Archive for March, 2009

Nanotech by Sagar Mehta 1C

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The ability of the scientists who work in the field of nanotechnology to develop atomic sized that can be used in virtually every modern field is incredible. When I first came to the class my knowledge of the current state of nanotech was limited to what was considered science fiction. The usual robot that is small enough to travel through the body and the like, I had no idea that there were so many obstacles that needed to be ironed out. The lecture by professor Gimzewski really opened by mind to how we are currently approaching the problems in a completely different fashion and in a bottom up view. The whole concept of the nanotubes, as well, is a very mind boggling concept that has so many different applications in tomorrow’s world, something that we have been steadily approaching faster and faster.

The expansive work being done in this field should have the biggest impact on the computer industry. Since everything we use from our ipods to computers to phones to basically anything that has a chip inside is becoming smaller and smaller, engineers are have a difficult time trying to create silicon chips that can cope with and survive our withering need for smaller diveices with more power and storage. This is where UPenn engineers come in. They have developed preliminary computer memory that is much smaller than current tech allows for. By using bottom up methods that allow them to form components atomically instead of through chemical reactions they can achieve efficiency only dreamed of and speeds never thought of.

Another major quickly advancing application of nanotechnology is the biotech and medicine field. Aside from the traditional nanobot that can heal anything we are increasingly seeing more use of the buckyball, a carbon-60 molecule with a wide variety of applications. I first came to know about this unique molecule while in my organic chemistry class in high school and the things i learned were its basic chemical composition, shape, you know the boring stuff. It was only here that I discovered that such a complicated molecule was not just a molecule it could be so much more and has had such a profound impact on current biotechnology. Another intriguing possibility of nanotech and biotech together is the use of the DNA molecule to create miniature robots. The idea is to use the ability of either DNA or RNA which can self replicate to also contain the information to dictate where certain atoms go to produce bots just like organic DNA produces cells.

While my understanding of the technical specifications of nanotechnology is close to none, I hopelfully will be able to use it in the future. As a biochemistry major the applications of such a technology is quite captivating and is where the future will be.

Sagar Mehta


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.

Extra Credit - Sound, Consciousness, and Culture by Jane Chen

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Last Friday I attended one of the Sound and Science lecturess titled Sound, Consciousness, and Culture: exploring music and technology through semiotics and ethnographic study, presented by Rene Lysloff and Paulo Chagas of the University of California, Riverside Department of Music.  The first part of the lecture focused on the semiotic part of music and technology.  There, Chagas narrated how sound and music object events stand out as distinct wholes against the background of other events.  Here, duration correlates to intential direction and unity correlates to individuality.  A gesture is an embodied action that acts as a mediator between technology and the world.  It is made distinctive through features such as articulations, dynamics, timing, rhythm, timbre, sound composition, and musical structuring.  Lastly, spectral semiotics is a phenomenological reflection on sound and music, focusing on temporality, affect, and technicity.  In the second part of the presentation, Lysloff suggested that perception of sonic order must be in the mind before it emerges as music.  This implies that there is a human agency behind the ordering of sound.  In that sense, humanly organized sound may not be musical, but can be creative.  Sounds move us to experience an array of emtional states.  For example, many sounds in film and television have no real life counterpart (eg, dinosaurs, monsters, aliens) but they have become a part of common culture.  Additionally, sound effects enhances the 3-dimensional realism of video games.  Finally, Lysloff concluded with an interesting thought: although many people may think that music controls the dancers on the dancefloor, it is actually the DJ that controls the dancers.  Oftentimes, dancers credit the DJ for bringing about an aesthetic state of performance.  This causes us to reconsider the role of humans in music.

After attending this lecture, I was reminded of an interesting encounter I had while I was traveling in Taiwan this past summer.  In a remote village in the mountains, I came across this man who was famous for creating music from random, everyday items.  This truly shows that humanly organized sound may not be musical, but can be creative.  I happened to find a video clip of this man’s performances.
In case the objects are hard to see, here are the “instruments” he played.
1. Newspaper
2. Water bottle
3. Syringe
4. Saw

Jane Chen

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

Extra Credit 4: Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound (Dwayne Myhre)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

A couple days ago I went to the Sound and Science Symposium where I attented the “Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound” film screening by Dr. Hans Jenny.

To be honest, I was a little bored of what I attended because there was not much going on.  For the most part, there was an image on the screen that moved with vibrations and that was it.  That was what I saw for about an hour.

To go more in-depth, the film comprised of many different substances, from particles to plastics, which would respond differently to the vibrations they were introduced to.  The whole idea behind this exhibition was to see how these substances reacted.

Viewing the film holistically, all of the substances shared a similar response in that, event though there were some differences; they mainly followed the same pattern.  This pattern comprised of circular motion of constantly going up and then around down.   The substance would be pushed out from the center and then, as it reached the top, it would reverse and come down.  This is what happened to most of the substances that flowed smoothly.  In contrast, the less smooth substances would do the opposite; the pattern consisted of moving from side to side and moving into the center.  While both can be related, the key difference was that of the flowing particles in the video.  These particles would not move circularly, but instead just move freely around as they were vibrated.

Overall, I was very unimpressed with the film and that is why I have little to write about on this subject.  The room was a very nice setting, meaning comfortable for watching a film, but the film itself lacked anything exciting.  Even the narrator’s voice was boring and the film appeared like an 80’s infomercial.  Every now and then there might be something that was interesting from the video, such as a random movement out of the normal pattern or a really cool color from the substances, but that was about it.

Dwayne Myhre

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.