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What's Nano?

I'm Ebony and this is my cousin, Jasmine. My mom says that nanotechnology is helping make electronics, like my cell phone, smaller and smaller. That's about all we knew about nanotechnology. But then we caught the Amazing Nano Brothers Juggling Show at the Museum of Science in Boston. It introduced us to the nanoworld and got us thinking. Our question: How big is a billion and how small is a nanometer?

What did we do?
We learned from the Nano Brothers that a nanometer is one billionth of a meter--so we decided to go on a Nano Quest for a billion of anything. We counted people at Faneuil Hall, candy hearts, even blades of grass! After our Nano Quest for a billion we began our search for a nanometer with Dave, Ellen, Richard and David--some scientists at Harvard University.

What did we find out?
Faneuil Hall only gets about 300,000 visitors a year--not even close to a billion! The number of candy hearts made in a factory each day was 5 million--closer, but still not a billion. Finally, we counted the blades of grass in a football field and discovered that there are about 995 million blades of grass in an entire football field! That's almost a billion! Then we went to Harvard to meet up with Dave, Ellen, Richard and David in order to find something that was one nanometer long. We tried a bacterium, which was about 2000 nanometers; a virus, which was 631 nanometers; a path on a computer chip, which was 200 nanometers; and finally a little piece of nanowire, which was only 1 nanometer across! Our nanoquest was complete!

What can you do?
• Trace a 12 inch ruler on a piece of paper and cut it out. Predict how many times you could cut that piece of paper in half. Try it! Keep cutting in half in the same direction (don't rotate the paper). How many cuts could you make? For a piece of paper 12 inches long, you would have to cut it in half 28 times to have a slice 1 nanometer long!

• What's the smallest thing you can think of? Take a poll and ask your friends and family. Are any of the things on your list nanosized (about 1-100 nanometers big)?

• Download images of these items and see if you can place the them in order from smallest to largest: ant, atom, DNA, virus, dust, dime, flea, hair, bacteria, and blood cell. Good luck! If you are having trouble, do some research!

• What do you think of when you hear the word "nanotechnology?" See what other kids are saying in our Hey...Wait a Nanosecond! feature and share your thoughts!