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An Introduction to Nano Technology

What is Nanotechnology?

NBot by Jon_Bailey

NBot by Jon_Bailey from DeviantArt

To sum up this seemingly technical word that may deter people from attempts at understanding it – nanotechnology is merely the study and implementation of sub micrometer (which is one unit under millimeter) technology. Nano is simply the next unit of measurement when one delves into areas of observation wherein our eyes cannot give us the luxury of accurate results. Of which there are even smaller units beyond this scale, including; picometer,

femtometer and attometer – scientists have already been discussing the possibility of femtotechnology further down the timeline.

One nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a standard meter – so, as you can see, the nano scale is very small, too small for the naked eye. To give you a practical example of just how small we’re taking – the DNA inside each one of your cells is merely 2 nanometers (nm) in diameter. Basically, one nano meter is, to a meter, what a marble is to Earth.

Nano technology, in scientific terms, is the study of matter on the sub-atomic scale – primarily in relation to its manipulation. This eventually promises humanity the ability to move from mere observers of nature, to active choreographers of nature.

This may seem like science fiction, or something that seems decades, if not centuries outside of our lifetimes – but let me assure you, it’s coming and it is indeed possible. You only have to go and look in the mirror to see working proof of nanotechnology – you are a walking, talking, breathing, pondering and, most importantly, efficiently working form of evolutions biological nanotechnology.

Now, what are scientists planning to do with this new found technology? Perhaps the more appropriate question for you to be asking yourself is; What aren’t they planning to do with this new technology?

How does it work?

Every cell in your body is essentially a self replicating, organic nano bot in evolutions finest attunement to date. Within our cells, which are measured on the nano scale, we have, which outside seems very inactive, a warehouse full of intelligently functioning features that collectively work together in order to create life. There is an enzyme, for example, in each of your cells that is responsible for replicating your DNA for insertion into a new cell. This enzyme attaches itself to the double helix and begins to ‘untangle’ it, slowly winding it into two separate strands. It then uses materials from inside the cell, harvested from your body, to re-create an identical copy of each helix and then stitches the original back together. In the new cell there is an enzyme that intelligently discerns between each separate ‘part’ of the newly created DNA and begins its work in, essentially, sewing your new strand together. It systematically ‘grabs’ sections of floating information and ‘clips’ them onto the end of your new DNA strand and, like putting a puzzle together, will realize when a piece is in the incorrect position. If a particular piece of DNA doesn’t fit with the original, it is discarded and another attempt is made. This is repeated until the DNA is completely replicated and the enzyme then proceeds to stitch them together for your newly formed cell. We also have elements of our cells that are responsible for providing the power necessary to fuel all of this activity – these are called mitochondria. Unfortunately these leak free radicals which can often damage DNA strands which are then copied incorrectly – this is a key factor in why we age – but that’s another story.

When one analyzes and fully understands the functions of lifeforms, on a microscopic level, one can see that not only is nanotechnology possible, but that it is already an integral part of our lives – but we are now on the brink of being able to dictate the functions of such processes, rather than being at the mercy of them.

Man made nanotechnology will work in the much the same way – using miniature arms and hands with which to grab singular atoms and manipulate them. They will gain their power from natural sources within their inherent environment. For example, if you need nanotechnology for medicinal purposes and, for the sake of argument, you allow the entry of nanobots into your body to perform a surgical procedure – they could use the thermal heat from your body with which to draw energy from, they could also harness the kinetic motion of your blood stream or via electricity in the nervous system. External nanobots could also use light as a source of energy, or static electricity – the options are limitless, which is mostly attributed to their small size, as their energy consumption is minimal.

Where is it being developed?

nanotechnology1Nanotechnology is currently one of the fastest growing disciplines in the field of science. It is currently being taught all around the world with projections of this discipline moving into a more mainstream market in the 2020’s. At present it is more of an emerging field based heavily in the research phase. Many laboratories from around the world are tackling this hot new discipline, each attempting to solve the present problems as well as researching the potential applications.

There are many institutions now set up, backed by both funding and scientists across all fields. For example, a company called National Nanotechnology Laboratory (NNL), based in Italy, is working right across the board; from organic and inorganic applications, to chemical, physical, soft matter and theoretical applications. Another nanotechnology laboratory, based in California – the Los Alamos National Laboratory – is hard at work in the field of carbon nanotubes. Just here in Australia, specifically Victoria, we have NanoVic who are responsible for conducting research and have over 12 million in government funding with which to do so. Just last year a motor was developed in Victoria that is only one quarter of a millimeter in size and can travel through human blood.

So, as you can very well see, for something so small it has already garnered quite a large interest that extends all around the world.

What has been accomplished thus far?

