Archive for the ‘Week1_TwoCultures’ Category

Extra Credit 1: Science Symposium Insects, Trees and Climate by Roger Call

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Science Symposium: Insects, Trees and Climate: The Bioacoustic Ecology of Deforestation and Entomogenic Climate Change

James Crutchfield, from the UC Davis Department of Physics and the Complexity Science Center, presented on the bioacoustic ecology of deforestation and the entomogenic climate change.  This lecture centered around a certain bark beetle which is currently destroying millions of acres of forest throughout North America.  Crutchfield did not speak on the origins or emergence of these beetles, but focused on their effects and propagation as well as the effects they are having on the environment and ecology.

The story of the bark beetles was presented in a fashion most suited to the Desma9 class, in that it was both a story of art and science.  Sound plays a central role in this account.  Crutchfield had originally visited a friend in Michigan who had a graduate student working on a project involving Tanzanian frogs.  These frogs were the last of their species as the Tanzanian government had dammed the river that was their native homeland.  The graduate student was trying without success to make the frogs breed, as this was critical to their survival as a species.  The natural habitat of the frogs involved a waterfall, and through some theorizing and the use of expensive ultrasound equipment, the group discovered that the frogs emitted high frequency sounds as a part of their mating ritual, and with the addition of a waterfall, the frogs began to mate successfully.

This leads into the second part of the lecture, which deals with the beetles and ultrasound.  Recent studies by Crutchfield and others in the field have lead to the discovery that pine trees during a drought release a very high frequency sound.  This sound originates from the imploding cells in the tree due to lack of water.  This sound was a mystery to scientists until just recently.  The high frequency sound let off by the parched trees in turn attracts the bark beetles, which have infested the forests of North America in the past years.

The bark beetle infestation is currently unchecked, as millions of acres of forest are being ravaged despite counter measures.  In Norway, another area affected by the bark beetle problem, billions of beetles were killed in an area, but no effect on the overall beetle infestation occurred.  The study on the ultrasound emitted from trees also lead to the investigation of sounds and these bark beetles.  The beetles are a major concern as the destruction of forests hits the economies of many areas, as precious lumber is being devoured and wasted.  Crutchfield and his associated developed a method of bioacoustics in which they hammer a large ultrasound needle into the bark of a tree, and thus are able to listen for the characteristic high pitched frequencies the beetles emit.  Through this method they can determine if the beetles have infested a tree.  This frequency is very high, as the beetles range of hearing ranges from 200-300 kHz.  These beetles are even changing the climate through destruction of the forests, as a destroyed tree released carbon into the environment, and is also not alive to convert CO2 into oxygen.  Through this process the beetles are altering the climate.  As of now there is no solution to the beetles, but measures to fight them utilizing sound are in progress.

Roger Call

Section C

Week 9: The Applications of Nanotechnology by Ricky Irwin

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

With the little knowledge I have on nanotechnology, I’ve always thought it was a science of the future, still in the stage of theory and experimentation. So after last week’s lecture and doing some additional research, it’s very fascinating to keep discovering new areas of daily life where nanotechnology has already reached. The furthest extent my knowledge of the subject went was nanotechnology in art, similar to the Obama heads in class, tiny recreations in an incredibly minute scale.

Since nanotechnology is so incredibly small that photographing it is impossible, the only way to make nano-art is to use devices like scanning electron microscopes, which are smaller than wavelengths of light and result in gray images, sometimes colored in post. The following “NanoMoth” by Ursula Freer created the art by first recognizing the pattern of the butterfly in the natural organic texture, and then coloring it afterwards to better suggest the shape.


It seems that nanotechnology is not only affecting art itself, but also the preservation and restoration of it. It is used to create “nanocontainers” which use water and a cleaning agent to create micro-emulsions, a technique much milder and more environmentally-friendly than traditional restoration techniques.

In a world increasingly threatened by environmental damage and disorder, I think one of the most beneficial aspects of nanotechnology that I’ve researched are the benefits it brings in regards to the environment. A study done in the UK shows that with the following benefits, the benefits of nanotechnology can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% by 2050. The report stated that with nanoparticle additives, the fuel efficiency of diesel engines can be increased by up to 5%, resulting of 2-3 million tons of CO2 saved in the UK alone. Also, nanotechnology has the potential to solve the problem of low range and power in electrical car batteries, with the aiblity to recharge a car in less than ten minutes, saving all the CO2 released from private transport.

