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> Nanoscience in fiction vs. fiction in nanoscience Issue: 2014-1 Section: 17-19

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Notes of the autors

Before dealing with the topic nanotechnology and, particularly, the issue of nanotechnology in Science-Fiction, we want to emphasize that everyone has one’s own point of view on everything; therefore, each of us faces or intends something in a different way from someone else. This happened when the Italian and the Romanian authors compared the ideas for proceeding and developing the topic. We have tried in many ways to combine our thoughts and, after a very long and fruitful confrontation, we faced this issue maintaining the different points of view and ways of thinking different to each other, even if conflicting sometimes. That’s why, rather than asserting an idea at the expense of another, we preferred to work on both ideas, so to give an opportunity to the reader to choose in his opinion which was the more inspired way from the starting topic.

Enjoy your reading and, if you wish, you are welcome to send the authors your thoughts about their work and mainly our decision to show both versions of the same topic.


Nano science in fiction


“Thinking small”: this is the starting point of our research. Nanotechnologies and nanomaterials are already in common usage and in the objects we use every day. Many innovations achieved in the automotive sector, electronics, medicine and building materials would not have been possible without the use of nanotechnologies. And the potential that they offer in the near future is immense: development of new methods to improve the release of drugs, photovoltaic elements with high efficiency, intelligent materials for energy storage, lithium batteries more efficient and long-lasting.

We may think: “nanotechnologies are a reality too far from our”, But this is incorrect. As nanotechnology is a reality that belongs to us forever. You are still doubters? Think, for example, the Lycurgus Cup, a type of glass cage Cup dating back to the Roman period (4th century). The glass has small amounts of nano particles of gold and silver, for this changes color depending on the direction of the light that strikes it. This effect is called dichroic.

In addition, they are found in nature: the perfect example is given by the feet of the Gecko. They have folds covered by thousands of filiform setae themselves consist of hundreds of microscopic strands of keratin soaked to flout the gravity and remain attached to any surface.

The researchers want to create sticky substances that, like Gecko’s paws, adhere to smooth surfaces.

In human history, the fantasies on nanotechnology have influenced a multitude of fields: literature, philosophy, art, motion pictures, video games, etc.

The idea of something so minute that manages to achieve all that we always have whetted the collective imagination.



The main goal is to find those sources closely connected to the scope of imagination and fantasy that are a source of inspiration to the great men of science who contributed with their creations to the growth of all mankind.

Hence arise the question: wild even before the technology existed, illustrious men of the past were able to imagine reality that only belong to us today? Nanotechnologies are one of this? How could they think of something so unimaginable and distant?


Method And Materials

In chronological order through a thorough research we discovered that the authors of the past have introduced the topic.

We present a list of the authors who inspired us:


Nanotechnology In Literature

In the past, the philosopher Democritus 460 (B.C. – 370 A.D.) talked about atoms, but nowadays we are in front of a new cultural revolution which permits scientist to manipulate atoms, molecules and agglomerates to build infinitely minute tools.


Francis Bacon – The New Atlantis

The first who spoke of nanotechnology was Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He wrote new Atlantis, describing a hypothetical science Island, inhabited by scientists of great ingenuity. Here men perform research and experiments of all kinds: cloning, hibernation, transplants and creation of new materials with the help of nanotechnology. “The New Atlantis” precedes the Sci-Fi fiction. Generally these are utopias and dystopias that describe the influence of today’s or future science on society.

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

The British writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) in his “Brave New World”describes a future world where every citizen is conceived in a test tube and is controlled with the help of nanotechnology because, when he becomes an adult, he will have a determined role since his birth. In this world, nanotechnology is used to control every mind.


Aldous Huxley – The New World

The English writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) in his new world describes a futuristic world. Every citizen is conceived in test tubes labeled that will determine the role of the individual in society. Every citizen is controlled via room hidden dwarfs anywhere. In this world the nanotechnologies are used for mind control.


Michael Crichton - Prey

In 2002, Michael Crichton (1984-2008) wrote “Prey”: In an isolated place in America, a cloud of nanoparticles, micro-robots, have escaped from the laboratory. They were programmed to be predator, so they have destroyed all they met.


Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age

However, I think the best expression of nanotechnology is the book “The diamond age” by Neal Stephenson. In the twenty-first century Shanghai, nanotechnology influences every aspect of life. The protagonist is a young girl, Nell. Nanotechnology is prominently featured in the novel, it is used to create the material, the only one used for each object and almost any material can be manufactured cheaply in large quantities using a matter compiler, including diamonds, which allows for groundbreaking architectural designs and construction results. Cities also employ tiny nanotech machines for defensive purposes.When material scarcity vanishes, new economic and cultural factors emerge to create other types of scarcity.


Nanotechnology In Cinema And Video Games

The world of cinema shows us all the possible uses of science and knowledge we have about it.


Fantastic Voyage

A “fantastic” example of nanotechnologies is “Fantastic Voyage”, made in 1996. Here a physician equipe is made smaller, embarked on a micro submarine and injected in the body of a scientist to remove fro mhim a cerebral hematoma. Is it strange? We can imagine one day we will go in a drug store and we will not buy medicine, but a tin full of nano-robots that we inject in our body and they will cure us, and we will see our internal status thanks to a screen over us… and we will learn something about our body. Why not?



Imagine the future. Can you think the Earth without green parks and trees, freedom and happiness?

When the Earth is no longer habitable, scientists could create an artificial planet for everybody.

Elysium is an artificial planet built by scientists. Here is all the technology able to change man´s life and cure all kind of disease. On Elysium, illnesses are easily curable thanks to machines called ?capsule? functioning with microchips fused in people´s genetic code. This microchip permits the capsule to recognize the illnesses and cure them.


