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What This Area Needs Is A Good Nanotechnology Center

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David Goswick is thinking small -- very, very small. No, even smaller than that. Goswick, the head of Historic Real Estate, wants to build the Nano World Headquarters right here in River City, ah, ... we mean Houston.

The idea behind the Headquarters is that Houston (well, at least the Sam Houston Tollway and Highway 288 area) will become a Mecca for nanoscientists from all over the world, Goswick tells Hair Balls. They'll come here to use some of the shared equipment that none of them could afford on their own. They'll come here to exchange ideas and findings. And, most importantly, they'll come here to spend money.

Estimates are that the Headquarters, as envisioned by Goswick, will be a $700 million project. Besides offices and labs, there will be hotels, condominiums, and a San Antonio-type canal lined with shops and restaurants.

If realized, the project could mean thousands of jobs for Houston.

If realized. That's the hitch.

Goswick doesn't have $700 million. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, except for Oprah and Bill Gates, neither do many other Americans.

Houston does have the brain power, though. Some of the world's leading experts in nanotechnology are at Rice University's Smalley Institute for Nano-scale Science and Technology. (Rick Smalley was a Nobel Prize winning brainiac at Rice.) And other locals are making waves in the nano world.

By the way, if you're not sure what a nano is, here's what Valerie Moore, the executive director of Nano World HQ told Hair Balls: "Nano is simply a prefix meaning one billionth. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. To give you an idea of the nanoscale, if you were one nanometer tall, the earth would be the size of a green pea.

"Nanotechnology is, in the simplest terms, the application of knowledge at the nanoscale."

Moore says the goal is to create structures, devices and systems that exploit the novel properties of atoms. One example of that exploitation is work with colloidal gold. Nanoscience has managed to change its reflected color. Exactly what good that will ever do anybody, who could know? But people had the same attitudes toward x-rays and the internet, and those turned out pretty well.

So, will nanoscience produce something as useful as x-rays or the internet?

Probably.

Will Goswick be able to push through an exceedingly ambitious development project?

It's too soon to tell. But one thing's for sure - the odds of him giving up are nanoistic.

-- Olivia Flores Alvarez 

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