Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small

Course No. 1324
Taught By Multiple Professors
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Course No. 1324
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Course Overview

In 1959, renowned physicist Richard Feynman delivered a prophetic talk to colleagues. He pointed out that no law of nature exists that can prevent scientists from manipulating individual atoms and making almost any product imaginable. It was a bold prediction filled with mind-boggling applications ripped straight from the pages of a science fiction novel.

Now, half a century after Feynman's forecasts, these science fiction conceits are fast becoming scientific fact. And it's all the result of scientists' meticulous investigations into the nanoworld—the atomic realm where distances are measured in billionths of a meter. What we've discovered at the nanoscale has sparked an ever-expanding technological revolution—one that will continue to touch nearly every aspect of human life and will fast become a game-changer in many fields, including

  • engineering, where experiments in materials science will deliver new materials with spectacular properties;
  • communications, where computers are quickly becoming smaller and more powerful than ever before; and
  • medicine, where new technologies can soon help doctors target and treat diseases and illnesses that traditional medical tools can't touch.

In fact, you can already witness the startling power of nanotechnology in once-fantastical but now-possible tools, products, and services such as these:

  • Smartphones: These ubiquitous devices add a multitude of features to a mobile phone, including a web browser, camera, media player, GPS unit, and energy-dense battery.
  • Nano-packaged drugs: Synthetic nanostructures such as liposomes can deliver medication directly to diseased cells, avoiding damage to healthy tissues.
  • Gold nanoparticles: Uniquely useful, nano-size particles of gold have applications ranging from inexpensive pregnancy tests to pathogen-killing treatments.

These and countless other developments are made possible by new techniques that operate at an inconceivably tiny scale. The nanoworld has now become a workshop for chemists, biologists, physicists, and engineers as they collaborate to create a flood of innovations that are defining 21st-century technology.

Two prominent specialists team up to explore this exciting new frontier in Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small. In 24 accessible and visually rich half-hour lectures, you get an in-depth explanation of nanotechnology and how it is possible to work in a domain that is nine orders of magnitude smaller than humans—comparable to the difference in scale between you and the sun.

Your guides are Professors Ted Sargent and Shana Kelley of the University of Toronto. One is an electrical engineer, the other a biochemist. Both are dynamic researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs at the forefront of this amazing interdisciplinary effort.

Into the Nanoworld

Professor Sargent begins the course with a series of lectures that orient you to the nanoscale and then cover some of the most significant developments in electronics that have made use of nanotechnology in computers, communications, and imaging.

Then Professor Kelley delivers a sequence of lectures on her specialty: the biological applications of nanotechnology, especially to medicine. Since the biology of life happens at the nanoscale—in proteins and DNA—research in this area holds great promise for new diagnostic techniques and treatments.

The two professors combine for a lecture on their respective research teams, giving a fascinating glimpse of the collaboration between scientists and engineers as they probe and create the nanoworld. Professor Sargent follows with a look at the beautiful and distinctive shapes revealed at the nanoscale, as well as a sustained investigation of developments that are transforming the way we produce, store, and use energy. The course concludes with each professor giving a lecture on more futuristic examples of nanotechnology, from biologically based nanorobots to smart dust and invisibility cloaks.

Stranger than Fiction

If some of the ideas of nanotechnology sound familiar, that is because science fiction has paved the way. The 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage depicted a submarine and crew shrunk to miniature size and then sent on a life-saving mission through the bloodstream of a comatose patient. Similarly, the Star Trek series featured a small-scale technological marvel called the tricorder, which, among its other functions, could diagnose any disease.

While so far these devices are fictional, aspects of them are now in the works, along with other incredible developments that you learn about in Introduction to Nanotechnology:

  • Nanosurgery: Nanotweezers and nanolasers can target individual cells or even the substructures within cells, bringing elements of Fantastic Voyage to the practice of surgery.
  • Chip-based medicine: Professor Kelley's lab has pioneered nanosensors for cancer diagnosis that are real-life forerunners of Star Trek's tricorder.
  • Cloak of invisibility: A plot device in Harry Potter is becoming achievable with nanotechnology, which shows a way of cloaking certain wavelengths of light to render an object invisible.
  • Artificial photosynthesis: Inspired by plants, researchers are exploring different nanosolutions to energy's holy grail—the production of fuel from sunlight in ways that equal or better what plants achieve.

Virus-built batteries: Nanotechnology includes developments that are even stranger than fiction. One is a microbattery constructed with the help of a genetically modified virus.

A Surprisingly Visual Experience

Amazingly, scientists can see into the nanoworld by using special instruments that rely on the wave properties of electrons or the force fields of atoms to reveal details more than a thousand times smaller than the resolving power of the most powerful optical microscopes.

