Monday, March 15, 2010

Towards Nanoscience

Dr. Daniel Tomalia regaled us with stories on Thursday night, dwelling especially on his meeting with Linus Pauling, whom he met many years back. Their conversation stretched into the evening, and Dr. Tomalia was left with the distinct impression that he had met a great man.

This story was apropos as the lecture series is named for Linus Pauling and a lot of us meet in his boyhood home. Moreover, Pauling is the only person to have received two unshared Nobel Prizes, the second for peace, and Dr. Tomalia wanted to suggest that nanotechnology might herald an era of disarmament and far less warfaring, as humans learned to do yet more with less.

Next to these hopeful visions were peoples fears, revealed in subsequent Q&A, that nanotechnology would simply widen the gap between the haves and have nots, plus might become weaponized and used to target specific populations (biological warfare in other words). Of course these are key concerns that any serious scientist must address, both in words and with career moves, if seeking to retain the public's trust.

Dr. Tomalia suggests that nanotechnology is just that, a technology. His hope is to move it towards becoming a science by helping with the generalizations, the heuristics. He has a lot of good ideas along those lines, involving classifying components as hard and soft, corresponding roughly to inorganic and organic.

He has approximately six of each type of component. For example, buckminsterfullerene may be used as a hard core for attaching tree-like structures called dendrimers. RNA or DNA he calls S6 (soft six) and occurs naturally in such nano-structures as the viruses. Using this nomenclature, he builds something like a periodic table that is both descriptive and predictive as to chemical properites -- seems a good start.

In terms of synergetic geometry, I could see where control over dendrimer shape and size would correspond to Fuller's sphere packing cartoons. The core information, like a seed, is what governs the shape of the resulting dendrimer, which may be grown outward to various sizes or frequencies.

Shape corresponds to angle, and relates to the formula 2 P FF + 2, where P stands for whatever prime number product and FF (frequency to the second power) corresponds to size or number of layers. In the case of the cuboctahedron or icosahedron (shape), the prime number characteristic is 5. In the case of the cube, 3. In the case of the octahedron, 4. This is a kind of mathematical analogy helping to anchor the heuristics Dr. Tomalia was sharing with us.

1, 12, 42, 92, 162...

I was trudging in the rain from Blue Moon for this one and missed Skip Rung's introduction. Skip heads the ONAMI lab on the Hewlett Packard campus in Corvallis. Our Linus Pauling group went on a field trip there not so long ago. I noticed the Zome tool buckyball building kit.