It’s a two-faced particle named after the Roman god, Janus (love the reference to Roman mythology) and complete control has been achieved. The Janus particle is made up of at least two different substances according to this 2005 news item on Phyorg.com. From the 2005 new item,
A Janus particle is composed of two fused hemispheres, each made from a different substance than the other. This means Janus particles could, for instance, carry two different and complementary medicines.
For instance, one side could hold compounds that bind to molecules specific to a certain tissue or disease, while the opposite side would carry the appropriate drug.
There are other potential applications as researchers at Duke University note in their media release posted on Phyorg.com on Aug. 12, 2009. The Duke researchers have achieved control over the particle’s movements. From the media release on Physorg.com,
Duke University engineers say they can for the first time control all the degrees of the particle’s motion, opening up broad possibilities for nanotechnology and device applications. Their unique technology should make it more likely that Janus particles can be used as the building blocks for a myriad of applications, including such new technologies as electronic paper and self-propelling micromachines.
There are more details and a Janus particle video here. I did get a little confused with this description,
“Past experiments have only been able to achieve four degrees of control using a combination of magnetic and optical techniques,” said Nathan Jenness, a graduate student who completed his studies this year from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. He and co-author Randall Erb, also a graduate student, were first authors of a paper appearing online in the journal Advanced Materials. “We have created a novel Janus particle that can be manipulated or constrained with six degrees of freedom.”
I looked at the video where the range of motion appeared to be much broader than the 6 degrees that the researcher mentions. Perhaps the phrase “of freedom” is of more significance than I know. This brings me to Andrew Maynard’s discussion (on his blog 2020 Science) of a book on science illiteracy. Titled Unscientific Americans: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, the book’s authors (Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum) caught my attention with their recent essay (based in part on their book) on Salon.com where they elucidate their position.They make a compelling argument and one I find emotionally satisfying unfortunately it’s a little problematic as Maynard points out here.
It’s more than just amusing when Maynard (a scientist by training) notes that he could be described as scientifically illiterate since there are scientific terms that he doesn’t understand and that “Math makes my head ache.” If you take the comment to its logical conclusion,you can infer that all scientists are scientifically illiterate since none of them can know everything about science. Maynard notes that he enjoyed the book but has some major issues with the term “scientific illiteracy” as promotes and “us vs them” mentality and the book’s intellectual depth. He also offers some recommendations for reading about science and society. I do have some hesitation about one of his recommendations but more about that tomorrow.