Professors Sargent and Kelley tour many of the sights in this now-accessible realm, including the atoms in a superlattice, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, nanopillars, and other synthetic constructions. But did you know that medieval stained glass windows are also a nano-phenomenon? Although the artisans a thousand years ago didn't realize it, the color effects they achieved by grinding finer and finer metal powders for pigments relied on resonance effects at the nanoscale. The same principle underlies plasmonics, a new technique for manipulating light as it bounces between atoms.

Or did you know that the patterns and colors on butterfly wings are another nanoeffect? As you discover in Lecture 23, small changes in nanostructures on the insect's wings cause light to reflect different colors. And in the same lecture, you learn how single-celled diatoms are the ultimate nanoengineers, creating beautifully complex and functional shapes. One of the goals of researchers is to use these tiny creatures to build structures with special properties, effectively employing diatoms as on-site workers in the nanoworld.

Prepare for the Future

Nanotechnology is today's most powerful engine of innovation, turning cutting-edge research into applications at an astonishing rate. Professors Sargent and Kelley are unusually well qualified to describe every step in this process; both have founded successful companies that bring nanotechnology to the marketplace. Both have been named "top innovators" by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's prestigious Technology Review.

As smartphones get smarter, computers get faster, medical care gets better targeted, new materials with surprising properties appear, and the promise of unlimited clean energy seems within reach, the importance of nanotechnology in our lives will only increase. Introduction to Nanotechnology is your unrivaled guide to how we got here and where we're going. Professors Sargent and Kelley encourage you to be informed and stay tuned. It's going to be an exciting ride.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Crossroads of 21st-Century Science
    Join Professors Sargent and Kelley for an initial plunge into the nanoscale, the tiny and mind-blowing realm where revolutionary developments are taking place in applied physics, computer science, biology, and medicine. Begin by probing the size of a nanometer and consider how laws of nature and principles of design change at that scale. x
  • 2
    The Fundamental Importance of Being Nano
    Professor Sargent discusses the rules that govern the nanoscale, where the strange effects of quantum mechanics offer exciting possibilities for engineering. Survey the structure of atoms and molecules and their interactions with light, which are fundamental properties at the nanoscale. x
  • 3
    From Micro to Nano—Scaling in a Digital World
    Trace the evolution of the original computer switches—vacuum tubes—to smaller and smaller components: first to discrete transistors and then to printed circuits that have now shrunk to the nanoscale. Learn how Moore’s law predicts exponential progress in this “race to the bottom.” x
  • 4
    Leveraging the Nanometer in Computing
    Moore’s law forecasts that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double roughly every two years. This rule of thumb has held for more than half a century. But how long can it continue? The nanoscale offers new challenges and solutions to the problem of producing ever-smaller circuits. x
  • 5
    Leveraging the Nanometer in Communications
    How did the world become networked so fast? Follow a beam of light down a fiber-optic cable to understand why it now costs pennies to send data that would have been billed at more than $100,000 just a few decades ago. x
  • 6
    Sensing the World through Nanoengineering
    Megapixel cameras on cell phones may seem miraculous, but nanoengineering promises far more powerful imaging systems. Quantum dots will give cameras much greater sensitivity and the ability to detect light across a broad range of invisible wavelengths, opening new applications for image processing. x
  • 7
    Nanomedicine—DNA and Gold Nanoparticles
    Begin a series of lectures with Dr. Kelley on nanoscience in biology. The building blocks of life, including DNA, are nanoscale objects, making ideal targets for nanotechnology diagnostic tools and disease treatments. As an example, see how gold nanoparticles are used to identify genetic mutations. x
  • 8
    Nano and Proteins—Enzymes to Cholesterol
    Gold nanoparticles attached to an antibody protein allow a simple pregnancy test. Discover that nanoparticles are also tools for mapping how cholesterol and other protein molecules enter cells. x
  • 9
    Nanoparticles Detect Cancer in Living Organisms
    Learn how metal nanoparticles called quantum dots can signal the presence of cancer cells inside the body. While still experimental, this technology may herald a breakthrough in noninvasive medical imaging. x
  • 10
    Detecting Only a Few Molecules of a Disease
    Turn to cancer diagnostic tools “in vitro”—outside the body. Professor Kelley discusses her own work on a system for disease diagnosis that uses nanomaterials layered on microelectronic chips. This research promises much more efficient detection of the molecules that signal cancer. x
