Merry Christmas, (nano)peace on Earth?

TimHarper writes " 1 Merry Christmas, peace on Earth? 19 December 2003 This week we took the first steps towards using nanotechnology for something that would benefit not only business but humanity in general, with the Inaugural Forum at Israel's Weizmann Institute on ìNanotechnology in the Service of Desalination, Remediation, and Purification of Waterî. Nanotechnology in the service of humanity is an issue that has been cropping up all year, from the meeting on nanotechnology and health care in Thanjavur, India, in January, through conference calls to Accra and Kabul, to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres's speech on nanotechnology and water at the World Nano-Economic Congress in Washington DC." Read More for the rest. "At the same conference, another Nobel Laureate, Richard Smalley, outlined the need for nanotechnology to address energy issues. This was followed by Uri Sagman's thought-provoking overview of global water issues at the London leg of the World Nano-Economic Congress. With water becoming a major concern for many countries, it is presenting a growing potential for conflict. (Itís worth noting that it is not so much lack of water that is the problem – many countries have ample water – but a lack of the clean, safe stuff.) While applying nanotechnology to the water issue may not solve some of the current global problems, it may help us prevent future wars and improve quality of life around the world. Itís a lofty goal, but every journey begins with a single step. Of course many of the technologies that may be useful for water are being developed for other purposes – membrane research is being driven in part by fuel cells, for example – so we do not need to develop entirely new technologies. In many cases the application or modification of existing nanotechnologies will allow crucial thresholds in cost or performance to be overcome, and allow economic operation or mass deployment of water remediation technologies. Most of this week was spent running up and down Israel, from the Technion University in Haifa to the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research in Sede Boqer, deep in the Negev desert, and from Ben Gurian University in Be'er Sheva to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The aim was to understand the issues involved in water-purification technology – is energy the most crucial element or is it membrane technologies for reverse-osmosis plants? The culmination of all this activity, and we hope the starting point for the drive to address a global issue, was a meeting organized by the Peres Centre for Peace and the Andreas Agricultural Trust at the Weizmann Institute. In a hectic day, involving Shimon Peres, Israel's leading water and nanotechnology researchers and a crack team from Luna Innovations in the US, we tried to match the problems with the technologies and pave the way for a concerted effort to address the right issues, in the right order. So nanotechnology may not bring about peace on Earth this Christmas, or for many Christmases to come, but there is a growing number of people in the nanotechnology community who are focusing on how to use this bag of technologies for the good of all humanity. At this time of year, it is worth taking a minute or two to consider how nanotechnology can benefit future generations around the world. This week we took a small step, but definitely a step in the right direction. Merry Christmas!"

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