These days we are debating if nanoparticles in sunblock and toothpaste are safe. The ancient Greeks and Romans didn't know about such things - but they already used nanotechnology in their cosmetics. A group of researchers in France showed that lead-based chemistry, which was initiated in Egypt more than 4000 years ago, could result in the synthesis of lead sulfide (PbS, galena) nanocrystals. With a diameter of about 5 nm, the appearance of these crystals is quite similar to PbS quantum dots synthesized by modern materials science techniques.
The just released 2007 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) budget request is $1.28 billion, slightly less than the 2006 estimated spend of $1.30 billion. The 2007 numbers would bring the overall NNI investment since its inception in 2001 to $6.6 billion. The lion share of this amount, $2 billion or 30.3%, went to the Department of Defense (DoD). In 2006, the DoD's share even reached 33.5% of the entire NNI budget.
You might think that with all the buzz that nanotechnology creates among insiders (mostly scientists) there would be a rising awareness and interest among the general public. Apparently not so. If internet search engines are an indication for the general interest then nanotechnology is not a big issue yet.