  • 11
    Nanomaterials That Seek and Destroy Disease
    Explore three strategies for treating tumors. A photothermal approach places gold nanoparticles in a tumor and then irradiates the particles from an external source. A similar but more targeted technique tunes the radiation to a precise frequency, sparing surrounding tissues. Finally, learn how the gold nanoparticles themselves can be the tumor-killing agent. x
  • 12
    How Nanomaterials Improve Drug Delivery
    Drugs are administered by injection, inhalation, skin patches, or in pills. These methods deliver only a fraction of the medication to the needed areas, and many potentially useful biomolecules have no effective way to get to their targets. Discover that nanomaterials offer a solution to these problems. x
  • 13
    Delivering Drugs with “Smart” Nanocapsules
    Learn how nano-enabled drug delivery systems can target cells with greater potency and fewer side effects than traditional treatments can. Examples include protein nanoparticles and liposomes, which have already been approved for clinical use. Then examine some next-generation approaches. x
  • 14
    Nanoscale Surgical Tools
    Nanoscale surgical tools can make excisions with incredible precision, ensuring that when a cancerous tumor is removed, no malignant cells remain and no healthy cells are harmed. Explore this ongoing medical revolution, and discover the role of robotics in enhancing the surgeon’s skill. x
  • 15
    Nanomaterials for Artificial Tissue
    Regenerative medicine focuses on producing artificial substitutes that can restore or replace damaged tissues or organs. Learn how nanomaterials stimulate cell and tissue growth in the body. Also follow progress in generating artificial organs outside the body to help meet the demand for organ transplants. x
  • 16
    How Nano Research Gets Done
    Professors Kelley and Sargent introduce their research teams. Discover that nanotechnology is highly interdisciplinary. Chemists generate new materials. Physicists help understand those materials. Biologists put biomolecules and nanomaterials together. And engineers help turn basic discoveries into devices. x
  • 17
    Nanomotifs—Building Blocks, Complex Structures
    Professor Sargent takes a brief interlude to showcase the visual side of nanoengineering. View the complex structures that are built from nanoparts. Starting with nanoparticles, consider the many shapes that can be created, from nanotubes to supercrystals—structures that are not just useful but beautiful. x
  • 18
    Using Nanotechnology to Capture Sunlight
    Starting a sequence of lectures on nanotechnology and energy, Professor Sargent probes the physics of solar cells, which use semiconductors to generate an electric current from sunlight. Learn how nanotechnology is making this renewable energy source more efficient and cost-effective. x
  • 19
    Photons to Electricity—Nano-Based Solar Cells
    Explore further into nanoscale solar cell technology by looking at different techniques for capturing solar energy. Rigid silicon-based hardware may soon be a thing of the past, replaced by inexpensive products such as organic photovoltaics, which are composed of physically flexible organic polymers that can be applied like plastic sheeting. x
  • 20
    Nanotechnology for Storing Energy
    One of the challenges of renewable energy is that its hours of peak production may not correspond to times of peak demand, creating the problem of energy storage. Investigate some solutions that nanotechnology offers, including supercapacitors and a remarkable new class of batteries assembled by viruses. x
  • 21
    Nanotechnology for Releasing Energy
    Catalysts foster a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction, using and releasing energy with incredible efficiency. Explore this phenomenon at the nanoscale, seeing how nanomaterials can increase the surface area of a catalyst, which greatly improves its performance for a wide range of applications. x
  • 22
    Energy’s Holy Grail—Artificial Photosynthesis
    The ultimate energy collection and storage system is photosynthesis. Nature does it with plants, but researchers are striving to attain the same result with nanotechnology—using sunlight to produce and store energy in the form of a fuel such as hydrogen. x
  • 23
    Nanorobots and Nature’s Nanomachines
    Learn how nanorobots that take over the world in science fiction usually defy the laws of physics, and survey concerns about the harm that nanomaterials can do. Look at nanovehicles built with buckeyballs for wheels, and then turn to nature’s nanomachines such as diatoms, which build astonishing structures at the molecular level. Explore ways that these tiny creatures may be more effective than nanorobots. x
  • 24
    On the Horizon and in the Far Future
    Close your exploration of nanotechnology by looking ahead at possible near- and long-term developments. One is a real “cloak of invisibility.” Then look back to revisit physicist Richard Feynman’s bold predictions. See how far we’ve come and discover what Feynman apparently overlooked. x

