Nanotech: Big Dreams, Small Steps

The theorists' much-hyped predictions won't become reality anytime soon. Meanwhile, more humble applications are making headway

Big hype comes in small packages. At least, that has been the case with nanotech -- the science of manipulating materials at the level of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. In theory, that capability will unleash all sorts of technological wonders, from tiny self-assembling computers to biological weapons-detection systems smaller than a postage stamp. For the past decade, this vision has spawned both breathless pronouncements and research funding aplenty.

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