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December 11, 2005

Nanotech Can Kill You

Instapundit secretly plots the destruction of the entire human race:

Those stain-resistant khakis you just picked up at the mall, the tennis ball that holds its bounce longer and sunscreen that's clear instead of white have something in common β€” nanotechnology.

Scientists manipulating matter at the molecular level have improved on hundreds of everyday products in recent years and are promising dramatic breakthroughs in medicine and other industries as billions of dollars a year are pumped into the nascent sector.

But relatively little is known about the potential health and environmental effects of the tiny particles β€” just atoms wide and small enough to easily penetrate cells in lungs, brains and other organs.

While governments and businesses have begun pumping millions of dollars into researching such effects, scientists and others say nowhere near enough is being spent to determine whether nanomaterials pose a danger to human health.

Michael Crichton's bestselling book "Prey" paints a doomsday scenario in which a swarm of tiny nanomachines escapes the lab and threatens to overwhelm humanity. Scientists believe the potential threat from nanomaterials is more everyday than a sci-fi thriller, but no less serious.

Studies have shown that some of the most promising carbon nanoparticles β€” including long, hollow nanotubes and sphere-shaped buckyballs β€” can be toxic to animal cells. There are fears that exposure can cause breathing problems, as occurs with some other ultrafine particles, that nanoparticles could be inhaled through the nose, wreaking unknown havoc on brain cells, or that nanotubes placed on the skin could damage DNA.

This is one of those few bits of fear-the-future alarmism I'm actually worried about. Self-replicating molecular machines could reduce the entire world to grey goo one day, of course, and these feisty, industrious little cyborgs could interact in all sorts of bad ways with cells.

Thanks to Jake.

If I could do it all over again, I'd like to be named "Jake." More specifically, Jake "The Snake" Drake. That would be a really cool name. No one effs with someone named Jake "The Snake" Drake.


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posted by Ace at 02:49 PM

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