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Your professors

Shana Kelley Ted Sargent

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Shana Kelley
University of Toronto

Professor 2 of 2

Ted Sargent, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Dr. Shana Kelley is the former director of the Division of Biomolecular Sciences at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Professor Kelley's research has been featured in Scientific American and Nature Medicine, among other publications. Her work has been recognized with a variety of awards, including a National Science...
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Dr. Ted Sargent holds the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, where he also earned his Ph.D. His research has been disseminated in leading scientific journals, and he is the author of The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives. In 2007 he addressed the pathbreaking Technology, Entertainment,...
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Reviews

Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 34.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fairly good introduction to nonotechnology On the whole, I enjoyed this course and learned a lot. Professor Sargent did more lectures and concentrated on physics of small structures, including computers, digital cameras, sensors and so forth. Professor Kelley took the medical side of nanotechnology. Each told about his or her specialty, of course, leaving me to wonder if anything could have been said about other areas as well. Having a background in physics, I was able to follow Professor Sargent reasonably well. But I have to agree with some other reviews that the presentation was uneven. Some things were explained well, and others not so much. In some later lectures I could listen for ten minutes, and wonder what he was talking about, and why. He often said, "We are able to . . ." without saying how or why. For example, "We are able to make these small structures with such and such a shape on such and such a substrate." Okay, are they just doing it to prove they can do it, or is there a point somewhere? I think Professor Kelley did a better job of making it clear just how something worked, and why. The medical application of nanotechnology was new to me, so maybe that's why I found her lectures more engaging. And they must have been pretty good, because I just recently saw an article by her in Scientific American about this very subject. As I read I realized that I already knew most everything in the article and even more because I had seen her lectures in this course. There were many visuals. There would have to be in a course like this, because you couldn't picture these small things without visual helps. Here is where the course could have been improved significantly. There were lots of visuals, most animated. Lots of work went into them. The problem was, often you just couldn't tell what they were about. There were few labels, and when there was a chart, the axes were not clearly explained. You might see that something was a network of different atoms in some complex arrangement, but there was nothing about why this worked or what was the purpose of all these parts. On the whole I would recommend this course to those interested in the topic, with the understanding that there will be moments that are hard to follow or plain unclear.
Date published: 2015-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A change of pace I watch the Great Courses DVDs once per week with a good friend. We usually purchase biblically based courses and a few physics and financial ones. Nanotechnology peaked our interest so we ordered it for a change of topics. So far, we are glad we did. We just started the course this week and watched the first three lectures. The two professors are very good and present the material in a clear, concise manner. We are looking forward to learning much from them.
Date published: 2015-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content First, the good news: this is some of the most interesting content I've ever found in a Great Courses lecture series. Only a little of it was familiar to me (I'm very much a non-specialist), but just about all of it made me sit bolt upright in my chair and want to learn more. The things on the horizon in consumer electronics and medicine alone are perfectly amazing. The mildly bad news is that the presentation is a little uneven. On the one hand, these lecturers really know their stuff and obviously are personally involved in breakthrough areas, which is great. On the other, they both struggle a bit in deciding how much sophistication to assume in their audience. One minute, they're hesitant to assume we're familiar with the periodic table of the elements; the next, they're throwing around terms like "quantum dot" as if we had a clue what they meant. (In Lecture 17, we finally hear a simple and useful definition of quantum dot.) But despite all that, I was glued to the lectures from beginning to end and have wanted to read up further on many of the things they described. Even if I sometimes struggled to understand what was going on technically, the practical impact of these new devices and techniques was obvious and mind-blowing. To give only two examples, it looks like we can expect cameras suddenly to get about 4x better soon, and the outlook for the use of nanoparticles in the treatment of cancer, drug-resistant microbes, and other areas is quite bright. I had no idea how much progress had been made in recent years.
Date published: 2014-12-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The subject is very interesting. I found two things disappointing. The portion on Medical applications would often use visuals that were inadequately labeled, and all too often were not pertinent to the information being given verbally, or showed something completely off the subject. I presume she is quite knowledgeable about nanotechnology, but her attempt to relate nanotech to medicine is painful. Her predicted impact on cure rates is always overstated with excessive use of superlatives. Statements such as "Cure rates will be DRAMATICALLY improved" and "The results are INCREDIBLE" are just that.....incredible, which of course, means 'not believable'. Her misuse of medical terms is simply embarrassing. What, after all, does the word 'artheriosclerosis' mean? The reputation of the teaching company is besmirched when you allow one of your professors to be so sloppy in her presentation. This embarrassment could easily have been avoided if you had shown the DVD to an Oncologist before selling it to the public. My worst fear is that I caught all her errors because I am a cancer treatment specialist. Is it possible that your other courses are riddled with inaccuracies that I gullibly accept because of my lack of expertise?
Date published: 2014-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intro to Nanotechnology next step in the future The course is excellent explaining the future for use of drugs and solar technology. The instructor regarding nanotechnology in the health industry and solar panel engineering explain in clear detail how it all works and where the industry appears to be headed. I plan to listen to this course a 2nd time to fully get the information I need to make good investment decisions.
