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The 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry went to three researchers who have actually created a range of functioning nanotechnology devices, molecular scale machines that replicate motors, vehicles, and muscles. Each of the three started out with a single function tool, added other functions one after another, and ended up with something a thousand times thinner than a human hair that could do real work. I am sure to a lot of people it doesn’t seem like something that small could do anything that would make a difference to their lives. What useful thing could you do with a programmable device so small that you would need an electron microscope to see it?

The first thing that comes to my mind is to teach it to recognize malignant cells such as cancer, and load it up with a medicinal payload to deliver to such a cell, leaving its uninfected neighbors unharmed. Considering what our current chemotherapy treatment does to the rest of the human body, poisoning the entire thing in the hopes that the cancer cells will die before too many of the healthy cells do, I think this would be a serious improvement. Plus, that is a lot simpler to do than getting it to regrow a missing hand or eye or other body part, so it could be rolled out quickly. I am sure the profit from the cancer cure they could deliver within the next few years would go a long way towards financing the additional research and development needed for the more complex physical repairs to the human body.

Another application would be using them to build things one atom at a time. If you think today’s computers are powerful, wait till you see how small the computer can get when constructed using this method. You could build a fully functional Oculus Rift grade computer plus include all the headset functionality, and embed them into your contact lenses. Or you could just use the nanotech to create the much simpler room temperature superconductors, again depending on the profits of the simpler process to finance the R&D needed to develop the more complex one. Nanotechnology has been one of the Holy Grail’s of Science since Richard Feynman introduced the concept in 1959, and a bit more than half a century later it looks like we are finally getting it to work, at least the early tools. Check out this BBC Story to get the full details.

If you missed seeing the Rosetta Destruction by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after its 2 year exploration, you can watch it again complete with all the commentary and analysis the leading scientists can bring to bare on the project. It was a magnificent run, and a huge amount of science was done, questions answered, every answer spawning 2 or more new questions. Watch the program and you might just begin to understand the vastness of even our local space here within the Heliopause, a tiny percentage of the distance even to the closest star.

Once more, the team from the Annals of Improbable Research handed out another year’s Ig Nobel Prizes last week. From the New Zealand team who got the Economic Prize for their research determining how to market things to rocks, to The Medical Prize winners who discovered that if the left side of your body itches and you look in a mirror and scratch the right side of your body the itching is relieved, this years winners share a trait in common with each other and all previous winners. First they make you laugh… and then they make you think. Mostly about how gullible some grant organizations may be, but every so often about the real-world problem that inspired the research in the first place. This is probably my favorite annual award in the world of Science.

The folks at Sci-Friday have put together their first 360 degree VR video, and it is a doozy. The recording in question is an homage to the CD they burned to go on Voyager on its journey to the stars. It could possibly be the last remaining evidence we existed if someone finds it and figures out how to play it a billion years from now. To put the journey into perspective, the Voyager satellites were launched in 1977 and are traveling at 38,000 MPH; Voyager 2 is currently at the Heliosheath, the barrier where the solar wind pushes up against interstellar gas, and so still in our local solar system at a distance of 31 light minutes. Voyager 1 made it through the Heliosheath barrier in 2012 and is now in true interstellar space at 39 light minutes, the first man made object ever to achieve that. In about 40,000 years it will do a close approach of another start 17.6 light years away, another cosmic first for our species. Yay us!

The Stargate Project created a life size replica of a Stargate in the park of Musée royal de Mariemont in Belgium. This is for an exhibit about the roll of Egyptian Gods in Geek Culture that will be running through November 20th, covering everything from the Stargate TV show and Movies to Comic Books. The first video is about the production of the Stargate, using milling, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The second video is of one that is much smaller and easier to 3D print and assemble, using the plans from Thingiverse, if you wanted to make your own.