Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nanomedicine makes the news, and makes my day

Korea.net today announced an exciting discovery in the field of nanomedicine (1).

Scientists at Yonsei University claim to have “developed a nanomaterial that can simultaneously find and suppress cancer growth.” If this turns out as they hope, it may mean we’ve found yet another “nano” way to combat our age-old nemesis, rendering it ineffective.

Once again our understanding of the nanoscale is being brought to bear on an area that has huge potential for doing good. I say “once again” because there are other equally promising efforts being made by Dr, Naomi Halas and her team at Rice (as well as many other dedicated and qualified groups). Her vision? "Imagine if cancer could become trivial." (2)

Given the billions being spent in nanomedicine R&D, coupled with an increasing number of teams of the finest university and corporate minds, each competing for dollars and glory, I am confident that many of today’s killer diseases and life-threatening injuries will become things we soon talk about in terms of “remember when cancers killed millions of people every year?” and “Hey, didn’t one of your ancestors die of that injury?”

Today, many visionaries predict that advances in nanotechnologies will bring about near-term Trillion dollar markets as well as answers to many of today’s greatest social needs. And those forecasts are predicated on the relative puny few billions of dollars that are being spent on nanotech R&D at this time. Imagine if the same number of dollars (3) as we’re spending on various military efforts were also spent on increasing our understanding of the nanoscale. Should this come to pass, I am confident that many social ills could be mitigated, if not eliminated. Pour a couple hundred billion dollars into nanotech R&D with the specific intent of addressing the issues of employment, hunger, and education, I sincerely believe that wonderful things will happen. I also believe that when it comes to best bang for the buck, investing in nanotech R&D is absolutely the most promising way to insure that our collective future is beneficial to all.

Let me give you some examples of things we might see in the next couple decades due to our understanding of the nanoscale:

A FREE fully loaded laptop, with free Internet connection and power, for everyone

FREE screening, diagnosis and treatment for most of today’s killer diseases and life-threatening injuries, with subsequent near-zero death rates from age-old killers such as cancers

A better standard of living for everyone, with not one person wanting for food, shelter, medical needs or freedom

Protection from space debris such as asteroids and comets using advanced optics and computing coupled with rapid deployment counter measures

Off-Earth launches costing pennies per pound, instead of today’s $10 - $20k; space tourism, permanent moon and Mars bases; and possibly one or more space tethers (AKA: beanstalk, space elevator)

Environmental remediation, including the digestion and conversion to energy of all landfills, clean up of all super fund sites, and reversal of over a hundred year’s worth of atmospheric pollution

New non-polluting power sources for our homes, offices and cars (and our entire transportation industry) that create near-zero pollutants and cost a very tiny fraction of what they do today

As John Lennon said, “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

What do you believe? Will nanotech bring us riches or doom? I’m thinking riches, with just the barest hint of doom (say, one part per billion), IF we plan well enough in advance and IF we focus our intentions (IE: get our collective stuff together).

Rocky Rawstern
From the Wilds of Southern Oregon
November 20, 2007

(1) http://www.kois.go.kr/news/news/newsView.asp?serial_no=20071119003
(2) http://www.nanotech-now.com/2003-Awards/Best-Discoveries-2003.htm & http://www.ece.rice.edu/~halas/
(3) by some estimates a total as high as trillions of dollars, worldwide

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