I entered the nanosphere last night, well intellectually speaking. S and I drove to Cranfield University to support our friend Julie Freeman, who is artist in residence at Cranfield. She has been working with the nanotechnology department and creating works of art that reflect upon the science and explore its implications and how it is perceived.
After the speeches we chatted with various people in the foyer, including a man from a local university who is an expert in nanotechnology. He has an amazingly vivid way of communicating ideas about nanotechnology and although I was often lost, being a non-scientist, he certainly made me want to go away and find out more. I learned too from Julie of the power of these tiny, invisible particles that give gekkos microscopic hairs that enable them walk on ceilings, drugs that will be administered to exactly the spot they are needed and socks that have silver woven into them (Julie has some from Marks and Spencer). Astonishing but scary - well not the socks - to imagine this invisible but potentially powerful world; it's human nature to be scared of what you can't see after all.
We then went on a night time tour of the university to see the posters that Julie had made and erected around the campus. Armed with a torch we trundled around in my little car, stopping at various points so that Julie could shine a light on the poster and explain the thinking around it. We were doing this in one area when we bumped into someone that S had been remonstrating with in the foyer about the fact that commercial considerations always seem to come ahead of giving people the space to experiment and that Faraday would never have made his discoveries if they had employed the cost benefit analysis principle in his day. We explained what we were doing as it did look rather odd but his expression suggested he had us all down as mad stalkers. I commented afterwards that we should have wound down the window and quoted in unison from one of Julie's posters: 'Without context I am nothing'. He'd have thought nanogeddon was upon us for sure!