Musk Ado About Nano

Last week, Elon Musk decided that “nano” is “bs.”

A good portion of the internet tried to point out his error, but he Was Not Having It. Particularly from Upulie Divisekera, an Australian molecular biologist, cancer researcher and nanotechnologist who is also the co-founder of the most-excellent Twitter account @RealScientists.

Now, this didn’t even start out being about nanotechnology, but with a tirade against the media that began by declaring he was going to create a website that would somehow track the credibility of journalists.

When Divisekera replied that his poll was pathetic, Musk swung a hard turn. Instead of complaining about the media, he moved on to complaining about the words she uses in her Twitter bio. Which is a totally rational thing for a bazillionaire CEO to do, obvi.

However, he’s still wrong! Whee! Unless things like CPU transistors, fiber optic coatings, the conductive nanowires in smartphonse, titanium dioxide in sunscreen, and even the tech that helps Musk’s own Tesla batteries store and release energy are also BS.

Perhaps stained glass is also BS? Because people have been utilizing the properties of nanotechnology since long before the term itself existed.

How long before? CENTURIES.

Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny, Golden Quantum Dot Domini

Say you’re a 16th century artisan who wants to bring glory to God by creating the most brilliantly-colored stained glass. You’ll probably try a lot of wacky stuff, right? Through an experimentation process that was almost definitely a boggling conglomeration of OSHA violations, medieval artisans eventually discovered that adding gold chloride to molten glass would turn it red. “Blasting sand with a ton of heat” does not equate to knowing what nanotech is, they just knew they were getting the results they wanted.

Modern analysis of stained glass from as long ago as the 10th century indicates that gold nanoparticles, acting as quantum dots, reflect red light and give stained glass just one of its many brilliant colors. So basically, this ish ain’t new.

Nano! In! Spaaaaaaaaaace!

And medieval stained glass windows still look absolutely brilliant even after centuries of exposure to sunlight! This fact inspired scientists working on Mars missions to apply stained-glass techniques toward the creation of color-calibration equipment for the panoramic camera for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rover Mission.

Since there’s nearly no ozone on Mars, the planet is bombarded by extremely high levels of UV irradiation. That UV would fade standard, terrestrial color-calibration equipment far too quickly to be useful. The PanCam Calibration Target (PCT), developed by the Computer Science Space Robotics Research Group at Aberystwyth University, uses nine small stained glass chips that will hopefully resist fading in the harsh conditions of Mars. It is intended to help capture high-resolution images that are a true representation of the natural colors of Mars.

So you wanna go to Mars, Elon? Might wanna take some of that nano BS with you.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Check Also
Back to top button