Date published: 2014-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting with up to date information Both teachers of this course were interesting, and had exciting new material to present. Looking at nanotechnology both in engineering and medicine gave interesting perspectives on what we can expect in the near future.
Date published: 2013-10-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I too am disappointed, worth the special price. At the end of four DVD's and course notes, I am completely disappointed with The Teaching Company's ability to review authentic course content. No historical background of the science's progression and the scientists who brought the nanotechnology revolution. Rather, I got a dry lesson in pharmocology and bad computer science. Poor references and lacks a consistent survey of expertise, exampless, poorly communicated, marketed, and repetitious. I kept nodding off and a waste of my time.
Date published: 2013-09-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing-not up to TeachCo standards I agree with other reviewers that our professors had a very hard time deciding what level to teach to. I ended the course feeling like one of their first-year grad students, who'd just learned that the prof was going to tell you something once - and if you didn't get it then, there was no sense repeating it. Dr. Sargent in particular was so devoted to the precise vocabulary of his discipline that he zipped critical terms past me with a minimum of explanation. He assiduously avoided any vernacular terms. That's a problem, since his Teaching Company audience speaks primarily vernacular. As someone who has a reasonably good grasp of electronics, Dr. Sargent's substrate-and-dopant-laden presentations left me hanging by a thread. Dr. Kelley was a little easier to follow; but, then again her area was bio-molecules and I'm a physician, so professional-level talk about DNA structure and labeling is familiar territory to me. In their hurry to get to the really juicy, interesting material that excites them, they got ahead of the game and left me behind. Especially in a field where we're in completely unfamiliar territory, I think taking a little extra time to cover basic science/throry more thoroughly would help. AND then, when the subject reappears six lectures later, pause to re-cover the subject briefly so we can keep up with the concept. As an example, Dr. Sargent introduced the concept of nanoparticles changing color based solely on their size. He did it once. He used a slide of vials of varicolored solutions to illustrate the concept - but barely grazed the surface of WHY the same element would change color with a change of particle size. Several times in later lectures, the same concept came up - but all the refresher we get is the colored-vials slide. It's clear that these professors have both enthusiasm and expertise. For that, they get high marks. But I suspect they have little experience teaching anyone outside their discipline. If the course is to be re-done, I'd suggest covering less subject area and devoting more time to in-depth presentation of the foundation material.
Date published: 2013-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Got me off the Bicycle onto the Bus This course is the best match for the Teaching Company goal of reminding me of my best college professors. With their different areas of subspecialization the two professors covered a broad swath of the field. Their use of images helped maintain my attention and convey the information. I normally bicycle to work, listening to audio lectures. I started watching this series on the bus when the cold weather hit, and kept riding the bus after it warmed up to finish the series.
Date published: 2013-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from most enthusiastic The good professors are clearly in love with the subject, and it shows. The course was exiting and informative, both on the biological and mechanical levels. One interesting topic was how the pure research is translated into products that actually reach, and help, people. They lose one star for injecting a bit of politics into lecture 16, but don't let my pet peeve stop you from enjoying this informative series.
Date published: 2013-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating ~ recommended to all A highly-laudable course which aims to explain and illustrate the fascinating, astounding world of nanotechnology. I have viewed almost a hundred Great Courses, and find that this is a definite favourite on several counts, primarily for the knowledge imparted and the graphics. The lectures were recorded in 2012 on the sparkling new Great Courses studio set (say goodbye to that old brick "wall" through the window), using the latest video techniques to provide brilliant, colourful, dynamic visuals & movies re the material being taught. A successful, timely course! Using two professors to split the lectures, each with his/her own nanotechnology specialisation, works very well which rather surprised me. Both Dr Sargent and Dr Kelley were powerful in their presentations, speaking convincingly, from strong academic and experience bases. Dr Kelley's lectures on drug delivery and nanoscale surgical tools were most impressive. I understand she is a leading light in the fight against cancer, and invented the first electronic chip capable of sensing disease markers at the molecular level... a remarkable, admirable scientist. I have to add, reluctantly, that I frequently found Dr Kelley's accent ("Toron'o"?) and diction difficult to understand: she tends to glide over some letters and/or drops her voice, often with critical words. She also over-uses the words "really" and "amazing": the latter is today just about the most over-used & abused word in English, to the point that it has lost its original meaning & impact. Further, the terms "very unique" and "really unique" are improper... the word "unique" stands on its own! Something is either unique or it is not; I'm surprised a PhD would make this basic mistake, especially in science. I did not appreciate the time she occupied in lecture 16 to promote her lab and launch a PR campaign. For me, as a dedicated animal lover, the many references to animal experimentation such as "transplanting tumours into mice" and describing mice as a "very important system" were unpleasant. I do understand both sides of the argument re vivisection when it comes to medical research. It was not until I saw these lectures that the full impact and realisation of the promises of this almost-incredible discipline of nanotechnology sank fully into my brain. The applications & implications affect every aspect of our lives, such a revelation. To appreciate that we are manipulating and creating structures from particles that are one-billionth of a metre in size is mind-boggling. It is a pity that the guidebook is lacking a timeline, an index AND a glossary; very unfortunate ovesights. This course is recommended to all, even though some of the lectures can become quite technical at times, more suited for those with some detailed knowledge of chemistry, physics and biology, for nanotechnology draws on so many of the sciences. A great experience.