I was also interested in how nanotechnology is being applied in the field of music. I discovered that composer Frederic Rzewski has combined nanotechnology with music to create Nanosonatas, Volume 1, which “compresses the form of 20- to 40-minute, 19th-century sonatas into seven three-minute segments,” or nano-notes, and he describes the music as sounding like the “changing pace of the nanomotor.”

Regardless of what it is applied to, it is very evident that improvements and innovations that once might have been deemed impossible now have open possibilities with the science of nanotechnology.

Nanotech and our future

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Last weeks lecture was really eye opening giving us a taste of the future. The trend of technology as most of us know it to get faster, smaller, and closer to us…. and whats faster and smaller than things on a molecular level????
Well thats were nanotech comes in, and its just amazing to see some of the crazy applications and inventions scientists have created using Nanotechnology. In just the past few years nanotech has boomed so much, ranging from the creation of non-wetable clothing, to particle that can fight cancer without harming healthy tissue. But can our applications of this nanotech be advancing to quickly??
is it possible that our ambitions of advancement are blinding our eyes from genuine risks and dangers behind these super technologies????
I believe that it is very possible that the use of these technologies can easily get out of hand, especially if nanotechnology is incorporated into the internet, because then that leaves us with the conclusion that eventually EVERYTHING, will be connected ( via the internet), changing the world and humanity forever.

Michael c.

Nanobots in our bodies by Brendan Ryan

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

One of the coolest proposals of nanotech is tiny robots that can replicate themselves by manipulating the matter at hand. This is also the foundation of a common doomsday hypothesis, where nano bots could replicate out of control and disassemble the entire world until they were the only ones left. That would be awful.

What I think is a really interesting prospect, and I’m totally just making this up right now, but these nanobots can be so small that you could breathe them in, what if you could replace your cells with replicating nanobots that served the same function. One could effectively eliminate aging and disease. I asked my friends whether or not they would be willing to put their brains in robot bodies that could look like anything they wanted and only about half of them said yes. With nanobots you could make your body a robot and enjoy all the benefits without ever feeling bat that you are made of circuits and stuff. I asked my friends if they would like to have robot cells so they never get sick and never grow old and they all said yes, I do however, only have like five friends so its that that comprehensive of a survey.

If we can’t have a robot cell body there could still be very exciting incremental development. Imagine if surgery could be performed without so much as a knife just by injecting nanobots into someone. In honey I shrunk the kids at one point I think in a sequel one of the kids gets eaten. Like so:

Honey i ate the kids

you could do this with a robot now and hopefully in the future it can go and fix some problems you may have, such as cancer. Nanotech seems a lot like space exploration to me in that we are exploring previously unknown worlds. By allowing us to manipulate the world at a nano scale we can create a lot of new kids of objects. The applications in material science are very promising. I have heard it may soon be possible to create a type of paint that will turn almost any surface into a solar panel. If it was created at an economically reasonable rate this could solve huge problems with sustainable energy.

Week 9 Applied Nanotechnology: Cancer and a Space Elevator? by Roger Call

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Nanotechnology “is the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale.”  This relatively new and quickly growing branch of science integrates many of the other disciplines to create these molecular devices.  Physics, material science, engineering and chemists make up only a few of the many.  Not only does nanotechnology integrate many of the sciences, but is used in a wide variety of technologies and products.  One of the areas in which nanotechnology is being implemented, is curing cancer.

Nanotechnology could very well be a great step towards finding a true cure towards cancer.  Many properties of nanotechnologically created devices have proven to be very helpful in cancer research.  For example,  devices have been used to locate and gather information about tumors in the human body.  Nanotechnology implementing MRI has been able to detect cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes without requiring surgery.  Tiny capsules called nanoscale drug delivery devices are being used to transport anti-cancer agents directly to tumor locations, cutting down on the harmful impact to the rest of the healthy cells and tissues.  Such nanoscale delivery agents are increasingly being used to treat specific areas of the body infected with cancerous cells.  As nanotechnology continues to advance, the nanoscale devices may be able to detect cancer at a stage earlier than doctors have been previously able to detect.  The earlier the detection the greater chance of success in dealing with the cancer effectively. 

The above animation depicts the use of nanotechnology in destroying tumor cells in the human body.

The National Cancer Institute has been supporting the effort for implementation of nanotechnology in curing cancer for the past few years.  The NCI has even developed a plan, which they call the cancer nanotechnology plan.  This plan will create demanding deadlines for advances in nanotechnology suited for detection and fighting cancerous cells and mutagens.

