Nanotechnology, a Look back Tung X. Dao

Nanotechnology affects our world by a great deal, even though we don’t realize it. Today, we have the ability to carry around our entire music collection and listen to it simply by carrying around an iPod. The trends in the market tend to follow the rules that Professor Gimzewski mentioned, “Smaller, faster, cheaper”. As it turns out, music carrying devices have followed that suit very well, as over the years, CD players replaced the Walkman, MP3 players replaced the CD player, iPods replaced the MP3 player, and smaller iPods replaced the larger iPods. The trend follows suit everywhere else, as well. It has gotten so advanced that nanotechnology used for medicinal purposes is looming in the future.

Too small? Or not small enough?

Too small? Or not small enough?

It is always funny to look back at our world before miniaturization occurred. Popular Mechanics reported in 1949 in an article aptly titled “Computers in the future may weigh less than 1.5 tons”. Fast forward to today when most of us in class are surfing the internet with our less-than-five pound laptops. It’s always a situation that has its pros and cons. While computing power is at blazing fast speeds and unbelievable portability with only more to come, sure, it can also mean that it’s easier to be occupied during important events. There was a Jay Leno “Headline” submitted and aired a few years back of a woman at a city government meeting playing solitaire. Mad TV created a great skit that parodies this trend in “The Price is Right – 1986” in which the prize is “A Talk about 100 from Motorola, boasts a variety of features, from its light weight 10 pound design, to its fashionable easy to carry battery shoulder sack. Just charge it for 10 hours and enjoy up to 4 full minutes of cordless conversation.”

Miniaturization also has other issues as well. Since we human beings are only finitely sized beings, there comes a point in which making something so small becomes disadvantageous. Take for instance the micro-SD card. Measuring 11×15x1 millimeters, it is small enough to be easily lost. Its extra small size also means that it is difficult to take a piece of tape and write one’s contact information on it as one would on a 36.5×42.9×3.1mm CompactFlash card. The latter has almost ten times the surface area to write on. When holding a CF card, it feels a lot more substantial in the hand than does the microSD card. The microSD card is so small that it can fit inside a hollowed out nickel, whose diameter is 21.1 mm and thickness 2 mm. Compare that to the 18.6 mm diagonal and 1 mm thickness of the microSD card. There are a few places online that sell such an object, running for around 30 dollars each at one particular site. Surely there are cases when the ability to smuggle data like that can be quite handy, not to mention unethical at times, but that is where we are at.

Medicine also sees both the good and bad sides of nanotechnology. While nanobots can travel inside us to destroy malignant tissue to the manufacturing of cellular tissue, there are reports that indicate that carbon nanotubes can be as dangerous as asbestos. It seems as though it is impossible that we will ever escape the contrast that is good and bad, for we would be no longer human.

Tung X. Dao


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