Date published: 2013-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Astounding; Wonderful; Frustrating . . . I recommend this course for everyone with any intellectual curiosity, as well as those with an interest in the effects of science on society. *But* - with a number of significant caveats. The overwhelming reason to take the course is to experience the wonder and astonishment at what has been accomplished in this extraordinary field, about which most of us know next to nothing. We are happy to benefit from its results, from integrated circuits to cancer therapy, but these lectures enable an appreciation at a far deeper level of what nature and the human mind can achieve. A fascinating hidden world is opened to our view. A beneficial corollary is that the course will help convince us of the importance of providing support to basic scientific research, learning for the sake of learning. So many of the invaluable practical applications of nanotechnology could not have been foreseen by those who did the original research on which they were based. We are now in a fiscal environment in which many nations are hesitant to commit resources to projects which do not have immediate, foreseeable results. This course provides excellent evidence of the shortsightedness of this approach. And both Professor Sargent and Professor Kelley are quite good, highly knowledgeable, easy to listen to, and enthusiastic about their subject. There are problems however. Most importantly - perhaps because of the nature of the material to be covered - both professors have difficulty deciding on the level of their presentations. Nanotechnology is an applied science which draws from a broad range of basic research, and the subjects covered require at least an elementary background knowledge of areas as diverse as optics, quantum mechanics, acid-base chemistry, and cell biology. At times these concepts are explained, but rarely fully or clearly. ("Hydrophilic" is said to mean "friendly to water, water likes it.") At other times knowledge is just assumed. Even such essential terms as transistor, semi-conductor, and refractive index are not explicitly defined. Coupled with this, many "explanations" are so superficial as to be little more than substituting one non-scientific analogy for another, or are even incoherent. (Again, I feel much of the reason for this lies in the need to cover a very vast area, requiring wide and sophisticated background knowledge, in a brief span of time.) These problems are repeated in, rather than resolved by, the Course Guidebook, which provides no better explanations and which - inexplicably - lacks both a Glossary and an Index, both of which would have been a great help. The visuals, also, are less helpful than they might have been. Some are quite good, but others are inadequately labeled or explained. There also could have been many more (which would, obviously, only have been helpful if the first problem were addressed.) So - I truly believe it would be a good thing for everyone to take this course, both to appreciate the remarkable breadth and depth of what has been accomplished, and to be helped to recognize the importance of basic (as well as applied) scientific research. And much of the material is inherently fascinating. I am glad to have experienced it. But the course will take more time and patience than many might feel they are willing to devote.
Date published: 2013-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting material, well presented Like many people I have been vaguely aware that the field of nanotechnology existed, and that it was thought to have a lot of potential for having important usages. This course was highly informative about what this technology is about, how it works, and its biologic, electronic, information tech, etc. applications. Mostly, it was not overly technical, and both professors were good lecturers.
Date published: 2012-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Course...with a Macro Flaw Nanotechnology is a subject that a modern educated person would want to have a familiarity with and this Introduction succeeds very well in doing this. Professors Kelley and Sargent are great lecturers who have created an intense but accessible series of well-crafted lectures with superb graphics that present the scientific bases of this technology as well as the multiple applications in electronics, chemistry, computers, medicine, pharmacology, energy, and every-day life. The viewer is well rewarded for the effort. The one major flaw is not in the lectures but in the Course Guidebook. The Teaching Company courses almost always have a Timeline and Glossary. This Guidebook has neither. Although the Timline would be interesting, the Glossary is essential to this course. There are hundreds a new terms. These must be defined for reference not only in the later lectures but for the fundamental educational benefit of the course. I would hope that The Teaching Company would correct this flaw in the future and send current purchasers a supplemental Timeline and Glossary.
Date published: 2012-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Information Rich I have watched over 70 Great Courses and this is one of the best. Professors Sargent and Kelley have carefully crafted each lecture to be well organized and very information rich. There are no throw away sentences and no ad libs. The explanations and definitions are clear and logical without excessive detail. Probably the viewer should have at least a little familiarity with science to avoid feeling overwhelmed. The graphics are plentiful and superbly done. They help clarify the new ideas presented. The GC production staff must deserve much of the credit. In fact, I see a welcome trend in improved graphics in some of the Great Courses. The World's Greatest Structures is another recent course with outstanding graphics.
Date published: 2012-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! Every lecture in this course presented ideas and discoveries that I did not know about before. Information on these small devices is not readily available in mass media literature and I enjoyed learning about these small devices. There is so much promise in them, and so much to learn about them. This is truly cutting edge technology and it is presented in an understandable way. If one has a basic understanding of science, the lectures offer lots of understanding about the nano world. I liked seeing both professors because it gave the course more depth. Great work!
