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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rise of the Replicating Nanobots

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Truth be told, Walski's pretty much fed up with all the politics of gloom, and the gloom of politics, that's engulfed this nation of late. Not a day goes by without something crapily stupid that the world of Malaysian politics offers us.

And so, he thought it would be a good idea to engulf you folks with some nanobot destruction instead...

The video appeared a few days ago on the Mental Floss website, via Wired (hat-tip: Clipmarks user Einbar). It's actually a promo for the upcoming book, Be Amazing, scheduled for release on March 17, 2009.

Funny as it may be, there is some real science behind the goofy scenario... and some real concerns.
(nano science in a not so nano world, and more, in the full post)

The Wired blog entry makes reference to a letter published in the Nature Nanotechnology online journal. It expresses concerns over the possible health, safety and environmental impact on nanotech, a technology that's still in its infancy today.

Emerging nanotechnologies pose a new set of challenges for researchers, governments, industries and citizen organizations that aim to develop effective modes of deliberation and risk communication early in the research and development process. These challenges derive from a number of issues including the wide range of materials and devices covered by the term 'nanotechnology', the many different industrial sectors involved, the fact that many areas of nanotechnology are still at a relatively early stage of development, and uncertainty about the environmental, health and safety impacts of nanomaterials

Public surveys have found that people in the United States and Europe currently view the benefits of nanotechnologies as outweighing their risks although, overall, knowledge about nanotechnology remains very low.

(source: Nature Nanotechnology)

So, as far-fetched as the promo may seem, there are some real concerns about what would happen if indeed something like the self-replicating nanostructures in the video were unwittingly unleashed.

Science, eh? And yet, here at home, we're still at each others' throats about what language to teach the sciences in, rather than creating some of our own.

But you know, there are some cool nanobot applications Walski can immediately think of.

Like, for instance, a horde of nanobots that you'd ingest in a capsule, which then searches out cancer cells in your body, and eradicate them. Then, using the base building blocks found in abundance in our body, repair the damaged tissue. You probably don't want these to self-replicate, for obvious reasons.

Or, how about a household cleaning liquid that's actually an army of cleaning nanobots. Spray on, the bots then feast on the dirt... munch-munch-munch... then after half an hour, just wipe off with a wet rag. How about nanostructures that oxidize waste?

Another more sinister idea - nanobot assassins. It'll make every murder look like natural causes, without the mess that C4 usually leaves behind.

Walski could go on and on with this... but what about you? What kind of applications would you like to see nanotechnology used in?