"Nano, it's not green, it's totalitarian"

Protestors' confusion over what nanotechnology actually is leads to linking it with political epithets

2 min read

The quote in the above headline comes from a banner used by protestors recently in Marseilles, France. Apparently the protestors have been disrupting public engagement meetings throughout France over the last couple of months.

Once again the fears that lead to these types of outbursts have little to nothing to do with nanotechnology and instead revolve around distrust of big business and the supposedly complicit governments that support the immoral aims of business.

In coming to the defense of the protestors, the Friends of the Earth, who in the past have boycotted public engagement meetings on the assertion that the “primary purpose ((in this case) of the Australian Office of Nanotechnology) in this area is to promote uncritical public acceptance of nanotechnology,” have offered some new reasons to hate public engagement on the subject of nanotechnology.

This time the Friends of the Earth have claimed that the public dialogues are ignoring nanoparticle toxicity. Well, that’s surely problematic. I haven’t seen the agendas for these meetings but if that issue isn’t addressed, it certainly should be. But the next two issues really get to the heart of their concerns and the banner slogans. You see, nanotechnologies encroach on our private life and nanotechnology is somehow tied up with war.

This is not the first time I have noted this line of thinking, which to some extent has been fostered by organizations that may not have been entirely aware what the fallout might be from their musings.

But hold on a minute, nanotechnology has not compromised our privacy IT and telecommunication technologies have already taken most of it away already.

And war? Really? I can only guess that the Friends of the Earth’s concerns are informed by websites such as this

These protests and their justifications from the NGOs really do indicate how necessary these public engagements are because neither of them can distinguish between nanotechnology and science fiction, and as a result they link nanotechnology to their worst fears.


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How the First Transistor Worked

Even its inventors didn’t fully understand the point-contact transistor

12 min read
A phot of an outstretched hand with several transistors in the palm of it.

A 1955 AT&T publicity photo shows [in palm, from left] a phototransistor, a junction transistor, and a point-contact transistor.


The vacuum-tube triode wasn’t quite 20 years old when physicists began trying to create its successor, and the stakes were huge. Not only had the triode made long-distance telephony and movie sound possible, it was driving the entire enterprise of commercial radio, an industry worth more than a billion dollars in 1929. But vacuum tubes were power-hungry and fragile. If a more rugged, reliable, and efficient alternative to the triode could be found, the rewards would be immense.

The goal was a three-terminal device made out of semiconductors that would accept a low-current signal into an input terminal and use it to control the flow of a larger current flowing between two other terminals, thereby amplifying the original signal. The underlying principle of such a device would be something called the field effect—the ability of electric fields to modulate the electrical conductivity of semiconductor materials. The field effect was already well known in those days, thanks to diodes and related research on semiconductors.

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