Friday, February 29, 2008

Nanoscale View

A pretty good blog there. Heavy on the science which my brain finds delicious.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Event Horizon

Stretching and bending some analogies here, but that helps me think.

A number of different authorities have predicted the technological singularity's arrival at anywhere from about 2018 to 2050 (lots of other's have placed it sooner, later or not at all but I'm sifting some sand here)

So I've got to wonder if we are approaching the singularity's "Event Horizon" yet. In astrophysics this is the point-of-no-return beyond which light or information can not escape a black-hole's gravity well. In societal and technological terms the Event Horizon will be marked by some similar phase transition after which the singularity will become unavoidable excepting perhaps a nearby gamma-ray burst or sudden cometary impact which utterly wipes out all life on earth.

The web is seeing a proliferation of do-it-yourself-ism and intention hacking such as the biohackers, reprap, Make, Lifehacker and of course our hopeful friends the transhumanists. Social networking is building slow meta-minds and even potentiating some initial loops that might network meta-minds into meta-meta-minds. These minds are even beginning to have the means to effectively take a hand in our world with groups like The Point. Meanwhile "ancient" infrastructure such as usenet are still bubbling along providing the rich and varied services they always have, almost like the older parts of the human brain that give us primitive emotions and fight-or-flight style instincts.

I recently read that in about another year or two over half the people on earth will have cell phones. This means every odd numbered person on earth will have a potential immediate open line to half the people in the world. Somewhere a hungry meme opens its baleful eye and yawns awake.

Apologies to Ray

An earlier posting criticized Ray Kurzweil for his website's lack of feedback abilities. Michael A. has corrected my perceptual bias. I've only been reading the news section for some years now and was unaware of the forum section. Although in my defense, if it were labeled "Forum section" instead of "Brain-X" [a title of questionable meaning] I might have been aware of it.

I have taken that post down and apologize for the haste of my judgment.

If I could offer a constructive suggestion: the news section is the most actively engaged part of Ray's page. The featured articles change seldom and once you've perused them all you pretty much don't bother going back. So a comment section for each news article would also be a really good thing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why the progression of science freakin' ROCKS!

A very promising bit of research revealing a path to type 1 diabetes cure. Keep your fingers crossed on this one for early human trials.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pullin' the Merkle Bootstrap

Bootstrap was a very important idea when I started to learn programming back in '78. It was the means of loading enough software so you could load more software, a tricky philosophical treat.

Ralph Merkle has done a fine job of finding a molecular bootstrap for diamond manufacture. With as few as 9 molecules he has defined a set of tools which can not only make themselves but should also make some nifty diamond.

Hattip Michael A.


Friday, February 22, 2008

The nano Sky is falling

A host of new safety concerns floated to the top again this week. I guess some mental conditions just never get old.

I think what I find most egregious about these articles is that they assume time and again that no one what-so-ever is aware of safety issues.

The other assumption is that government agencies are the only hope of any sort of safety. That industry can never, ever be trusted to make the right choices. But if you compare the track records of government and industry which is the one that really gets things done? Can you imagine a government agency trying to run eBay or Amazon?

Some misnomers, exaggerations and out-right lies you'll see:

Materials behave differently at the nanoscale. Materials behave the way they behave regardless of scale. Only a few examples of scale dependent structures are significant such as nanocrystals of gold. A nanocrystal of aspirin might dissolve faster but other than that once it's dissolved it is still just aspirin.

Nanoproducts are strange, unheard-of or alien. Many nanodevices, components and structures are actually very familiar and well studied. Fullerenes for instance have been present in soot throughout history and they've been a product of study for about 20 years. All of modern chemistry employs bottom-up statistically derived nanotechnology.

Replicators will destroy the earth. For the last 3 billion years every living organism on this planet has struggled mightily to convert as much mass into copies of itself as it could. And yet only a tiny amount of the planet is actually conscripted into this process. If an inconceivably large population of replicators using trial and error for billions of years can't do it what makes anyone think intentionally designed devices will?

