October 22, 2004 | 11:46 PM ET

NEWS ON NANOTECHNOLOGY
I've written here before on nanotechnology.  (If you missed those posts, you might want to read this background piece, and this more recent one.)  But now a lot of people are talking about the subject.

This weekend is the First Annual Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications, and Policy.  What's more, it'll be followed next week by another conference sponsored by the University of Tennessee.

The serious discussion at these conferences is welcome.  You can see blog reporting (and even some blog video of the sort I touted in my earlier post, below) here and here.

Of course, what everyone in the nanotechnology world is talking about, besides nanotechnology itself, is the forthcoming movie based on Michael Crichton's nano-thriller Prey.  I'm sure the movie will be exciting -- and I should note that in his non-fiction persona, Crichton has been very sensible regarding nanotechnology -- but as Freeman Dyson has pointed out, the scenarios in Prey are not merely unlikely, but actually violate the laws of physics.  Still, it's a good thing that these important conferences are going on now, so that journalists, pundits, and politicians can educate themselves before the film comes out. 

Making policy based on fiction seems like a bad idea to me.

October 19, 2004 | 4:47 PM ET

WEB VIDEO AND THE ELECTIONS
Everybody's talking about the effect of the Internet on the elections, but what's really striking me lately is the role that Web video is playing.  My inbox has been cluttered with references to this video of John Edwards primping, courtesy of Slate, and while I don't think it's especially incriminating, it's certainly the sort of thing that the great unwashed didn't get to see in the old days.  (Things like this circulated on an insider videotape samizdat, but didn't make the air, meaning that only a few people got to see them.)  And hey, it's fair game for the " we've got better hair" team to have their grooming secrets exposed, I guess.

Meanwhile, this TV ad called "Ashley's Story" is all over the Web.  Some people are calling it the best ad of the season, but you can judge that for yourself.  And an outfit called p2p-politics.org has a setup to let people e-mail commercials for the candidate of their choice -- though at the moment, that only works if your choice is Kerry.

This kind of thing matters:  It turns out that far more people saw Jon Stewart's takedown of CNN's Crossfire on the Web than saw it on the original program.  I think that's a harbinger of things to come.

For some more troubling video, see this surveillance video from the Madrid bombings.  Those were staged to influence the Spanish elections -- and they did.  Let's hope that's not a harbinger of things to come, here.

Finally, I think that Web-based video will allow individuals and small groups to do a lot of interesting newsgathering themselves.  I've written more on that, and provided links to some examples of my own, here.  By the next Presidential election, I think that this sort of thing will be ubiquitous, with all sorts of consequences for politics and journalism.

October 18, 2004 | 12:54 AM ET

IN OTHER WORDS (MINE AND STRANGERS')
Readers sometimes write to ask me why I haven't written about one thing or another.  There are lots of reasons -- I can't write about everything, after all, and some subjects either don't particularly interest me, or call for knowledge I don't possess.  (I don't write about health care policy much, for example, because I don't have much to say besides, "National health insurance won't work, but the current system stinks.")

Then again, sometimes the reason is that I've written on the subject somewhere else.  For example, here's a column I wrote in the British newsaper The Guardian, on the Religious Right and the Religious Left in American politics.  And here's a column I wrote on election fraud and the superiority of paper ballots over voting machines.  I wrote that one back in 2002, just before those elections, and I kind of hoped it would make a difference.  Sadly, it didn't -- I guess there are no lucrative contracts to let when paper ballots are used.

On the role of bloggers, meanwhile, here's a piece I wrote on RatherGate for The Australian.  And here's an article I wrote in The National Interest:  on bloggers and the war.  And -- to pick the pundits' issue du jour, here's a lengthy blog post on Kerry's use of Mary Cheney's sexuality during the debate last week, from my other blog, InstaPundit.com.

Of course, I still may not have written about whatever it is you want me to.  But that's OK, because the blogosphere is a big, big place and my little corner of it is getting smaller in proportion all the time.  If you want to know what people think, try searching Google, or Technorati.com, or DayPop or Blogdex to find out.

There are a lot of smart people out there.

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