Laughter, the Best Nanotechnology

June 9, 2011
Comic strips, t-shirts and Jim Carrey go nano

Did you hear the one about the movie star in the nanotechnology suit? It's not a joke. Well, actually it is. The movie star is wild man Jim Carrey. And his nano-suit? He announced in an MTV promo video that for hosting the MTV Awards "I'm wearing a suit that I've had made. It's the latest in nanotechnology, so I'm able to project whatever I want on it." In case you didn't catch the show on June 5, it turned out to be a bright green suit on which video could be projected. I have my doubts about the nanotechnology part of the story, but who am I to argue with Hollywood?

What more proof do we need that nanotechnology is mainstream, practically a pop culture icon? Well, for a bit of summer fun I decided to find out -- and went looking for nano-amusements for all of us. I found websites where you could buy nanotechnology cartoons. I found comedians who specialize in science humor and speak at places like Stanford and The California Academy of Sciences.

We nanotechnologists have our own bumper stickers, t-shirts and coffee mugs, too. You can get them at websites like Cafe Press and Zazzle. Check out these punch lines:

  • It's not what you nano, it's who you nano.
  • Nanotechnology. It's no big deal.
  • Bond. Molecular bond. (OK, not technically nano, but funny!)
  • Nanotechnology. Don't sweat the big stuff.
  • Size matters.
  • Nanotechnology. Where small is big.
  • 10-9 (That's the size of a nanometer.)
  • No, Bucky Balls isn't a cartoon character
  • And did I say T-shirts and mugs? Try doggie t-shirts, aprons, baby clothes -- even beer steins and maternity wear. (Do you think one leads to the other?)

How about a little light nano-reading? Nanotechnology is at the heart of two comic book series. he first is limited edition series called New-Gen, from Marvel Comics. In a New York Daily News interview creator J.D. Matontie explains, "What if someone was composed of nanobots? What sort of incredible powers could manifest? We wanted to employ a realistic approach as to where those nanopowers could originate from so when our audience read New-Gen they would think, 'Hey, this can really happen!'"

Not to be outdone, DC has its own nano-comic, called Xombi . I'm not sure if I love the title or if it's going to keep me up nights, but here's the story. David Kim, good guy, is a nanotechnology researcher who's been mortally wounded by supernatural cult and then injected with nanomachines that turn him into an "immortal posthuman." His No worries about kryptonite here!

And I found a couple of oldies but goodies at The Onion, one of the original "fake news" outlets. A couple of years ago, they did one of their infographics on eight best applications of nanotechnology. My favorite? "By altering the earth's atmosphere on the microscopic level, nanotechnologists can turn whole world into delicious ice-cream wonderland."

They also included nanotechnology in their pre-release article when the iPhone was first introduced, saying, "Here are some of its most highly anticipated features: Nanotechnology enables it to reassemble itself when thrown against wall." Alas, if only it were true.

And finally, the folks at Nanowerk, primarily a nano-news (and nano-geek) site, have a Nano-IQ Quiz you might want to try. Bone up on science and chemistry first -- but also your Star Trek trivia. You're likely to learn a few things (I did) and laugh a lot.

Let me close on a slightly more serious note. The fact that nanotech is deep into pop culture is a reflection of the fact that it is present - and valuable -- in our everyday lives. The promise of science is being kept in thousands of products in medicine, transportation, nutrition, personal care and more. And tomorrow? Expect more innovation that will make you smile.

Scott E. Rickert is chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd. , located in Valley View, Ohio.

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