A lot of nanotechnology is still in the research and theoretical phases of development – however, as denoted above, some applicable breakthroughs have been made. For example, the aforementioned motor has been successfully tested in human blood and, although not nano scale yet, is already working on a sub millimeter scale. This will eventually lead to programmed nanobots that are capable of entering a patients body and depositing drugs to the desired area of effect, among other applications. The Worlds smallest nanomotor has been developed by a man named Alex Zetti and his colleagues. The motor, at three hundred times below the size of a human hair, is made with a gold paddle-shaped rotor that spins about a carbon nano tube. This motor can spin at up to 33,000 cycles per second and is virtually subject to no wear and tear due to its carbon bonding being virtually frictionless. The estimated potential for this motor is that it can be made five times smaller an rotate at up to One Billion cycles per second.

Carbon nano tubes are a hot topic at the moment and have successfully been created at small lengths. A carbon nano tube is around One Ten Thousandth of a human hair and, thanks to its Carbon bonding (4 bonds, the strongest element we know of) is as strong, if not potentially stronger than diamonds. Infact, if they are spun into fibres, they have the potential to be the strongest, lightest material we have ever discovered The applications of this technology are as far as they are wide.

The Possibilities

smart_materialsWhile all this scientific mumbo-jumbo may be interesting, it would all amount to nothing if it couldn’t make a practical change to our lives – and that it will. The nanotechnology era has been hailed as the new ‘Industrial Revolution’ – in which the modern world was founded – so the implications are massive. Virtually everything we do today can somehow be either aided with nanotechnology, completely redesigned or made redundant with the creation of new possibilities. It has implications across all disciplines of science, and thus our lives, the lives of others, and of our planet.

In terms of biological applications, nanotechnology could enable us to be among the first generations to extend our lifespan indefinitely – yes, immortality is within our grasp. This may sound like science fiction again, but it is something that will become accepted as time progresses. Nanotechnology has the possibility to completely redesign our minds and our bodies – to effectively take charge of evolution. Nanobots called Respirocytes are a nanoengineered replacement for red blood cells and have the potential to deliver 236 times more oxygen per unit than natural red blood cells. This would mean that with the replacement of around 10% of your red blood cells with this nanoengineered type, you would only have to breathe once every four hours. You could literally sprint 236 times further than you can now and would only experience the same exhaustion, as everything is relative.

Carbon nano tubes, once made longer, will be able to replace the current reinforcement of concrete. Pre-stressed, carbon nano tube reinforced concrete has the potential of creating structures that are much higher in strength, and much lighter in weight than we see today. There is even talk of creating a space elevator from Carbon nanotubes that will allow the direct transportation of materials, or people, into Earth’s orbit – circumventing the need for dangerous rocketry and massive consumption of fossil fuels.

This is only a small taste of the projected possibilities – for it would take too long to mark and explain all of the projected possibilities here. Two of the most exciting potentials, though, are nano fabricators and foglets.

Nano fabricators, and their polar opposite – nano disassembles – have massive implications for the world as a whole. This technology could potentially see the end of scarcity as we know it and would surely render the monetary system obsolete, ushering in a new age. Nano fabricators are basically vending machines that can create any product one desires from raw, processed, information. The nano bots inside are capable of manipulating singular atoms, intelligently, and in any arrangement. This literally means they can make any molecular structure in existence in a clean and efficient manner. Basically, these nano bots are capable of ‘grabbing’ atoms and snapping them together, individually, they can also alter the properties of each atom, so as to create any element needed. These fabricators could literally build food, clothing, electronics – anything we need. When you take into account the potential for self-replication we begin to see that this technology could be used on a wider scale to build massive structures. Buildings would appear to materialize before your very eyes as billions of nanobots work together in intelligent swarms. They would also be capable of disassembling structures which would hail the end of pollution and could very well reverse the environmental damage that the Industrial Revolution has left us with. When you take into account that any nanobot can use any atom to replicate itself, you see that swarms would be created, exponentially, from waste products, and then turned into useful materials as each converts itself back to a useful element – theoretically ending the ideal of scarcity, forever.

Utility Foglets are also an interesting concept – nanobots that can intelligently link together to become any structure that one may need. These nanobots would be able to take on the shape and appearance of one thing, while sounding and feeling like another. Imagine a polished wooden floor that felt like foam rubber between your toes. This conceptual function of nanotechnology was coined by a man named Dr. John Storrs Hall – who originally envisioned them to replace the car seat belt. He hypothesized that these nanobots could link together loosely around the passenger, to allow air flow between them – and freedom of movement. However, in the event of an accident, the nanobots would tighten their grip, effectively ‘freezing’ the air around the passenger and distributing the impact evenly over the entire surface of the body.

