What is nanotechnology and why is it such a buzz in the computer industry?
Nanotechnology began as a term to describe research that is undertaken on very small scales - at the level of nanometres. One nanometre is one billionth of a meter - about the size of 3 atoms. More and more often, however, it is being used to describe engineering at the molecular level - building things atom by atom by atom.
When we copy something from one computer to another, we reproduce data as a series of 0s or 1s - a string of digits that is held as information in the computer's disk-space. But what if we could reproduce something molecule by molecule - not just copying information, but copying what something is made of!? Ultimately the quest is to create a photocopier (Xerox machine) that copies objects! This could automate the manufacturing industry, and the precision of such processes would surely find application in surgery, air travel, education, food development, computing, ... perhaps almost every field of human endeavour, as well as creating some new ones along the way. It may never get that far, and it's going to be some time before it gets anywhere at all, but it is the prospect that nanotechnology may just turn out to be one of the greatest technical leaps forward in human history that is creating all that buzz...
Sally Riordan, M.A., Management Consultant, London
'Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little; it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.'