Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Spontaneous Combustion

I always thought the concept of spontaneous human combustion was a little wacky. How could a person all of a sudden self-immolate without warning? Well, after reading today's New York Times story on nano-technology, such happenings do not seem so far fetched:

Dr. Naomi J. Halas, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, invented a type of particle she calls nanoshells - hollow gold or silver spheres wrapped around a filling of silica.

The hollow shape makes sloshing electrons in the gold particularly efficient at absorbing energy from light, and changing the thickness of the shell changes the frequency of light absorbed. That makes it a promising treatment for killing cancer tumors. Inject nanoshells into a tumor, shine infrared light on them, and they heat up, killing the tumor.

In demonstrations, researchers in Dr. Halas's lab squirt nanoshells into uncooked chicken parts and then shine a near infrared laser on the chicken. Water does not absorb much infrared light, so the laser light passes through most of the chicken meat without effect. But the nanoshells aborb the energy and heat up. The spot they were injected starts smoking and catches fire. (In actual treatments, a much lower intensity of light would be used, killing the cancer cells but not cooking flesh.)

Now I just need to read the story somewhere that a person has invented time travel and perhaps we can start investigating past instances of spontaneous combustion as homicides. All one would need is the right nano-mix in the victim's glass of water, a large infrared projector, and a nice bush to hide behind. Ready,!


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