February 2009

High-Throughput Nanomanufacturing:
Small Parts (with videos)

February 27, 2009

Specialized, high-throughput molecular assembler (schematic and prettified) A robot-free image I prepared for the cover of C&E News, 1 Dec 2003 In a post about molecular assembly lines, I discussed non-ribosomal (hence non-programmable) peptide synthetases, a form of specialized molecular manufacturing machinery found in some cells, and added that In the molecular-manufacturing architecture described in […]

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Back to the New Future of Space

February 26, 2009

Asteroid Itokawa Image from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa, which is scheduled to return a sample canister in June 2010. The National Space Society has released a critical report* on NASA’s performance and objectives which argues that plans to return to the Moon are both underfunded and misdirected. Coauthored by Buzz Aldrin, pilot of the […]

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Making vs. Modeling:
A paradox of progress in nanotechnology

February 25, 2009

Knowledge and know-how often go together. Where technologies are concerned, we tend to understand the things we make, and often can make the things we understand. This is a widespread pattern, but it’s important to recognize the exceptions, and nanofabrication is one of them. There’s no necessary connection between understanding something and being able to […]

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How Nanotubes Grow: A theory that has nothing to do with reality

February 24, 2009

Tubes, spirals, rings, and decorative loose ends From “Controversial new theory for nanotube growth”, a news article about the paper “Dislocation theory of chirality-controlled nanotube growth” F Ding, AR Harutyunyanb, and BI Yakobson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), PNAS Early Edition, 6 Feb 2009. Today I read a report of a controversy […]

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Design Software for Atomically Precise Nanotechnologies

February 23, 2009

Design software is arguably the chief limiting factor in the rate of progress toward advanced nanotechnologies, and this makes it a topic of central importance. Questions of design and modeling also touch on diverse topics: technology objectives, scientific knowledge and unknowns, research directions that deserve many millions of dollars of funding, and specific problems that […]

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What’s in the Vault?

February 22, 2009

Vault structure (a single protein in red) “The Structure of Rat Liver Vault at 3.5 Angstrom Resolution” H Tanaka et al., Science, 323: 384–388 (2009). They’re called “vaults”. They‘re in our cells, and in those of every* plant, animal, and fungus. Like ribosomes, they’re atomically precise self-assembled structures made of protein and RNA, but they’re […]

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Nanomachines, Nanomaterials, and Klm

February 20, 2009

Toward Advanced Nanotechnology: Nanomaterials (5) My previous post in this series, Nanostructures, Nanomaterials, and Lattice-Scaled Stiffness, explains why the lattice-scaled modulus, Klm, is an important figure of merit: For a set of machines made of different materials, but with similar structures (similar numbers and arrangements of lattice cells), the Klm parameter determines the energy required […]

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Studying Nanotechnology: A Preface

February 18, 2009

Physics knowledge: Comparisons of U.S. and Chinese freshmen college students “Learning and Scientific Reasoning” L Bao et al., Science, 323: 586–587 (2009). Students interested in nanotechnology have often asked me for advice on what to study. I plan to write a series of posts about this, but there’s one basic piece of advice that will […]

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Advanced Nanotechnology Keynote


February 17, 2009

I’ll be giving a keynote talk for the opening plenary session of WORLDCOMP’09, the 2009 World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Applied Computing. The conference, to be held July 13–16 in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of researchers in computer science, computer engineering and applied computing. In my keynote, I’ll describe […]

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Nanostructures, Nanomaterials,
and Lattice-Scaled Stiffness

February 15, 2009

Toward Advanced Nanotechnology: Nanomaterials (4) The peg aligns with the hole if the hole is large enough, and the fluctuations are small enough. In a nanofabrication technology that uses nanomachines to assemble products, the stiffness of the machines is important because it limits the amplitude of thermal fluctuations, yet tolerance for fluctuations is important too. […]

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For Darwin Day: On the Origin of Genetic Information

February 12, 2009

Darwin by the numbers The ideas that evolved from Darwin’s thought have shaped my thinking for more than 35 years, and a decade later, writing Engines of Creation, I relied on the generality of evolutionary principles as an anchor point for surveying the future of technology. Today, in my home, “Uncle Charles says…” means “Evolutionary […]

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Nanomachines: How the Videos Lie to Scientists

February 10, 2009

Sound physical inference from an illusory premise Don’t let this animationfool you about the physics! By now, many scientists have seen videos of molecular-scale mechanical devices like the one shown here, and I have no way to know how many have concluded that the devices are a lot of rubbish (and have perhaps formulated an […]

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