When I stumbled across this article I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the idea, but apparently Japanese scientists believe that they can construct a space elevator.  This elevator would consist of an extremely strong rope through the use of carbon nanotube technology.  According to the chairman of the organization the current technology will not quite suffice to withstand the forces placed on the cable, but the rope would only need to be about four times stronger than the current cable, and seeing as the strength of nanotechnological ropes and fibers has increased by one hundred times over the past five years, this goal seems quite feasible.

Roger Call

Section C

Week 9_Nanotech: A Rising Industry by Beverly Okereke

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

In class, Professor Vesna discussed the rising industry of nanotechnology.  It’s an exciting new idea that I personally would love to explore further. Just the idea of billions of microstructures making a difference in our world is just fascinating.

But what exactly is nanotechnology? According to the definition provided by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, “Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.”

Nanotech Cartoon

Nanotech Cartoon

And how does nanotechnology work? Nanotech arranges carbon molecules into nanotubes which make it possible to make a number of things, including the space elevator mentioned in this video: How Nanotech Works

Nanotech at Work

As a life science student, I feel like nanotech could do amazing things for the treatment of human disorders and diseases:

Imagine a medical device that travels through the human body to seek out and destroy small clusters of cancerous cells before they can spread. Or a box no larger than a sugar cube that contains the entire contents of the Library of Congress. Or materials much lighter than steel that possess ten times as much strength. — U.S. National Science Foundation

1. Nanotech and Cancer 

2. Nanotech and Cancer 2

Even in the well known box office hit, I Robot, the 2004 Will Smith movie about anti-robot detective who leads an investigation of the death of a prominent robotics expert, there is a mention of nanobots that lingers throughout the entire movie. In the movie, nanobots, or “nanites” as they are called in the movie, help to cure and treat a number of human diseases as they enter the body’s bloodstream and attack the problem that they are programmed to treat.

I, Robot

I, Robot


Nanotech is known for its ability to be used for a variety of things. For example, last year it was found that certain organic molecules have a conductive property that, according to Sahil Nagpal in an article posted on, “provides a new strategy for designing electronic materials, including inexpensive and multifunctional organic conductors that have long been considered the key to smaller cheaper, and faster technologies.” Conductive Property of Organic Molecules

Click on this picture to watch a video about the potential future of nanotech and its relation to the future of medical breakthroughs:

Nanotech and the Body

Nanotech and the Body

Even with all of the benefits of nanotechnology, there are also many risks. Risks

Now nanotech works

Example of Nanotech Risks - Mesothelioma

As an example of the video, there are many risks that are linked to the future of nanotech. Delving even further into the idea 0f nanotechnology being risky, I found this article that was posted in the middle of last year: Nano Risks
It basically explains how the well known carbon-60 molecules called “buckyballs” (named after Buck inster Fuller and known for their use in the production of nanotubes) have been found to cause potential environmental and health hazards, especially in the form of cell and tissue damage. Buckyballs and Risk to Living Tissue
And in regards to the future of nanotech, there was an interesting article on How Stuff that made me think about the risks of nanotech in a more insightful way. The article mentions how we need to learn more about nanotech. There is the idea floating around saying that nao-sized particles may be toxic, and thta, since they are so small, they may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier in the body, causing internal bodily harm.  Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned article about “Apocalyptic Goo” and how nanotech may possibly lead to the end of the organic world as we know it.
Apocalyptic GooEric Drexler, the man who introduced the word nanotechnology, presented a frightening apocalyptic vision — self-replicating nanorobots malfunctioning, duplicating themselves a trillion times over, rapidly consuming the entire world as they pull carbon from the environment to build more of themselves. It’s called the “grey goo” scenario, where a synthetic nano-size device replaces all organic material. Another scenario involves nanodevices made of organic material wiping out the Earth — the “green goo” scenario.

Also, in the weapons industry, nanotech may bring rise to new and more powerful weaponry, while in the medical industry, nanotech may possibly lead to a transhuman race that, according to the article, may lead to many ethical questions. Here is the article: Nanotech Challenges There are also a number of nanotech links at the top of the article.

I personally found this video interesting. It basically sums up nanotechnology: NANOTECHNOLOGY

Nanotech by Eric Debbold

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Nanotechnology is a pretty broad term, butsuffice it to say that humans are now able to manufacture new materials on a level much smaller than ever before.  Many people have many fears about nanotech, including the horrifying “grey goo” end of the world scenerio.  In this scenerio, nano particles or nanobots begin to self replicate using readily available materials in thier environment.  On Earth, this simply means a nano particle that can make copies of itself out of Nitrogen, Oxygen and/or Carbon.  Once this process begins, it is very difficult to prevent a spread of these particles, exponentially increasing in number, eating up all the materials on the planet, and through a process not unlike this:

the nanobots will turn this:

into this:

This process seems pretty simple and frighteningly plausible, but I am happy to report that, according to my sources, this has not happened yet.