Essentially Foglets will bring the morphing qualities of Virtual Reality into the real world. Yes, I did say Virtual Reality – which will eventually be possible from within the nervous system via nanobot intervention – but that’s also another story.

Computing will soar to new heights as we transcend Moore’s law and enter the realm of Quantum computing. This type of computing, now only restricted to basic equations, has the potential to far exceed anything one can imagine today. It has been predicted that if a Quantum computer existed today, it could literally hack through even the most secure firewalls in a matter of seconds – in comparison to the, estimated, decades that conventional computers would take. Quantum computing works with Qubits – a microscopic form of quantum information. What’s so remarkable about this is that in conventional computing we use binary numbers (ones and zeros) with which to create patterns and hence calculate desired information. Qubits transcend this because they have the unique property of ‘superposition’. Quantum scale interaction is unlike classical mechanics, and particles can often be in more places than one, at one time – up to three thousand places infact. This allows Qubits to express themselves, in computing, as ones, zeros and also as one and zero, all at the same time. This allows for unparalleled calculation at speeds that would render todays computers as obsolete as the horse and cart of the old world.

The Promise

nanobotsBasically, nanotechnology will allow humanity to transcend our biological shackles in which we will become active choreographers of life, and of the environment, where we have only, historically speaking, been passive observers. It has the potential to eliminate scarcity planet wide and provide a quality of life for all people on a scale never before seen. It will literally render the monetary system irrelevant, give us access to longer (if not indefinite) and healthier lives, unlock computing (Quantum, molecular, and DNA) on a level unimaginable by today’s standards that will, in the 2030’s, give rise to Artificial Intelligence, it will also be able to reverse all of the pollution and damage we have done to our planet as well as disassemble non-biodegradable substances and materials for conversion into useful materials. It will be able to aid in repairing our ozone layer, as well as to terraform planets and perhaps even create new planets. In short, nanotechnology will infiltrate every facet of our lives, forever changing the way we think and the way we live. It will literally give rise to the untapped potential of our intelligence, having a potential to increase the efficiency of our brain processes by millions of times over. However, despite the incredible benefits, nanotechnology does carry considerable risks that cannot be ignored – however this mostly comes down to our use of such tools, much like the nuclear bomb.

The Perils

As with any new technology, nanotechnology is not impermeable to those who wish to use it for so called ‘evil’ , who would surely use it to protect the establishment and the vested interests of those in power. Just as nanobots can disassemble waste, they could disassemble us. If, for example, self replicating nanobots were programmed to replicate themselves from every atom on the planet (like cancer), you would see the exponential disintegration of Earth and possibly the rest of the Universe – this is called the ‘Grey Goo’ scenario and has, in the past, caused a lot of fear to brew among communities. Solutions to this problem have already been conceptualized – one being that nanobots shouldn’t be able to self replicate, so as to ensure this never happens. We would instead have little ‘nano factories’ that would have a pre-set limit of nanobots it can produce, and it would not be able to reproduce itself. This is one example of a solution to prevent this from taking place.

On a smaller scale, nanoengineered weapons would literally change weather patterns, soil composition, water composition and a host of other environmentally destructive possibilities. It could be used as an invisible weapon with which to further serve the vested interests of globalization – in which no one would be safe from this microscopic weaponry. The paranoid West would give rise to a new form of Big Brother, in which nanobots would be used everywhere, to spy on everyone.

In short this technology begs the question; Are we ready to wield such powerful tools? It would seem that, at present, we are not mature enough, as a collective species, to use this technology in the most efficient, sustainable and beneficial manner. However, despite your stance or opinion on this – it is coming… which is why we, at the zeitgeist movement, are really in a race against time. I fear, and I’m sure many of you do too, that if humanity does not have a substantial shift in consciousness and values, before this technology is present, then we may very well bare witness to the destruction of life itself.

A new world

I’m sure many of you agree, probably both before and, possibly even more, after reading this article that we are really at the crux of human history. Our track record with using technology wisely is anything but good – with the likes of nuclear weaponry, perpetuation of disease for profit, firearms, munitions and so on. Looking at Government budgets for weapons research in comparison to, let’s say, health benefits, we can clearly see where the mentalities of ‘the powers that be’ reside. We have gone from primitive man to fire, from tool-less monkeys to the wheel, from carts to the automobile, from the abacus to the computer, from Earth to space and now we are about to move from passive observers to active choreographers of the environment. The next two decades are crucial to create awareness of this movement and of the ideals put forth by The Venus Project – it is literally up to us, those that see the emergent nature and symbiosis of our world, those who seek greater understanding and a world united, to take a stand and spread to word before it’s too late.

I often say – “There are two types of information present in the Universe – ordered and chaotic. For the first time in celestial history, there now exists a force that can actively decide between to two – I wonder, which will we choose?”