Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nano, Info, Cogno, Roco and other 'hive' jive

Well, it is no wonder that the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has been distancing itself these past few years from its key architect, Mihail C. (Mike) Roco. Take a look at some of the Mad Romanian's wacky ideas below.

I've retained the paranoid commentary contained within's "Television and the Hive Mind" for comedic value, but the quotes from Roco's 2002 paper "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance" are indeed accurate (although the writer makes reference to a "recent report." I suppose if you measure time by the long march toward world socialist domination, 2002 is "recent):

"A recent report co-sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Commerce Department calls for a broad-based research program to find ways to use nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive sciences, to achieve telepathy, machine-to-human communication, amplified sensory experience, enhanced intellectual capacity, and mass participation in a 'hive mind.'

Quoting the report: 'With knowledge no longer encapsulated in individuals, the distinction between individuals and the entirety of humanity would blur. Think Vulcan mind-meld. We would perhaps become more of a hive mind--an enormous, single, intelligent entity.'

There is no doubt that we have been brought closer to the 'hive mind' by the mass media. For, what is the shared experience of television but a type of 'Vulcan mind-meld'? (Note the terminology borrowed from Star Trek, no doubt to make the concept more familiar and palatable. If Spock does it, it must be okay.)

This government report would have us believe that the hive mind will be for our good--a wonderful leap in evolution. It is nothing of the kind. For one thing, if the government is behind it, you may rest assured it is not for our good. For another, common sense should tell us that blurring the line 'between individuals and the entirety of humanity' means mass conformity ..." and blah blah

Yeah, that does explain why we haven't heard much from Roco for a couple of years. As a nanotech goodwill ambassador, he makes the Drexlerians, cryonicists and space elevator true believers seem like a sober panel of Royal Society fellows.

NanoBot's discard pile
NanoBot's Discard Pile, Part 2

Friday, September 21, 2007

The knowledge void: Here there be monsters

I've written before about the vaccine/autism debate as an illustration of how agenda-based pseudoscience might receive wide distribution and popularity among audiences predisposed to believing the information, yet the popularity of an opinion does not, of course, make it so.

The BBC brings us up to date on the (hopefully) now-discredited opinion that the "MMR vaccine causes autism." The result of this long-running controversy was not merely people believing in huckster science, but actively putting other children at risk by refusing to vaccinate their kids.

There are lessons to be learned here in other areas of science, like nanotechnology, where popular opinion is being manipulated by groups who step into the void of actual scientific evidence and gladly fill it with Gods or Monsters.

Somewhere between scientist and consumer, the message is lost
The Asperger/Nano Connection
Playing God with Monsters
'Societal Concerns' vs. Scientific Accuracy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

HP teaches us the 'n' word

Hey, kids. What are some of the things "n" is for? Well, "n" is for "nemployed" (without the "u," since we're talking about me), "n" is for "navel contemplation" and, of course, as Hewlett-Packard informs us in the entertaining video above, "'n' is for Nanotechnology."

Jim Carrey and Conan talk quantum physics II
Government Created Killer NanoRobot Infection
Kids grill scientist dad (with ketchup and mustard)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One giant leap for nanotech engineer

South Korean nanotechnology engineer Yi So-yeon, left, proudly flies (with) her country's flag during zero-G training somewhere above Moscow on Monday.

"Nano"-Yi will not be taking that one small step for Korean-kind, since she will serve as a backup to the guy on the right, boxing medalist Ko San, who beat Yi to the punch as the first Korean civilian scheduled for a flight in space.

But the rocket ride to the International Space Station is not scheduled until April. And while I'm sure that Ko can certainly pack a KO punch, a lot can happen between now and then.

I mean, any little thing can go wrong in one of those space suits, forcing last-minute changes in personnel. Isn't that right, nanotech engineer Yi So-yeon? Any ... LITTLE ... thing?

Classic Dave Barry on the space elevator
Google Earth gives 'space elevator' a lift
Space Elevator: The Music Video

Friday, September 07, 2007

The great little balls of Britain

Yes, yes, men. You are correct. Buckminsterfullerenes are strong, and so are you. But I hate to say this, guys, since you seem so ... um ... confident. But in real life, those buckyballs are really, really ... yeah, really ... tiny. Still, you blokes should go have a pint in celebration of your ... erection ... of the tip of the new Bristol (UK) Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information. Watch the whole Flickr here.

A little story about drugs, bass and balls
Kroto kasts a spell
Nanotube jug band

Monday, September 03, 2007

Nano memory: 30,000 movies and nothing on

Reuters, reporting on IBM's recent breakthroughs in nanotech-enabled memory and storage, opens its story with this:

Imagine cramming 30,000 full-length movies into a gadget the size of an iPod. More here

I have said this before in different contexts, including a white paper I wrote for NanoMarkets a few years ago: "To think of molecular memory within the framework of existing applications is to severely limit the possibilities of this technology ..."

If 30,000 movies is the best we can come up with, then we have a severe crisis of imagination. I don't blame the Reuters reporter. Like the overused and inaccurate "human hair" comparison, "30,000 movies" places the technology in a context the average reader can understand.

And it is often not the inventor who decides how and where to apply new technology. It's the entrepreneur, the investor and ultimately the consumer who supply the imagination.

The business of imagination
Nantero sings a happy tune
Nanotube interconnects and hot Indian babes