Explore Nanotechnology

We already have nanotechnology, says Ray Kurzweil, renowned futurist and director of engineering at Google. "In fact, chips today, the key features are 50 or 60 nanometers so that is already nanotechnology."

We already have nanotechnology, says Ray Kurzweil, renowned futurist and director of engineering at Google. "In fact, chips today, the key features are 50 or 60 nanometers so that is already nanotechnology."


In the latest installment of Big Think's Edge, Kurzweil takes us into the exciting promising world of nanotechnology.

Molecular Level Devices

"The true promise of nanotechnology is that ultimately we’ll be able to create devices that are manufactured at the molecular level by putting together, molecular fragments in new combinations so, I can send you an information file and a desktop nanofactory will assemble molecules according to the definition in the file and create a physical object," he explains. One day we'll be able to e-mail clothes and houses just like we can email entire music albums instead of having to ship them.

Improved Medicine & Performance 

Nanotechnology can not only improve our health care, it may also make us superhuman. "Another promise is to be able to create devices that are the size of blood cells, and by the way biology is an example of nanotechnology. The key features of biology are at the molecular level," Kurzweil says. "One scientist designed a robotic red blood cell that's a thousand times more powerful than the biological version. So, if you were to replace a portion of your biological red blood cells with this respirocytes the robotic versions, you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours."

The Next 25 Years

Due to the exponential progression of technology, says Kurzweil, nanotechnology will be a billion times more powerful in 25 years. It will create more durable and powerful materials across industries in addition to transforming the potential of the human body. 

To learn more about nanotechnology, watch Big Think's latest installment of Edge.

Image credit: null0/Flickr

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
popular

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less