Nanotechnology and Harry Potter

An excellent letter from Dr. Andrew D. Maynard, Chief Science Advisor, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies to Mr. Arthur Weasley of Harry Potter fame:

Nanotechnology is not magic, but it sometimes looks like magic. For instance, we can make stuff change color, just by altering the size of the particles it is made of. We can weave threads that are so strong a single strand could pull the Hogwarts Express. We can even alter the way that light moves through substances—and might possibly be able to mimic your friend Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak one day!

Nanotechnology plays an important role in my novel, Dusk Before the Dawn, and at times the people in the story view it’s effects and those of other often “unexplainable” happenings (such as those involving the martial arts) as magic. Dr. Maynard voices some caution in his letter that foreshadow the efforts of many novels, including my own:

I am sure that most uses of nanotechnology will be perfectly safe. But it would seem sensible—and good business sense —to make sure of this, rather than ignoring the warning signs and hoping for the best. We do know that the unusual behavior of nano-particles might make them harmful if they get in the wrong place. For example, our scientists have shown that some nano-particles can get to places in our bodies that larger particles cannot, although we do not yet to know whether this is a cause for alarm. And we do not know what happens in the long-run when we release nano-materials into the environment.

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