Bicentennial Man

However, the most popular topic is the creation of machines equal to humans under any point of view: In this movie a physician reproduce skin.

We are fascinated and continuing writhing at the same time by the possibility to simulate our mind and its processes such as sensitivity to moods, feelings, temperaments, sensitivity to wildlife and animals, humor, spiritual consciousness and imagination.


Crysis is a videogames series that takes place in 2021 on Earth when a lot of aliens invade the planet: the main characters are Nomad, Psycho and Alcatraz. They belong in an army that uses a nanotechnology equipment. Some soldiers defend their body and fight wearing the Nanosuit in three combat modes: armor, power, and stealth. This is build with the CryFibril molecules formed by graphene atoms, that make the Nanosuit lighter, stronger and efficient.



Alex is a cybernetic engineer who wants to reproduce human psychology and its processes. He can do it thanks to a projector-like device, which makes the brain mapping in the empty place: it permits to transfer nanoparticles that are artificial synapses so as to modify the artificial mind. Now, we can imagine a similar device, thanks to it we could cure also brain illnesses.



Fiction in nano science


Imagine a human being who has amazing abilities and has the power to receive in a direct way the radio waves, he can adjust his eye and his sight and can also see through the deepest darkness like Riddick. The thickness of the walls will not be a problem for our character because he can see through the walls and beyond, he can travel and visit the outer space anytime he wants with the „space elevator” wearing intelligent clothes which clean themselves or do not get dirty at all. Even if these things seem to be more or less impossible and learned from SCI-FI movies, they actually exist and are at an early stage, with baby-steps touching their goals, all of this by means of NANOTECHNOLOGY.


Evolving The Nanotechnology From Art To Science

When it comes to nanotech, we have the feeling we are in Star Trek movie but, suprisingly, there have been hundreds of products based on nanotechnology on the market for quite a while.



A well-known character and concept is the equalizer-warrior Robocop, who has been talked up by SCI-FI movies. But the American army has proposed to itself to carry into effect this idea and probably within 2020, all soldiers will wear nanometrical armors which will be obtained from materials that contain nanotube-fibers and can protect soldiers from any bullet, from the rogue effects of explosions, with a colossal total toughness, being as adaptive as a flax at the same time, answering verbal commands and allowing the soldier to become invisible.


Nanotubes Clothes

Clothes which you can spray directly on your body. Sounds odd: Let me get dressed. Where did I put my blue blouse spray?”. It surely seems impossible, just like the other inventions, but these kinds of clothes are more hygienic and the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to clean the up at all and they can develop your creativity in creating new clothes’ models. The only problem is that they will be a bit expensive for quite a while and the estimated cost is $10.000.

This product it’s called Fabrican and it was created by Manuel Torres, a Spanish designer who has dedicated 10 years of his life to get this invention to perfection. The clothes that you obtain by spraying them on the human body fit anyone and they dry instantly after skin contact. „Safety comes first!”, so at every application it is more than necessary to wear goggles to avoid eye contact with the substance. The invention lies on a variety of soft goods like protective patches, padding, cleaning articles and interior decoration.


Invisible Clothes

In Scotland, a fabric has been created which seems to be able to play with the light beams and also with your mind. Thus and so, the person who wears the material becomes relatively invisible, as it happens with Harry Potter’s famous „cloak of invisibility”. The fabric is called Metaflex and it was created by Saint Andrew’s University researchers in Scotland. The material makes the light take a bend, instead of reflecting it, hereby everything that lies behind the material disappears. It looks like magic, however the basis of this invention, which appears relatively simple, is a comprehensive study of physics.


Nano Contact Lenses

Sight is an essential sense for humans, which is why Washington’s University researchers are trying to improve it through a contact lens with display.

For instance, the contact lenses can help a person to reach a desired destination from an unknown city. Hereby, the contact lens activates and shows clues and signs which the person can use to reach his/her destination. On this lens are placed electrical connections and an array of LEDs.


Space Elevator

Have you ever tried to imagine how we both heard Neil Armstrong observing the Earth from the Moon? In not more than fifteen years you will no longer need to be an astronaut to go to space, because nanotechnology may make it possible for any of us. The project is in an initial state in an institution which belongs to NASA, and envisages the construction of a space elevator. The latter will be very durable and built from a combination of carbon, discovered by a Japanese, in 1881, and renamed nano tube.

It will be very durable, built from a carbon based material, discovered by a Japanese in 1881 which he called „nano tube”.


Nokia Morph

Nokia has managed to merge a series of technologies into a single device which, again, seems magical. This fascinating device can change its form from bracelet to a common cellphone or a pedestal

desk. It is transparent, its surface can clean itself and can be charged from any power source it detects by itself. The device is exhibited at the Modern Art Museum in New York and aims to demonstrate the flexibility of which it is capable, providing inspiration and vision for the amazing discoveries in the future.



From his appearance on the planet, man has demonstrated that his creative ability is unlimited. Whatever man imagines, the mind creates. Nanotechnology-based inventions are promising and lead not only to the improvement of life, but also to the removal of the routine, giving way to the imagination and ingenuity of man. There will come a time when the handle of the umbrella you will warm to touch with our hands thanks to nano thermal sensors; or when we with the help of nanofarmaci to replace doctors and hospitals. Likewise, schools will be able to identify the needs of any child with the help of nanopsicologi and, after identifying the profile of each child through a psychological diagnosis, can learn about their natural inclinations and improve them.



We warmly thank Tamara Slatineanu and the other Romanian teachers for the important help they gave us.This work was supported by A.L.P.H.A.-pupils Comenius Bilateral Project (2013-1-RO1-COM0729620 1)