology. Additionally, the extensive use of robotics can be seen as well. The final scene in the trailer is a battle between the apparently immortal Vamp and the now cyborg Raiden.

Link: MGS4 Trailer

Download: MGS4 Trailer

However, apart from these over exaggerated renditions of nanotechnology, there really are some amazing things being done with these tiny particles. One example is medicine. There are many potential applications such as imaging, drug delivery, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and nano surgery. Imagine being able to repair tissues without having to perform invasive surgery. The following video ( shows how a nanobot could theoretically replace human nerve cells with artificial nerve cells. This could allow doctors and scientist to repair some forms of brain damage.

NASA has another use for nanotechnology. Currently, they have plans to send autonomous nanotechnology swarms to Mars at some point in the future. Although their proposal still requires some future technological development, the basic idea is that these nanomachines would take the shape of a tetrahedron and would move by shifting their centers of mass. Hypothetically, these nanomachines would be able to traverse any type of terrain and would therefore be ideal for exploration missions on Mars (

–Derek Spitters