This brings up a large problem for modern day nanotechnology users, which is the general fear of nanotechnology.  Just the fact that it is very small is scary enough.  I mean, we could be BREATHING these things for Godsakes!  A much to-do came out of the realization that many skin care and lotion products had begun to use nanoparticles, and many people feared that the nanoparticles would seep through the skin and roam freely around the body, like tiny wreckingballs with nothing to stop them.  The fact is, the smallest particles in sun screen and other lotions are NOT man made nanoparticles.  Every time you smell something, a tiny receptor in your nose is responding the tiniest single molecule and transmitting its smell to your brain.  Sitting in your dormroom, or in your home, you are constantly breathing in and out dust and pollen, and your body is well equipped to handle this constant influx of small particles.

Nanotechnology has more than just the power to incite fear.  Nanotech can produce seemingly magic materials, such as windshields that repel water, self-cleaning concrete, or pants that never need to be washed.  As with any new technology, especially one as powerful as nanotech, it is important to understand the full implications behind every item produced, and to integrate them into our ecosystem as safely and gradually as possible.  If we are able to utilize nanotechnology effectively, we may see the rise of a new age, perhaps a Diamond Age, to excel us into a bright new future.

Week 10|Courtney Kennedy

Monday, March 9th, 2009


Nanotechnology is a pretty big topic. When I went to do further research for this blog, I found that nano-tech can be applied in use anywhere from diagnostic medicine to sunscreen, from food packaging to quantum computers. I decided that in this post I would focus more on the topics that I am familiar with, such as the food packaging and body care, as those are things that I am more impressed with when I see the results of nanotechnology. 

For example, there is a way to use nanotechnology to infuse foods and beverages that don’t have many vitamins and minerals with them, but in a way that won’t change how the food tastes or smells. This would be like the better version of the Coke product that has vitamins and minerals in it but tastes like chalk. I don’t really know if this is a great idea for the american consumer, as already there is too much consumption of sodas and other junk foods, and the companies who make these items would undoubtedly be the first ones to jump on this idea in order to make their products seem healthier. However, I think in impoverished countries the application of this technology could be beneficial to the health and well-being of people who currently suffer from malnutrition. If foods like rice and wheat could be given more vitamins and minerals without adding too much extra cost, then there would be a big benefit for these people for their health. 

Another type of nanotechnology in food would be the use of plastic in packaging food that would be able to sense when there was samonella contamination of a product. That way, companies could test very easily if their products were contaminated without going to very great lengths. I think that it is important for this nanotechnology to be in use in American companies especially in light of the recent outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter and other peanut products. With this type of packaging there would not have been the big scare that just happened for peanuts.

Also involved with nanotechnology is the production of lower cost and more easily manufactured solar panels. I think that this would be a great use of nanotechnology if completed because it is now seemingly cost-prohibitive to many people to put solar panels on their homes. If solar panels became less expensive, it would be very good for the progress of solar panels on to more homes in the United States, and all over the world. (Solar Panels)

Additionally, I think it is an interesting idea that Kraft Food’s has with nanotechnology: interactive foods. Somehow, using nanotechnology, Kraft foods wants to make beverages and foods that the person eating them can choose how they taste and their color. I don’t know how this would work exactly, but I don’t really think that I would want to eat it. After all, I already know that processed foods are not really good for me at all, so I think that these foods would not be much better. However, I don’t exactly know what the nutrition facts on this type of food would actually read, so it could be anyone’s guess if they would be good for you or not, and exactly how expensive they would be. (Kraft Foods Article)

