This Nanotechnology Glossary is a work-in-progress, and will be updated very frequently, so check back. Please email us with any missing terms, and we will include them. Any definition that can be attributed to an author will be, unless we get a quote sent to us without one. If you see one for which the author is not shown, and you know who it is, please let us know and we will make the update. Thanks! [brackets] indicate author and copyright holder
Genetic Algorithm: Any algorithm which seeks to solve a problem by considering numerous possibilities at once, ranking them according to some standard of fitness, and then combining ("breeding") the fittest in some way. In other words, any algorithm which imitates natural selection. [AS]
GENIE: An AI combined with an assembler or other universal constructor, programmed to build anything the owner wishes. Sometimes called a Santa Machine. This assumes a very high level of AI and nanotechnology. [AS]
Giant Magnetoresistance: (GMR). It results from subtle electron-spin effects in ultra-thin 'multilayers' of magnetic materials, which cause huge changes in their electrical resistance when a magnetic field is applied. GMR is 200 times stronger than ordinary magnetoresistance. [See Spintronics and Giant Magneto Resistance] GMR enables sensing of significantly smaller magnetic fields, which in turn allows hard disk storage capacity to increase by a factor of 20.
Golden Goo: Another member of the grey goo family of nanotechnology disaster scenarios. The idea is to use nanomachines to filter gold from seawater. If this process got out of control we would get piles of golden goo (the "Wizard's Apprentice Problem"). This scenario demonstrates the need of keeping populations of self-replicating machines under control; it is much more likely than grey goo, but also more manageable. [AS - Originated on sci.nanotech 1996]
GNR technologies (Genetic Engineering, Nanotechnology, and Robotics)
Gray Goo or Grey Goo - destructive nanobots [AKA: "gray dust"]. opposite of Blue Goo. See Star Trek scenario. Vast legions of destructive nanites. Typically, created by accident. Left unchecked, they will basically convert everthing they contact into more of themselves, or consume and digest it for energy. Either way, its pretty much bad news. The debate rages on. Check out the first technical analysis of gray goo ever published, in April 2000, by Robert A. Freitas Jr.
Also - Self-replicating (von Neumann) nanomachines spreading uncontrolably, building copies of themselves using all available material. This is a commonly mentioned nanotechnology disaster scenario, although it is rather unlikely due to energy constraints and elemental abundances. More probable disaster scenarios are the green goo, golden goo, red goo, khaki goo scenarios. As a protection blue goo has been proposed. [AS]
Green Goo: Nanomachines or bio-engineered organisms used for population control of humans, either by governments or eco-terrorist groups. Would most probably work by sterilizing people through otherwise harmless infections. See Nick Szabo's essay Green Goo -- Life in the Era of Humane Genocide. [AS]
Guy Fawkes Scenario: If nanotechnology becomes widely available, it might become trivial for anyone to committ acts of terrorism (such as making nanomachines build a large amount of explosives under government buildings a la Guy Fawkes). This would either force strict control over nanotechnology (hard) or a decentralized mode of organization. [AS]
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: A quantum-mechanical principle with the consequence that the position and momentum of an object cannot be precisely determined. The Heisenberg principle helps determine the size of electron clouds, and hence the size of atoms. [NTN] "The more precisely the POSITION is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known" [Werner Heisenberg]
Heteronuclear: consisting of different elements. [TNTWeekly]
Intelligent Agent: aka "software agent". Software that can do things without supervision, because it knows your patterns, history, preferences, likes, dislikes, and so forth. You want to take a vacation - it knows that you really enjoyed that trip to Hawaii, and that you prefer to fly at night, 1st class. It also knows that the bungalow you rented last time was marked as being 5-star, and worth a re-visit. Your IA then collates all your parameters, searches the internet for flights, car rentals, restaurant reservations, and lodgings, and schedules everything for you, with options on the side. No more travel agent - you have a software agent to handle things! Many experts agree that by 2010 we will each have one, and that they will greatly reduce our daily load of trivial and redundant tasks. See Is There an Intelligent Agent in Your Future?.
IA: Intelligence Amplification: Technologies seeking to increase the cognitive abilities of people. [AS]
Immune Machines: Medical nanomachines designed for internal use, especially in the bloodstream and digestive tract, able to identify and disable intruders such as bacteria and viruses. [FS]
IMP: Electronic implant, especially in the brain. [Ron Hale Evans]
Inline Universities: (as opposed to online universities), nanocomputer implants serving to increase intelligence and education of their owners, essentially turning them into walking universities [Max M. Rasmussen]