Ultimately everything is composed of nanodevices: the atoms and molecules which chemistry has long ago elucidated for our understanding. The fact that someone is too lazy to comprehend this understanding does not give them the right to spread panic and rumor.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some details

Not finished with this yet and I don't have time right now to find the links supporting this design. Plus I've also got a diagram displaying the folding process for penta- and hexa- graphitic ring origami coming. But I promised Michael Anissimov a graphic explaining an earlier post so here's what I have so far. Nothing is to scale and a few details are missing but it should still explain much. Stay tuned:

Click to view large

Update (1:36pm):
here's a link to using oligonucleotides on AFM tips.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dreaming of nanotech

I dreamt of this last night. It is a form of simple nano factory

Take a bunch of magnetic nanowires engineered with atomically sharp tips and place them in an elastomer matrix. Attach oligonucleotides to these tips. Float polymer precursors in a solvent on top of the elastomeric matrix. Capillary action will transfer the mers up onto the oligonucleotides. Using a technique like this to assemble precise sequences of polymer subunits which are then deposited on a substrate that passes over the nanowires/dna tips. If the substrate is a controlled material like synthetic sapphire, silicon, graphene etc. and the nanowire's motion is controlled by very precise magnetic fields from circuit traces or NEMS underlying the elastomer matrix then the deposited polymers will only be able to fall in certain locations on the substrate. As the substrate passes over the many tips phenol rings in the polymer will line up in precisely controllable manners on the substrate.

If the chemistry is managed right, then oxides and other radicals will depart the polymer deposition upon pyrolysis. Using origami-like modeling the resulting graphitic structures will fold up into designed shapes due to energetic changes like folding a flat piece of cardboard into a box.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No obvios toxicity to carbon nanotubes

A several months long study demonstrates that most carbon nanotubes are excreted rapidly by the body and do not accumulate or damage organs.


Scientific American: Revealing their own ignorance

I've been a fond reader of Scientific American since I was 11. Most of the time they delight me with mind-expanding articles about cutting edge discoveries.

But every once in a while one of their contributors writes an article that just makes me shake my head "How did this get past the editors?" Has SciAm been taken over by some sort of political action committee?

In the linked article is some of the grossest glossing of an entire field I've ever seen. In the first page the vast and complex arena of nanotechnology is reduced to some niggling dust engineering.

Furthermore, the article completely overlooks all industry-wide accepted standards and practices as well as an entire field of researchers already dedicated to the purpose of scrutinizing the safety of nanotechnology. There is no mention of good workers like the folks at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology or the Foresight Institute both of whom have long spoken of the dangers and need for research on this issue.

More and more SciAm disappoints me as it loses its scientific objectivity to the politics of panic.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

DNA-Directed Synthesis of short polymers

Wow! this was another great article from the ACS. I never thought I'd come across a method for controlling the growth of polymers so precisely. Well sure, oligonucleotides but not aromatics like Aniline and 4-Aminobiphenyl. I can see some promising polyblock copolymer technology developing from this. Especially when you think of it in terms of some of the recent active and structural DNA designs being developed.

Damn! I wish I had the spare change to become an ACS member!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stole my idea...

The Navy done stole my idear!

Not that I'm implying any impropriety.

About a two months ago I was working with thermalizing/pyrolyzing linearized polystyrene ( a conveniently configured source of aromatic rings) with metallic stearates. I used stearates because ferocene's aren't readily available. I had pretty good success, able to produce distinguishable fullerenes and nanotubes. But now the Navy has beaten me to the punch.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A nanorocket?

This is some brilliant stuff, coupling two complimentary proteins on the surface of a nanotube results in glucose being used as a power source for motion. The product looks safe for biological use and it doesn't take much imagination to picture a control mechanism stashed inside the tube which could block/unblock the two enzymes in order to stop/start the thrust.

Hat tip to Christine at Foresight.


Metal-Peptide Frameworks for metamaterials?

Metal-peptide frameworks look like a promising medium for the design of very high frequency metamaterials.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Best nanoscope ever

Was going to type "microscope" then I realized...
This device gives better resolution than 1 hydrogen diameter so it's definitely a nanoscope. This along with the other stuff I've written about this week; I'm starting to think 2008 will be a great year for nanotechnology.


DNA construction sites

Hermann Gaub at the University of Munich and his team have used AFM cantilevers with attached DNA strands to lift and carry nano components like a nano crane.

If Angela Belcher's virus adaptation method could be sequenced to isolate the peptide components for molecular selectivity those peptides could similarly be placed on an AFM tip and used to pick up a wide range of nanomaterials. Or for that matter an individual virus could be locked into place on a cantilever.

I'm thinking of pick-and-place and machine tool paths here, a selection of tailored cantilevers and carry paths to deliver step-wise precise moieties to a reaction site. The reaction site would be mounted on a NEMS conveyors system to complete a factory scenario.