Nanotech, a catalyst: Maxwell Blanchard

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Nanotechnology has infnite applications in a variety of different scientific fields.  This week it wasn’t very dificult to locate an interesting topic. While researching nanotechnology, i read articles on everything from nanomaterials, to cloaking devices. Nanotehnology seems to be blurring the metaphorical bridge between what this generation considered to be realistic and fictional.  It was kind of ironic reading an article that approached the idea of a cloaking device as an endeavor in soon in reach of science.  “Invisibility Through Nano” by Charles Choi delves into the idea of such an invention.  He discusses how the method already naturally occurs in nature, one of the examples being a mirage, which is merely light bending and projecting the sky onto sand.  However, the goal of the cloak would be to bend the light around the object as though there were nothing in front of it.  Nonetheless, there is still some skepticism as to whether or not a cloak that could react to all wavelengths of light would exist.  Speaking of irony, it’s somewhat ironic that the skepticism on the subject stems not from the inevitable existence of an “invisibility cloak,” but rather the fashion in which it would function.  Regardless, the link to the article is There is actually an NBC video discussing an “invisibility” cloak that was being researched at Duke.  It follows relatively close to the facts mentioned in Choi’s article.  Essentially the device is only for microwaves at the moment, but it shows that eventually visible waves will be manipulated in a similar fashion. The “cloaking device” in the video is built from copper chips that essentially reflect the waves that they encounter.

There are even Youtube videos portraying “super soldier suits.”  This particular video is obviously just the portrayal of another nano idea(  But notice how whenever a new technology is stumbled upon, mentions of military applications are instantly considered.  In the video a man enjoys almost god-like abilities of invisibility, self healing, and super physical abilities. As i started reviewing additional articles delving into military nanotechnology, it wasn’t surprising to find that fears of the effects of the technology are already being discussed as well. Professor Vesna actually drew a couple of the same correlations during the space week lectures.  The political effects of the technology coud potentially cause a bit of chaos, or at least a transfer of power. The fact of the matter is that it there are serious fears of another arms race occurring.

Nonetheless there are a serious amount of amazing applications for nanotechnology. Everything from nanobots that can repair clots and damaged neurons to new bombs and nanomaterials.  Manipulation at the molecular level has even caused philosophical discussions about how we view the world currently.  Profesor Vesna brought this up when she  previously discussed the way colors are affected at the molecular level, and how colors can be created from the same material by manipulating structure and size.  It’s somewhat mind boggling to find that what we thought was a “color” is almost an illusion.

I touched on a couple topics this blog, but one last interesting one is the portrayal in movies.  Let’s face it, how envious is everyone of the invisible cloaking device in Predator?

Nanotech by Oscar Chacon

Monday, March 9th, 2009

The concept of nanotechnology is really a division of study that mends together the studies of the arts and sciences into one fundamental study for the future. Nanotechnology is a strong leading advancement that will require the strongest efforts from both sides of study. At this point in nanotechnology, this revolution needs science and art to support it on its way to progress. As with the progression of nanotech to this day it has already been adapted to several street art pieces.

In relation to my final project on a robotic vehicle that can draw on walls nanotechnology has begun to adapt itself to this form of free expression. The group Graffiti Research Lab has been using LED lights in a variety of ways t express their art on the streets at a different level. They have created these small bunches of LED lights they call “LED Throwies.” They use them to decorate the streets in a more interactive manner than the usual form of graffiti. As described by the Graffiti Research Lab they are, “LED Throwies are an inexpensive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface in your neighborhood. A Throwie consists of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together.” These are not only efficient use of nanotech but a very interactive way to work with public space. They have shown several videos of their works on their site.

They have also adapted this project to be able to express words using LED throwies in another project they call “Night Writer.” In this project they have used the same concept of design of LED throwies but formed them into letters that would then stick onto metal surfaces using clay.

There other simpler projects from the Graffiti Research Lab that use LED nanotechnology. Their “Post Circuit Board” combines the traditional use of postage stickers and their background in using LEDs to create a new piece. This piece is easily placed anywhere, specifically in mailboxes. This project is a tribute to the versatility of this art form and the technology that can be adapted to many aspects of life. It is interesting how art, even more so graffiti has been revolutionized by nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology has also been inspired from art and humanities studies. As statedin the article The Nanomeme Syndrome , “… media artists, nano-scientists and humanists need to join forces together and envision such possibilities.” Although this relatively new study needs more than just an inclusion of input just from the arts but from absolutely every humanities and science discipline. The reason for this interaction between nanotechnology and media artist is their, “common ground in addressing issues of manipulation.” Nanotechnology correlates very closely to study of media artist who are much like the scientist in nanotechnology in dealing with the manipulation of, “sensory perception and questioning our reaction.” It is going to be very interesting to watch the progression of this new study unfold in the following years with the studies of humanities, arts, science, and technology no longer divided into two cultures but advancing into this new revolution as one. I am going to be specifically interested in what the new works the Graffiti Research Lab will produce with the different future progression of nanotechnology.

by Oscar Chacon