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Archive for November, 2003

More on Smalley-Drexler debate

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 30th, 2003

Nobel Winner Smalley Responds to Drexler's Challenge,
Fails to Defend National Nanotech Policy

Rice University Professor Richard Smalley responds to a longstanding challenge by Foresight Chairman Eric Drexler to defend the controversial direction of U.S. policy in nanotechnology. Their four-part exchange is the cover story of the Dec. 1 2003 Chemical & Engineering News. This could mark a turning point in the development of the field.
Press release
Foresight comments and FAQ
Full text of the exchange
Technical commentary from CRN

Smalley/Drexler debate MNT in C&E News cover story

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 30th, 2003

Nobel Winner Smalley Responds to Drexler's Challenge
Fails to Defend National Nanotech Policy

Rice University Professor Richard Smalley has responded to a longstanding challenge by Dr. Eric Drexler to defend the controversial direction of U.S. policy in nanotechnology. Their four-part exchange sponsored by the American Chemical Society is the Dec. 1, 2003 Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) cover story. As described by Deputy Editor-in-Chief Rudy Baum, the controversy centers on "a fundamental question that will dramatically affect the future development of this field." This could mark a turning point in the development of the field.
Press release
Foresight comments and FAQ
Full text of the exchange
Technical commentary from CRN

Glenn Reynolds on new nanotech bill

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 26th, 2003

Foresight director Glenn Reynolds gives his views on the new nanotechnology legislation. " It's a victory for people who favor the responsible development of molecular nanotechnology. But it's a small victory, a nano-victory you might say, in the great scheme of things. He speculates on what was meant by the bill's authorizing a study of "molecular self-assembly".

2003 Advocate of the Year: Steve Jurvetson

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 26th, 2003

Foresight Senior Associate Steve Jurvetson, a leading nanotech venture capitalist and frequent speaker at Foresight events, has been named Small Times Magazine 2003 Advocate of the Year. "…he is nevertheless one of a small group of VCs happy to associate with the sector's most far-thinking members. He is hardly averse to being quoted speaking of nanobots floating in human bloodstreams and other scenarios considered way too long-term for VC involvement." Steve's suggestion for the NNI Grand Challenge? "Whether conceptualized as a universal assembler, a nanoforge, or a matter compiler, I think the `moon-shotí goal for 2025 should be the realization of the digital control of matter, and all of the ancillary industries, capabilities, and learning that would engender." We at Foresight like Steve even more than Small Times does.

Intel’s ‘Nano Inside’

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 26th, 2003

HLovy writes "Intel says it's now a master of the 65-nanometer domain. But are these nanochips truly "nanotechnology?" I was surprised when "Engines of Creation" and "Nanosystems" author Eric Drexler — whom I had assumed to be a molecular manufacturing purist — told me he thought they qualified.

"People sometimes perceive me as saying, 'Oh, you shouldn't use the term this new way,'" Drexler told me in October. "What I've actually been saying is we need to understand that it's being used in a new way … that has a certain relationship to the field."

The complete commentary can be found on Howard Lovy's NanoBot."

Bill Joy today: we need to give the good guys a head start

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 23rd, 2003

Bill Joy gives an interview in the December 2003 Wired in which he updates his views on potentially dangerous technologies. The bottom line: "These technologies won't stop themselves, so we need to do whatever we can to give the good guys a head start." The technologies being considered are nanotechnology, genomics, and robotics, by which is meant machine intelligence. [Bill's proposal -- giving the good guys a head start -- sounds right to me. --CP]

‘Societal Concerns’ and Scientific Accuracy

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 23rd, 2003

HLovy writes "If societal concerns are going to be taken into account, we need to look at how the society is being informed. The new American Nanotechnology Preparedness Center authorized by the nanotech bill should ask that question, as well. Any study on "societal impact" of a technology is also, by definition, a measure of the prejudices and preconceptions the public holds — based in part on how the technology is explained to them. To take a reading of "societal concerns" is to measure popularly held beliefs, rather than scientific fact. Those who have assigned themselves the mission of informing society should, in theory, try as best they can to reconcile the two.

Christine Peterson at the Foresight Institute says that it's ultimately up to the scientists, themselves, if they want their story communicated properly. "It is a responsibility of scientists and technologists to educate the public. If they can't stand to deal with the media, they can go directly to the public via the Web and by writing books." But to do that is to also alienate themselves among their colleagues. Carl Sagan, she pointed out, paid a price in reputation among his peers for stooping so low as to try to communicate effectively to the uneducated.

For the complete commentary, please see Howard Lovy's NanoBot."

Nanocomputer a little more real

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 23rd, 2003

RobertBradbury writes "New Scientist is reporting here that using a very clever combination of biological and chemical methods a group from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has created self-assembling nanotransistors. Also discussed in Science 302:1310 if you have access."

