by Carol Ingley
Nanotechnology is one of those concepts, at least to me, that should be easy to understand but somehow isn't.
Most simply, nanotechnology is the study and application of extremely small things. Those last three words bear repeating: extremely small things. These extremely small things are atoms and molecules. Now how small is extremely small? One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. There are 25 million nanometers in an inch. For me, that's hard to think about: 25 million nanometers stacked up to form an inch. Perhaps it's more not that a nanometer is so small but rather these extremely small things can be used and manipulated. It's difficult to get the mind around that.
But what is really mind-boggling are the implications of three different technologies coming together: nanotechnology, biotechnology and computer technology. From computer viruses, we all know that computer technology can be used to replicate itself. In the case of a computer virus, this replication is generally used in a harmful way.
No one really does understand all of the implications of these three technologies coming together. One thing is certain: nanotechnology is starting to take off...and we may be in for a wild ride. What's not so certain is just how wild that ride might be.
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