Date published: 2012-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterpiece of Small I was fascinated and educated by this presentation. The subject of nanotechnology is one that you find almost daily expressed in the news and scientific journals. First, I need to congratulate the Teaching Company for presenting a course that is both technically demanding and current in its applicability. Second, it is probably not the best first science course to tackle if you do not have a reasonable background in the scientific disciplines or if you do not have any interest in the subject. However, if you weathered high school biology and chemistry you should not have any difficulty in understanding the ideas expressed by either Professor Kelley or Sargent. Both professors are totally conversant in the area and what makes them especially believable was that they have married not only the laboratory but also commercial applications. I do not believe it is necessary to regurgitate the ideas outlined in the course except to state that it covered the major facets of the discipline. Whether you are interested in cancer research, communications, computing, energy production and other aplicable fields you will find this course a valuable reference tool. When I received my scientific degree many years ago, this field was almost completely unknown and now it is a hotbed of scientific investigation. What is especially noteworthy is the promise of the field to solve many of our most challenging medical and energy needs of the future. To learn the terminology of this field is reason enough to spend the time watching and digesting the information. For truly, this area shows promise of making the science fiction of yesteryear a reality in the near future. I recommend it highly for those who want to be conversant in one of the most exciting scientific endeavors of the 21st century.
Date published: 2012-09-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting subject. Bad course Nanotechnology is necessarily an interdisciplinary subject. However, this field deserves a specific name because at the nanometer scale the chemical and physical properties of matter differ form those of its smaller chemical components or larger aggregates. These properties are not presented in any clear or systematic way, nor explained properly. Just very vague or fuzzy descriptions that explain next to nothing. It is hard to discuss the quantum part of the dots by pointing at a picture of atomic model that comes straight from nineteen century. I am not sure whether the course was intended for 5th graders but as a viewer I felt cheated. On the positive side, there are a lot of examples of applications and many are indeed interesting. However, presentations feel not carefully planned, and sometime gratuitous (it seems to me that biology is topic by itself and tissue engineering is more on the micro than on the nano scale). Some lectures also feel plainly self serving (clinical results should be presented in a balanced an accurate way; pre-clinical even more so). The delivery of the lectures is also very uneven and I noticed various production errors (e.g. Lesson 11, wrong images are presented at 9'20" and at 10'04"). A few good lectures do save the course but it could have been so much better.......
Date published: 2012-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Purchase Ever I have bought many of the Great Courses, and this is the first review I have written. I was prompted to write it because of my curiousity with the negative comments. I have a strong interest in the future of medicine and have a degree in computer science. . I have bought many of the Great Courses, and this to me has been the most useful to me. Nanotechnology is a leading edge topic, and this course gives an excellent introduction to the topic. In one course it presents two completely different views on the topic, one from the electronics point of view and one from the biology/medicine point of view. Shana Kelley, to me, gave one of the most interesting presentations of a Great Course subject, partly because her presentation is so good and partly because the subject matter includes medical breakthroughs that haven't occurred yet but likely will in the coming years. She is extremely knowledgable about the subject and, unlike other subjects, presents the future as well as the past. I greatly appreciate this course.
Date published: 2012-08-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Mixed Review In general, probably about 40-50% of the course was difficult to understand except in a broad conceptual sense. I thought Prof. Kelley did an excellent job in both content and style of presentation. I had no difficulty understanding her explanation of developments related to nanotechnology in medicine and found the potential intriguing and exciting. On the other hand, Prof Sargents's material was much more difficult to understand. In all fairness, my professional background is medicine, but I feel I am pretty well-informed in the fields of chemistry and physics, and I just found his material seemed less organized and clear-cut. I finally had to settle for feeling like I had gotten a glimpse, but not a full picture, of materials science. I also felt like the last 6 lectures of the course were much less enjoyable and understandable then the first 18. Overall, I am glad I watched the course as I did learn quite a bit, but I feel there could have been better organization, some simplification, etc for the materials from Prof. Sargent.
Date published: 2012-08-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Somewhat disappointing Eight lectures into this class, I can't imagine who constitutes the intended audience. The content seems aimed at a viewer whose general science education ended before high school (the definition of catalysis is particularly egregious baby talk), but the diction sounds like a grant proposal, seldom using a short, specific word where two more general words will fit. The visuals often differ significantly from the accompanying narrative. Talk of "shadow masks" in connection with IC fabrication is accompanied by a visual of a color-TV shadow mask, which is a completely different thing. Later, talk of a cell membrane forming a pocket around a particle that is being absorbed is accompanied by a visual of particles flowing through a pipe through a membrane, with no movement of the membrane at all. If a scientific editor reviewed the visuals, I suspect that over half would get significant corrections or be replaced. Despite these complaints, this course contains some interesting material. I promise to update this review if and when I make it to the end of the course.
