I submitted this to YES Magazine on March 12, 2010. They didn’t take it. So, finally, it is yours for free!


You are a fish and you wake up with a headache. Did you take in too many soft drinks the night before? That’s not what happened to large mouthed bass in the tank of biologist Eva Oberdorster. She fed the fish uncoated buckyballs, the roundest most symmetrical soccer-ball shaped nano carbon molecule known.

Discovered in a space experiment on carbon atoms in 1985, buckyballs are known as buckminsterfullerene after architect Richard Buckminster Fuller for his invention of the geodesic dome.
Whether an oblong ball or spherical or as a cylinder, the shapes help give the buckyball different abilities.

The scanning-force microscope at Rice University manages atoms with their new buckyball nanotube, shaped like multiwalled chicken wire between five and 20 nanometres thick, strong like metal and will conduct electricity. Twist the buckyball hexagons like a DNA helix and you have a semi-conductor ideal for computer technology. It would make a great shield for the next fire-breathing dragon attack due to its extreme heat resistance.

View this video which demonstrates its versatile shape:


Before waiting for a natural disaster to happen this fish tank test was made to stop problems in their tracks. Those nano-spheres of carbon created a toxic soup. The fish showed brain-cell membrane damage yet did not die. The water fleas, closer to the bottom of the food chain, did not fair so well and they died.

The ratio of buckyball water to dead water flies indicated that buckyballs are moderately toxic.  But preventative medicine is better than handing a fish an aspirin and have it call in the morning.

Dr. Eva reported her findings to the American Chemical Society (ACS) National meeting. The solution popped up in the shape of biologist Vicki Colvin in her response. She found that uncoated bucky balls also cause membrane damage in human cells growing in a lab. Dr. Vicki coated the buckyball with simple molecules and presto – no more toxicity.

So all you buckyballs, put your coat on!


Access Science from McGraw-Hill. Online. Tiny Trouble: Nanoscale materials damage fish brains, Alexandra Goho, week of April 4, 2004.
Oberdorster, E. 2004. Toxicity of nC60 fullerenes to two aquatic species: Daphnia and largemouth bass. Abstract IEC 21. 227th ACS National Meeting. March 28 – April 1. Anaheim, California.
Colivin, V., 2004. Environmental chemistry and effects of engineered nanostructures. Abstract IEC 18. 227th ACS National Meeting. March 28 – April 1. Anaheim, California.
Vicki Colvin, Dept. of Chemistry, 6100 Main Street, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 77005.
Eva Oberdorster, Dept. Of Biology, Southern Methodist University, 6501 Airline Road, Dallas, Texas, 75275-0376.
From Science News, Vol. 165, No. 14, Apr. 3, 2004, p. 211, as published under license in AccessScience@ McGraw-Hill Companies 2000-2004.

http://www.3rd1000.com/bucky/bucky.htm March 10, 2010. Bucky Balls by Andy Gion.

http://www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=29459 Posted May 27, 2008. How buckyballs hurt cells. Copyright University of Calgary. Contact: Grady Semmens, gsemmens@ucalgary.ca

I’m Working on That, William Shatner, Melis Productions, Simon & Shuster Pocket Books, New York, NY, p. 296.