• Question: Can nanoscience be used in the military or rescue teams to increase their mental and physical abilities?

    Asked by mrj007 to Aggelos, Andrew, Eileen, Naomi, Shane on 16 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Naomi Elster

      Naomi Elster answered on 16 Nov 2012:

      I think we are a long way from that! Using technology to enhance someone’s mental abilities is a really uncomfortable thing to think about. People who are richer will always have better technology than people with less money, and the brain is so complicated that we don’t really know what would happen if we started playing around with a healthy brain. I doubt this kind of science will happen soon because I don’t think that ethics committees would be comfortable enough with the idea to allow trials to take place, and I don’t think that powerful regulators, like the FDA, would sign off on this technology being made legal and available to be used. There’s too much potential for it to be misused.

      I’ll let our resident nano guy answer you on whether its possible or not!

    • Photo: Shane Bergin

      Shane Bergin answered on 18 Nov 2012:

      (i think i’m the nano guy 🙂 )

      Nanotechnology is technology based on nano-materials. These materials are only a few atoms large (in one or more of their dimensions) and because of their tiny size they have strange (and useful) properties. Naomi’s right to say that we are at the beginning of a long road of understanding these materials – at this stage there’s a huge amount of excitement about the possibilities … these range from amazing things that could help the world to things that could be used for less helpful things.. this is always the way with new technology – it says more about humanity than the technology, in my opinion. Would we say the invention of the jet engine was a bad one because war planes are a reality, when we know that planes have led to so much good in the world (travel, social cohesiveness, etc )

      But, since you ask… i think that nanomaterials could increase the physical capabilities of a soldier or a rescuer. The carbon nanotube is a superhero of a material – it’s strong, really light, and it actuates (it moves when electricity is passed through it, in the same way your brain moves your muscles). so we ‘could’ build a bionic arm that was incredibly strong and tough that ‘could’ be controlled by a person’s brain….

    • Photo: Eileen Diskin

      Eileen Diskin answered on 18 Nov 2012:

      Nanomaterials are doing some awesome things already. For example, I’ve heard that some scientists are using nanomaterials to help make medicines more effective. I guess sometimes, there are problems when we take a medicine because a lot of it gets ‘lost’ in our body, and can’t get to exactly where it needs to go. Nanomaterials can help with this, by providing a ‘lift’ to the drugs to make sure they get to where they need to go! So in that way, if military or rescue teams are able to get over sicknesses faster…that will help with their physical abilities!

    • Photo: Andrew Jackson

      Andrew Jackson answered on 20 Nov 2012:

      i like the bioinic arm example shane gives.. very cool.