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Nanotech could be boon to our society, economy

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: March 18, 2004

Nanotechnology. What is it? How close is it? Why are so many smart people talking about it? If you’re worried about the future of our economy, jobs, and the American way of life, spending a few minutes learning about nanotechnology will open your eyes to an astounding future -- a future worth saving and investing for!

To understand nanotechnology, you have to think small. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or a millionth of a millimeter. To make it even more impressive, a nanometer is 1/100,000th the size of a human hair. To put it another way, a nano is to an inch what an inch is to four miles.

Nanotechnology is an umbrella term that covers many areas of research that deal with objects measured in nanometers. Nanotechnology allows scientists to manipulate atoms -- the smallest building blocks of nature -- such as carbon, oxygen and hydrogen as raw material, rearranging them to create new molecules that may be lighter, stronger, tougher and less expensive because they are based on renewable resources.

Explosion of new products

Not the least affected may be the human body. Since nanotechnology creates the ability to manipulate cells and things that are made of cells, the prospects are boundless. As Warren Shore, a nanotechnology expert, explains the ultimate potential: “If in fact, DNA is the architect of the body structure, and if we can manipulate atoms into any configuration we would like, and if we are in the process of developing the ability to encapsulate liquid and move it in very minute forms, then how far away can we be from ‘Beam me up Scotty’?”

That all sounds like science fiction. But today, Shore explains, L’Oreal and Christian Dior use nanotechnology in making cosmetics. And fibers treated with nanotechnology to resist absorption and wrinkles are already used in clothing sold by Eddie Bauer and Old Navy.

Scientists use the technology to create surfaces that are as strong as the best steel available. The U.S. Navy is coating the bottom of ships with nano-coatings, so they don’t have to go into drydock to remove barnacles.

This new science is the next step that will revolutionize computer chip manufacturing, with the potential to put the entire contents of the Library of Congress on a cube the size of a lump of sugar. It could treat cancer by sending re-engineered molecules into a patient’s system to attack only the mutant cancer cells. The possibilities are endless, and they’re occurring now.

If you’re interested in learning more, there are a number of friendly Web sites that will explain the topic in a language ordinary people can understand:

*Go to www.HowThingsWork. com and search for “nanotechnology.”

*Check in at www.Nanovip. com to see the research that is being done around the world and how it will affect your life.

Or you can just search on Google and find a ton of information. This is your chance to be among the early few who recognize the potential of a brand-new science.

But I’m sorry to inform you that you won’t be among the first to invest in nanotechnology. In fact, stocks in public companies related to nanotech research have already soared more than 250 percent in the past year, and then dropped back in recent days. So be careful, because potential doesn’t always turn into profits, and this is a high-risk arena.

If you want to learn more, Forbes magazine has created a new investment newsletter, the Nanotech Report. Information is available at (888) 419-0385. Or go to

America has always gone through cycles. It took the early pioneers hundreds of years to settle the West. Then in 1870, the Census proclaimed that America no longer had a frontier. But did it have a future? We’ve always worried about what’s next.

Years later, farming was revolutionized, and farm jobs disappeared, but food became abundant. Similarly, manufacturing revolutionized factories, costing jobs but creating a better standard of living. And then steel and auto manufacturing moved overseas in the 1970s, hurting American workers but bringing low cost consumer goods. Along came information technology to create a new surge of prosperity.

Now information jobs are moving overseas, but nanotechnology offers the potential to take our society and our economy to even greater heights.

So learn from the past, and never give up on the future. The future will come, and it’s likely to be better. That’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

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