ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY: Nanotechnology is science at the size of individual atoms and molecules: objects and devices measuring mere billionths of a meter, smaller than a red blood cell. At that size scale, materials have different chemical and physical properties than those of the same materials in bulk, because quantum mechanics is more important. For example, carbon atoms can conduct electricity and are stronger than steel when woven into hollow microscopic threads. Nanoparticles are already widely used in certain commercial consumer products, such as suntan lotions, "age-defying" make-up, and self-cleaning windows that shed dirt when it rains. One company manufactures a nanocrystal wound dressing with built-in antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. On the horizon is toothpaste that coats, protects and repairs damaged enamel, as well as self-cleaning shoes that never need polishing. Nanoparticles are also used as additives in building materials to strengthen the walls of any given structure, and to create tough, durable, yet lightweight fabrics.
ABOUT PAREIDOLIA: The phenomenon in which a person perceives a vague or random visual or auditory pattern as something significant is called pareidolia. It's the picture of someone famous appearing on a piece of toast or the cloud that looks like a house, or the words that seem so clearly articulated when a record is played in reverse. Mental health professionals use this phenomenon to help them understand a patient's mental state with the well-known Rorschach inkblot tests.
MATERIAL ISSUES: Materials science is the study of stuff -- the substances that make up things you use every day-- from your shoes, dishes, CDs, or your bicycle or skateboard. All are made from different kinds of materials. Materials derive their unique properties from atomic structure so materials scientists can manipulate atoms and molecules to design new kinds of stuff with different properties that could show up in the nifty gadgets, clothing and kitchenware of tomorrow.