1. Don't Get Mad. Get Gladwell

Another week, another reason to make fun of nanotechnology.

See, we're still trying to get excited about the investment opportunities of nanotech, roughly defined as the science of tiny little stuff.

We're sure that lots of scientists are doing cool things for real companies in the nanotech field. But we can't help noticing that everyone who's boosting nanotech as an investment idea these days feels compelled to make preposterous claims on its behalf -- weirdly optimistic futurology such as "Nanotech will enable us to reduce the Library of Congress to the size of a Jujyfruit." As if that were a pressing need.

Anyway, the whole nanotech movement -- as respectable as it may be one day -- can't move a molecule without sounding like some sort of elaborate investment scam.

Our latest case in point: this week's NanoBusiness News from the NanoBusiness Development Group consultants. In an interview with nanotech VC Josh Wolfe -- an editor of a nanotech newsletter published by Forbes -- we didn't get halfway into the Q&A before the expression "tipping point" creeped into the dialogue three times.

Aieeeee! Tipping point! Will no one save us from the tipping point?
No Gratuities, Please
Tipping point's breaking point
*2003 figures are estimates based on mentions through 6/5/2003.**Articles mentioning tipping point but not Malcolm Gladwell.Source: Factiva

We at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab are aware that one Malcolm Gladwell has written some thoughtful book called The Tipping Point -- a book in which he fills up a few dead-tree fragments talking about how things change. Someday we'll get around to reading it.

In the meantime, what we at the lab notice is that "tipping point" is the catchphrase du jour for people who want a more thoughtful-sounding way to say "a big change."

Yes, "tipping point" is intruding on the turf of the classic "paradigm shift" and his faithful companion "inflection point."

We thought we'd do a little research to verify our suspicions.

Getting to the point here, we've reached the tipping point with the tipping point. When we hear the phrase, it tips us off that it's time to stop listening. Time to drive out into the middle of nowhere and teach some cows about the tipping point.

2. The Customer Is Always


At Your Service
David Dorman goes low-tech

News flash! AT&T ( T) believes it's important to treat one's customers well.

Yes, that was the hard-hitting message that AT&T CEO David Dorman delivered at a telecom industry trade show this week.

"Improving the customer experience is just as important as having new technology deployed," Dorman said in a speech Tuesday at the SuperComm conference in Atlanta, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Is that what those AT&T shareholders paid you $6.5 million for last year, Dave? Insights like that?

3. Cerus Your Old Man

What hath Eliot Spitzer wrought? We gueth we'll find out thoon.

As ace biotech reporter Adam Feuerstein pointed out, the blood-focused Cerus ( CERS) commenced a public offering of 6 million shares Thursday, a day after the company announced the latest delay in getting its flagship product to market.

What most fascinated us about the news was Feuerstein's observation regarding underwriter Morgan Stanley. See, Glenn Reicin, the Morgan Stanley analyst who covers Cerus, has an underweight-volatile rating on the stock -- a ranking he reiterated Wednesday, given "the projected length of time to profitability, the company's projected financing needs and the challenges the company faces in achieving its operating targets."

This, of course, is exactly what you want in the New Wall Street: research analysts not bothering to coordinate their stock ratings with their firms' investment banking business.

But we at the research lab are thankful we're not a Morgan Stanley broker trying to hawk this particular issue. We can imagine what it's like to be working the phones for this one. "Cerus, huh? Never heard of it," says the investor at the other end of the line. "What does your research guy think of it?"

"Um, um. ... You know, I forgot to ask," replies the broker. "What do you say I get back to you on that one?"

4. Yes, I Am Wise. But It's Wisdom Born of Exercise Prices

Here's something fascinating we learned this week: Stock options are a women's issue.

At least, that's what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) believes.
For Women Only
Barbara Boxer's take on options

As the San Jose Mercury News reported last month -- and as we just got around to reading on Thursday -- Boxer made that assertion as part of the effort by several lawmakers to badger the Financial Accounting Standards Board into maintaining employee stock options' status as a nonexpense.

At a Washington, D.C., meeting with the FASB chairman in early May, Boxer laid it on thick with the argument-by-lip-quivering-anecdote that elected officials love so well. Sun Microsystems ( SUNW) options helped Kristin Amundsen buy a house and set up a home office so she could spend more time with her young daughter, the Merc reported Boxer as saying. Sun's Richard Berlin cashed in options so his wife could pay off her college loans, buy a car and set up a business.

"This is a women's issue," the Merc quoted Boxer as saying. "This is an issue that impacts people who are trying to climb up the ladder, and I don't want to see them lose out."

We at the lab suspect overpaid male executives may be benefiting a trifle more from stock options than the spirited women in Boxer's warm and fuzzy thumbnail sketches.

Calling options expensing a women's issue is like raising the interstate speed limit to 120 mph so that gunshot victims can get to the hospital faster. Certainly, these people deserve our concern. But there's got to be a more efficient way to help them out.

5. Martha Stewart Leaving Omnipotence

Speaking of women's issues, we've spent 15 years making fun of Martha Stewart, we confess. But now we feel sorry for her.

We understand that if Martha Stewart did what the feds allege, she did some bad things: chiefly, lying to investigators to whom she shouldn't have lied.

But we reached the, um, tipping point for our sympathy when we read one particular quote in The New York Times from James B. Comey, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York: "Martha Stewart is being prosecuted not for who she is but because of what she did."

That's not the issue. The issue is, if Martha Stewart weren't who she is, would prosecutors have been working on her case for the past year and a half? Working tirelessly to nail down the truth behind a 4,000-share sale of ImClone ( IMCLE) stock?

If you answer yes to that question, we have a few shares of a nanotech stock we'd like to sell you.

TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Amazon.com under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.

More from Opinion

Flashback Friday: Bye Bye FAANG

Flashback Friday: Bye Bye FAANG

Micron Slumps After Issuing Light Guidance: 7 Key Takeaways

Micron Slumps After Issuing Light Guidance: 7 Key Takeaways

Throwback Thursday: Let's Talk Tilray

Throwback Thursday: Let's Talk Tilray

Amazon's Reported Plans to Greatly Expand Its Cashier-Free Stores: 5 Takeaways

Amazon's Reported Plans to Greatly Expand Its Cashier-Free Stores: 5 Takeaways

Nvidia's iPhone-Like Strategy for Growing Graphics Chip Sales Could Pay Off

Nvidia's iPhone-Like Strategy for Growing Graphics Chip Sales Could Pay Off