Thursday, December 02, 2004

Images of the possible


Tech Central Station is running a piece I wrote about how proponents of molecular manufacturing, their image battered by nanocommerce usurpers, are fighting back with images of their own. Here's an excerpt:

    John Burch, who runs Lizard Fire Studios in Austin, Texas, says he fully expects his animation to be ridiculed by those who believe that he's merely producing a fanciful cartoon. That's OK, he says. Throw potshots at it. But while the argument rages over what is not possible, somebody had to "put this stake in the ground" and make the first move toward creating "a clear image of what we think is possible."

    Burch, 57, also reflects the ultimate appeal of this and other technologies that promise to lengthen human life, with aging baby boomers screaming for an end to this horrible thing called aging. Self-indulgent in almost every other phase of life, the boomers cannot be expected to go gently into that good night.

    "I want to make this thing happen," Burch says. "Everybody I know has medical problems that could be fixed or improved through technology based on this machine. There's too much pain in this world to just sit here and watch it."

    Where would he like to see it shown? "I think most anyplace where it's not ridiculed will be a good place." More here

animation software


Anonymous said...

I see a cartoon and not evidence of nano mechanosynthesis. In my mind, whether it is possible or not is still an unanswered question, mainly because the proponents of mechanosynthesis aren't using science to answer the question.

Has anyone actually run a *Gasp* molecular simulation of these devices to study how or if they might work. The technology is there and the fact that none of the major proponents have performed these computational experiments is dismaying: it means that they either are not smart enough to perform the simulations or they have performed them and found the results proving their beliefs wrong.

Until the hypothesis is conjectured and the experiment is performed, that's all these cartoons are: opinion.

Unknown said...

I'm not a chemist, but I once had the opportunity to discuss the animation with a chemist. He told me that chemists will view it as a cartoon in the sense that it's schematic, leaving out a lot of details, and there are certain things portrayed that wouldn't work. But he said those things could be taken as simplified stand-ins for things that will work.

The specific example he gave is the little block of carbon atoms moving along the conveyor belt during the first construction sequence. He said that a block of unterminated carbon atoms wouldn't just sit there. The outer surface of dangling bonds would start bonding to one another. But with the addition of a couple of extra steps this is avoided: Between assembly steps the block is terminated with hydrogens, and the addition of a pair of carbons involves removing some hydrogens, placing the carbons, and putting the hydrogens back.

That first assembly sequence has been subjected to considerably more analysis than the later stages of building larger blocks. The reason is that the trickiest details are in those first bits of assembly. Once we have a handle on those, it will be relatively simple to design medium-sized and larger assemblies. There we can draw on the experience of hundreds of thousands of mechanical and electrical engineers.