Extra Credit_Sounding Out the Matter Market by Dalton Abbott

Last week, I attended UC San Diego Visual Arts Professor Ricardo Dominguez’s lecture, titled “Sounding Out the Matter Market”. Though I must admit that most of the information discussed was way over my head, as I have virtually no scientific background whatsoever, I did pick up some very interesting information. Dominguez talked extensively of a “Particle Sniffer” that would essentially use smell to decipher and categorize different types of nanoparticles, and idea that I attempted to research more on my own time, though somewhat unsuccessfully. Dominguez then discussed the prevalence of nanotechnology -based ideas in everyday life, using the obvious yet appropriate example of the aptly titled “iPod Nano”. Dominguez then took the viewers on a virtual tour through the particle sniffer, videotaped at a conference called nanoBerlin. Particle sniffers would be set up all throughout a room, and would react at any movement made by the subjects. People appeared to be extremely taken aback by the situation at hand, as the particle sniffer would be aware of any movement whatsoever, whether abrupt or gradual, as the nanoparticles it detected would react in unique ways to any movement at all. Apparently to enhance the dramatic effect of the particle sniffer, scientists would write a script for the sniffer, so whenever movement would be detected, a certain combination of noise, musical notes, and other ambient sounds would be produced. This, in many cases, produced a sort of surreal, dreamlike effect when encountering the particle sniffer, and it would repeat what appeared to be a mantra of sorts, simultaneously surprising and captivating the subject. Dominguez said that due to the increasing popularity of particle sniffer technology, its potential market is expanding and developers and engineers are working on writing new scripts in other languages to allow for global expansion.

Some groups, Dominguez said, simply could not accepting the innovative, seemingly invasive idea behind the design of the particle sniffer. A research and engineering association, CalIT2, said the particle sniffer, through its abrupt, surreal noisemaking and relentlessness, created a deeply hostile environment, one that had the potential to drive scientists and others interested in such subject matter away in confusion and frustration. Dominguez continued on to cite other complaints about the particle sniffer, and there were many that ranged from either completely valid and understandable to downright ludicrous. Dominguez then segued into another important area of nanotechnology, and that is its affect on the consumer market, not only in America but throughout the world. Dominguez claimed that nanomaterials were used in hundreds of different consumer goods, but often were not listed in the ingredients or materials because of their size and discreet existence, such as nanomaterials used in Maybelene lipstick which allow the vibrant red color to remain on one’s lips for such a long period of time.

I found Dominguez’s entire argument very compelling. Similar to Beatriz Da Costa’s “Invisible Earthlings”, Dominguez is bringing nanotechnology to life in a tangible way, one that others, even without a solid intellectual foundation in the field of nanotechnology, can relate to and understand. Dominguez also touches on the importance of nanotechnology in current scientific research and product production, as well as suggesting its potential large role in future scientific developments. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the well organized, insightful lecture by Professor Dominguez, and I gained a good deal of knowledge of a scientific field in which I was previously clueless.

- Dalton Abbott

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