Date published: 2012-08-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just not up to Great Course standards I was looking forward to this course as I knew very little about the details of how nanotechnology worked and yet I knew what an important field it is becoming. I was curious to find out how we are now able to work at the nano level of a single cell or even a single atom. I wanted to know how buckyballs and nanotubes are created and either "filled" or "coated." Unfortunately after watching this course I still have no real understanding of how this is done. Yes, I understand how small a nanoparticle is and what it can be used for and how we can see these nanoparticles but how we are able to work with these and create them is something I will have to look elsewhere to learn about. This course focuses on what is being done with nanotechnology. If this is your interest then you will likely find this course helpful. I must admit to being disappointed in this course when I compare it to other technically oriented courses in the 42 that I have ordered from Great Courses. In some ways it is too simple and in other ways it assumes more knowledge of chemistry and technical terms. It is not that the lecturers are overly technical (the course on "Meterology" is much more technical for example) or that graphics were not well done or that their manner of presentation creates a problem. But when I compare this to the "Great Structures" course or the courses on "Stress and the Body" or "Biology and Human Behavior" or "Meterology" then this course for me fell short of providing useful information in a clear format. All of these other courses are highly technical but exceptionally well presented so that you understand clearly the material presented. Other reviewers have commented on the presentation oddities but I did not find those a problem; my difficulty was with the details of the presentation. It would have helped, perhaps, if there had been a glossary of terms, as many other courses provide, so that you could read about what nanobots or quantum dots are or definition of many of the other terms that are presented. While this course is useful to those with only a limited knowledge of nanotechnology and wanting an overview of potential uses of nanotechnology as well as the current uses and potential of nanotechnology then this course may be for you. But for those wanting a more detailed introduction to the principles of this technology I found this course wanting. Not that it is devoid of useful information. I found the lesson which discussed how nano will eventually allow computers to use more than zeros and ones of particular interest. And the discussion of use of gold nano can be manipulated for use in cancer treatments was quite good. But when I compare the treatment of these issues with those in other courses this one is just not up to the standards I have come to expect from Great Courses material. I can still recommend it to those who understand what is involved in the course. It is not a bad course, just not as good as I had hoped.
Date published: 2012-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to a fascinating subject My first memory of the subject of nanotechnology was K. Eric Drexler's excellent 1986 book, "Engines of Creation". I have read and probably heard in this course of lectures that the ideas trace back to Richard Feynman's 1959 talk titled something like "There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom". Drexler's book when I read it seemed like some kind of science fiction fantasy that I really wanted to believe in. This current lecture series published 26 years later is both a confirmation of the Feynman and Drexler's concepts and a report on the extraordinary progress that has been made, and a reality check to me that this is a very complex and powerful and promising area of science and technology that pushes the very edge of human ability to understand and manipulate matter. I was prepared to be disappointed with the presentation in the first couple of lectures, but then I began to appreciate the depth of understanding and ability to convey complex ideas of both professors. Soon I began to appreciate that these two truly outstanding scientists were taking their time to explain nanotechnology to the audience of The Great Courses. I was especially impressed with their willingness to give credit to their own research teams and to others whom I suppose could be considered in some ways their competitors. I also want to agree with another reviewer’s comments that the Great Courses have improved their video presentations. This course had none of the seemingly artificial ‘talk to this camera for 15 seconds, then talk to that camera for 15 seconds; repeat’ that I found distracting in another video course that would have been much better as just audio. This course needs to be video and I thought the graphics were well done and well presented. I was at first disappointed that roughly half of the course was devoted to nanotechnology in medicine; I was more interested in the advances of materials science. But soon I began to realize the potential and progress that is being made in medicine and the potential for affecting so many lives, mine included. If I have a criticism of the course, it is that even as an introduction I found my own interest in and background on the periphery of science not letting me fully understand all that was being presented. My high school and college chemistry were about a half century ago, and I would benefit from an update. One last thought: The day I finished watching the course, I saw a news item announcing a breakthrough in quantum dot solar cells by a team led by Professor Ted Sargent of the University of Toronto. Professor Sargent and Professor Shana Kelley were the ideal team to do this course. I hope they find time to do follow-up courses in this rapidly advancing field.
Date published: 2012-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An exciting course - 4.4 stars This course is a great addition to TGC's repertoire of great courses. I would optimally give this course a 4.4*s, but I don't want to discourage you from getting the course, so I'll give it 5 stars. The course has many good aspects, and a few frustrating ones. 1. TGC has really toned down the use of sound effects and distracting visual effects that customers have complained about in the past year. But they mostly have kept the good effects - like the on-screen text and dignified transitions. 2. TGC has also much reduced the use of the camera-to-camera back and forth, and it appears much more natural. 3. The lecturers (Sargent and Kelley) are good (but perhaps not excellent). Both are concise, dignified, and articulate. While it's not "entertaining," it's mostly natural, without the sense of "script" that some recent courses have had. a. At first, Prof Sargent's occasional lack of eye contact is a bit disconcerting; however, it was in a way more natural, since that's how scientists actually think and talk. b. Prof Kelley is excellent, straightforward, and easy to listen to. She doesn't have any distracting mannerisms. In a way, I wish she had taught the whole course. However, Prof Sargent's material was likely well enough outside her expertise that having her teach the whole thing would have been inappropriate. 4. The material itself is very exciting, in particular in its implications for the future. More than any other course, it got me looking forward to the future - to upcoming advances in medicine and computer technology. It will also get you excited about the technology you already have! 5. A downside: the initial lectures by Prof Sargent are sort of hard to follow. Even though I have a science background, much of the early material was very technical, and perhaps not necessary to enjoy the remainder of the course. 6. Technical visuals: I had a hard time understanding many of the visuals. A lot of effort was put into creating them, but they weren't always explained well. These downsides acknowledged, I still recommend this course for people with an interest in the future of technology or wanting to stretch their understanding of science.
Date published: 2012-07-24
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