Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies > Nanotechnology for Wizards

Andrew D. Maynard
Chief Science Advisor
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Abstract:
Famous futurist Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Who would have thought ten years ago that that this statement would resonate through the truly magical world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter?

While we are awed by the magic of Harry Potter, his fellow wizards and witches marvel at the apparent magic of our most mundane technologies. What then would they make of our more advanced technologies—like nanotechnology? Perhaps it is time to find out. And where better to start, than by writing to the greatest fan of unfathomable Muggle technologies: Arthur Weasley, of the Ministry of Magic.

August 6th, 2007

Nanotechnology for Wizards

Famous futurist Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Who would have thought ten years ago that that this statement would resonate through the truly magical world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter?

While we are awed by the magic of Harry Potter, his fellow wizards and witches marvel at the apparent magic of our most mundane technologies. What then would they make of our more advanced technologies—like nanotechnology? Perhaps it is time to find out. And where better to start, than by writing to the greatest fan of unfathomable Muggle technologies: Arthur Weasley, of the Ministry of Magic.


Dear Mr. Weasley,

As a connoisseur of technologies that do not use magic, you should be interested in something new and exciting that's brewing in the non-wizarding world of Muggles—nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is not magic, but it sometimes looks like magic. For instance, we can make stuff change color, just by altering the size of the particles it is made of. We can weave threads that are so strong a single strand could pull the Hogwarts Express. We can even alter the way that light moves through substances—and might possibly be able to mimic your friend Harry Potter's invisibility cloak one day!

This is the technology of the really small, where things are measured in nanometers. How small is that? It would take well over four hundred million of our smallest nanometer sized particles (or nano-particles) to span the length of your wand - that is small! By controlling the shape and structure of matter at such a small scale—invisible to the human eye—we can achieve stuff that would have been unimaginable a generation ago.

Nanotechnology is already being used in over 500 everyday items—everything from music players to stain-proof clothing to tennis rackets. But this is just the tip of the nanotechnology iceberg. If you could dip your head under the water, you would see a vast array of commercial applications that are rapidly coming our way. This nanotechnology allows us to vastly improve our current technologies, including our cosmetics, computers, and even airplanes. And it gives us a chance to address some of the Muggle world's biggest problems—pollution, sustainable energy, universal access to clean water, and how we can better treat diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

But I must confess that some aspects of this new technology concern me. With the power to change things dramatically comes great responsibility, and nanotechnology is certainly powerful by Muggle standards. Yet I worry that we are not doing enough to ensure we wield this new technology in ways that are beneficial without being harmful.

At the Ministry of Magic, this must be a dilemma you are all too familiar with. How do you make the world a better place with the tools you have—whether magic or nanotechnology—without causing harm?

I am sure that most uses of nanotechnology will be perfectly safe. But it would seem sensible—and good business sense —to make sure of this, rather than ignoring the warning signs and hoping for the best. We do know that the unusual behavior of nano-particles might make them harmful if they get in the wrong place. For example, our scientists have shown that some nano-particles can get to places in our bodies that larger particles cannot, although we do not yet to know whether this is a cause for alarm. And we do not know what happens in the long-run when we release nano-materials into the environment.

Yet, many of our Muggle organizations are slow to recognize what needs to be done to ensure nanotechnology is used wisely.

With all your experience in ensuring magic is used for the best, I am sure you understand the need to act now to safeguard the future. No doubt the dark magic of Lord Voldemort and his death-eaters would have been dealt with far quicker, if people had listened to warnings early on, and been open, honest and preemptive in their actions.

We are not facing a Voldemort with nanotechnology, but us Muggles are running the risk of missing a great opportunity if we don't get things right at the start.

I do hope you have time to enjoy these new nanotechnology products. And perhaps you will have an opportunity in your work at the Ministry of Magic to give us Muggles some pointers on how to make the most of our new abilities, without creating a legacy of problems for future generations to solve.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Andrew D. Maynard
Chief Science Advisor, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE







  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE