Monday, December 19, 2005

Nanotech at NASA-Ames?

A nanometer is about as wide as one DNA molecule, or the length a fingernail grows each second. It's life on the atomic scale, but also the focus of an entire industry: nanotechnology. State and congressional leaders believe it holds keys to California's future.

At a news conference today at NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, and other civic leaders will unveil a number of proposals aimed at nurturing nanotechnology in California.

Looking at issues ranging from elementary school education to government investment, a task force convened by Honda and state Controller Steve Westly hope to define California as the heart of the industry.

In comparison to other, more established industries, nanotechnology is still in its infancy, said Larry Bock, chairman of Nanosys, which is based in Palo Alto.

``From a commercial standpoint, vs. a lot of other industries, there's a big leap between what goes on in academic labs and the type of research and development that venture capital folk would invest in,'' said Bock, who is also a special partner with Lux Capital, a $100 million venture capital fund. Government investment, he said, can help bridge the gap.

Read more here.

The wisdom of making NASA Ames a center for nanotech research is a little questionable. NASA has been refocusing lately on manned space exploration. Anything outside of that, at least while Mike Griffin and Shrub are in office, is a very risky venture to get involved in. I hate to say it, but if its not related to space or aeronautics directly, I am unconvinced it needs to be in NASA. In fact, I am unsure that aeronatuics and space exploration ought to be in the same agency. Aeronautics research is a worthy undertaking, but is it truly that compatible with astronautics? I have my doubts.

No comments: