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How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Nanobots

Like the fictional young geniuses Phineas and Ferb, real scientists are "creating nanobots" — despite attempts in some quarters to dismiss them as fiction.

by
Howard Lovy

Bio

December 12, 2011 - 8:11 am
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My feeling was always this: I am not a scientist nor do I pretend to be one. As a journalist, though, I do possess a pretty decent bullshit detector. And I knew that those who believe that advanced nanotechnology is feasible were being marginalized for reasons that had everything to do with public relations and nothing to do with real science.

With me, it was never really about whether advanced nanotechnology was possible. I am not qualified to make that determination. What bothered me as a journalist was to see my colleagues sneer at a point of view rather than give it a full airing.

So, much to the annoyance of many of my colleagues at Small Times, the “small tech” magazine and website I helped launch back in 2001, I began my Howard Lovy’s NanoBot experiment to try to give voice to those who were being pushed to the sidelines. The launch of my blog was probably directly responsible for my summary execution from Small Times in 2004 — just a few weeks after the birth of my first son.

When I began writing about science, I had just moved back to Michigan from New York, where I was managing editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), a kind of wire service for Jewish newspapers. I covered, among other things, the situation in the Mideast. I had enough and was eager to write about science where — unlike the Middle East, so I thought — things were either true or not true, with nobody arguing about whose history you want to believe.

Boy, was I ever wrong. The raging debate between nanotech pioneers Rick Smalley and Eric Drexler made the Israelis and Palestinians seem like they were playing with cap guns in comparison.

As we all know, real science does not care about politics. So, after the nanotech bubble burst and the business and investment community moved on to other things, the science is still developing at a normal pace.

What I have done since then is straddle both worlds. I have spent a decade writing about both the long-term and short-term possibilities of nanotechnology. I know “nanobusiness” as it exists today and I still follow, with delight, the very real developments along the way to molecular machines.

I plan on using this space to highlight not only the short-term nanotech that you might read elsewhere, but also draw to your attention the work of real scientists who are — like the fictional, yet inspirational Phineas and Ferb — creating nanobots.

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Howard Lovy is a Michigan-based freelance writer who specializes in science, business and innovation. He has been covering developments in nanotechnology for more than a decade.
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