Foresight Institute adds to Board of Advisors

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 20th, 2003

The Foresight Institute welcomes Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University, Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, and Christopher Hook of the Mayo Clinic to its Board of Advisors, adding experts in the environmental, bioethics, and legal areas.

Webcast of nanotech outreach lecture

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 20th, 2003

November 21st, at 7:00 pm U.S. Central time, Dr. Paul Barbara, the Director of the University of Texas-Austin Center for Nano and Molecular Science and Technology, will give a public lecture on nanotechnology that can be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection.

2 Questions on Nanopart Assembly

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 20th, 2003

brettl writes "Following a discussion with nanodot users last week, I have some specific questions about the creation of nanoscale components that would have to be synthesized to create a nanofactory. I would like to use the example of Drexler's diamandoid bearing."

Primitive Nanofactory Design in PDF file

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 19th, 2003

iph1954 writes "CRN has posted a PDF download for our new paper 'Design of a Primitive Nanofactory' on our website at http://www.crnano.org/papers.htm
Mike Treder, Executive Director, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

What To Do With X-Large DNA?

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 19th, 2003

rpiquepa writes "Before answering this question, what on earth is X-Large DNA? This news release from Stanford University says that scientists there have created a molecule of DNA wider than the ones found in living creatures in our world. They "have created an expanded molecule of DNA with a double helix wider than any found in nature. Besides being more heat resistant than natural DNA, the new version glows in the dark — a property that could prove useful in detecting genetic defects in humans." You also can read "DNA, Now in XXX-Large," from Wired News, which tells you that xDNA could be a key to find life on other planets. This summary contains more details about what is "expanded DNA," or xDNA."

Senate Passes Nanotech Bill

Posted by GReynolds on November 19th, 2003

S. 189, the Senate nanotech bill, has passed. It will be reconciled with the House bill in conference, but major changes are not expected. Here's a link to the text of the bill, in PDF form. Howard Lovy has comments, too.

Poor reporting on reproducing virus

Posted by GReynolds on November 19th, 2003

RobertBradbury writes "Google news is reporting on 60+ articles being published by the various news media under the heading of "Scientists create a virus that reproduces." Its complete ca-ca demonstrating a complete lack of biological knowledge. In the first place a larger virus, the polio virus, has previously been synthesized (so this isn't "new" news). In the second place the bacterial virus phi X (and almost all other viruses) is not capable of self-replication (or reproduction). To be capable of self-replication in a biological system one would require the genetic code for both a DNA or RNA polymerase and a ribosome (these are necessary to copy the DNA/RNA of the genome and produce the proteins essential for viral self-replication. No known gene sequences that I'm aware of would allow those requirements to fit into the 5000 base pairs of the phi X genome (its like trying to fit a very large set of machines into a very small box). My quick estimate is that it would require hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of base pairs to produce a self-replicating virus. Viruses are normally inherently dependent upon their host bacteria or cells for reproduction (they are parasites). So the news reports are fundamentally flawed and should be taken with a very large grain of salt."

Fine-grained relinquishment of nanotechnology

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 13th, 2003

Writing in CIO Magazine on the "Promise and Peril of the 21st Century", Ray Kurzweil warns "As technology accelerates toward the full realization of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and, ultimately, robotics (collectively known as GNR), we will see the same intertwined potentials [the double-edged sword of technology]: a feast of creativity resulting from human intelligence expanded manyfold, combined with grave new dangers. We need to devise our strategies now to reap the promise while we manage the peril."

Biology a misleading metaphor for nanotechnology

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 13th, 2003

HLovy writes why much of the fear about nanotechnology results from a bad analogy: Merkle and the case of the misleading metaphor

Nanowire film for cheaper, faster electronics

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 13th, 2003

Roland Piquepaille writes of Better Displays With New Nanowire Film: progress in applying silicon nanowires to glass and plastic, which "might lead to better and flexible displays or wearable computers".

Better Artificial Body Parts With Metal Nanobumps

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 13th, 2003

Roland Piquepaille writes "Everybody seems concerned these days by the risks associated with the use of nanotechnologies. So I'm pleased to report that Purdue engineers have proven that metal nano-bumps could improve artificial body parts, such as hips or knees. They based their theory on a simple fact. Surface bumps on conventional alloys used in prostheses are in the micron range, while they are ten times smaller in natural bones, around 100 nanometers. They thought a reduction of the size of these bumps in the prostheses would also reduce the risk of rejection by the body. They limited their experiments to petri dishes, but showed that adherence of new body cells to their new metal alloys was dramatically better than with existing alloys. Ssveral years will pass before improved artificial hips come to market. But the needs are growing. This overview gives you more details and references."

Nanotechnology as “The Heart of Darkness”

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 12th, 2003

HLovy writes with an example of how "misrepresentations, distortions and half-truths" are being used to advocate a moratorium on nanotechnology research: "Apocalypse Nano"