What you are about to see is not science fiction.

It appears to depict an alien civilization grander than the planet Coruscant of George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, but make no mistake, it's happening in every cell of your body right now. Real data from the sequencing of nucei, proteins and lipids was used in this animation, to create computer-simulated molecules in which every atom is in the same place as in one of your actual molecules. See the blog of PZ Myers for a professional's critique of the depiction.

Link: "Cellular Visions: The Inner Life of a Cell."

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Jul. 28th, 2006 01:40 pm
The world's first nanotech CAD/CAE software is developed locally to Penguicon, runs on Linux, and is open source under the GPL.

I am sitting back in my chair and staring at that sentence on the screen.

Nanorex is a company based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan that employs K. Eric Drexler, the Father of Molecular Nanotechnology, as Chief Technical Advisor. (Dr. Drexler telecommutes from his home in California.) Other advisors include names I recognize from frequent mentions on Christine Peterson's blog "Nanodot", such as Ralph Merkle, J. Storrs Hall, and Robert Freitas, Jr.

Their product is Nanoengineer-1, which uses a detailed and accurate model of the laws of physics to simulate atomic interactions in 3D. Engineers can design and test nanosystems in this software rather than use trial and error with the expensive and slow mechanosynthesis process of one real, physical molecule at a time. It is for Windows, Mac and Linux. It is open source under the GPL.

Again. The world's first nanotech CAD/CAE software is developed locally to Penguicon, runs on Linux, and is open source under the GPL.
Because Penguicon combines a science fiction convention with a festival of open source software, we don't just read about the future in science fiction, we also attract the people who are creating the future. I'm thrilled to announce that Christine Peterson has accepted our invitation to be a 2007 Guest of Honor! She is experienced at giving interesting and understandable lectures to every type of audience of every proficiency level, she is not opposed to associating with the words "science fiction", and she's brilliant when it comes to thinking about the future.

"Yogi Berra said, “It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future,” and how right he was. But there is one more point to keep in mind. If you're trying to project the long-term future, and what you get sounds like science fiction, you might be wrong. But if it doesn't sound like science fiction, it's definitely wrong." -Christine Peterson

Christine Peterson is Founder and Vice President of Public Policy for the Foresight Nanotech Institute, a not-for-profit think tank focusing on emerging technologies such as molecular nanotechnology. She is credited with having suggested adoption of the term "Open Source Software". She co-authored "Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution" (full text online) with K. Eric Drexler, the Father of Nanotechnology. With Gayle Pergamit, she also co-wrote "Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work" (full text online), which is extremely pertinent to open-source software development processes. She chairs conferences about nanotech. She has a chemistry degree from MIT.

Of all the years for me to be Head of Programming for Penguicon, I feel incredibly lucky that it was the year we get Christine Peterson. I've been reading her blog Nanodot for years, ever since I read "Unbounding the Future". I highly recommend UtF to everyone; it's a fun read. I'm excited about the possibility of designing a schedule track with themes of molecular manufacturing and other radical near-term advances in the human condition. Most of it will be pretty serious, but I'll also get a copy of this docu-comedy about nano-scale science and see if it would be suitable to show it at Penguicon. If we have a workshop for making molecule models out of twisted balloons, that would kick butt. I'm visualizing an advertising image: a collosal-sized Tux viewed from the perspective of a molecule, in which the close-up portion is shown to be made of atoms the size of marbles...
Goatchurch on the MundaneSF blog posted about his skepticism of molecular nanotechnology. He asked why we think a self-propelled miniature machine can exist, when we still don't have a robot that can vacuum the living room. (Given the existence of Roomba, that's another claim which, in itself, I would highly debate.) Here is the response I put there.

The failure of modern robotics is a software problem. But whether or not that is solvable is not relevant to nanotechnology, which rarely considers molecular robots. There is vast potential in nanotech products and materials that are not only dumb, but downright inert and permanently motionless. The potential of nanosystems which, while not motionless, are nevertheless dumb and sessile, is even more vast.

Look at this computer animation concept. Note that nothing in the assembly line depicted here involves individual nanorobots with independent self-propulsion, self-guidance or decision-making. Independence and intelligence are not required of molecular machinery. Don't confuse the "Universal Assembler/Disassembler" myth with the nanosystems that are actually being proposed.

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MIT's Technology Review has a video documentary series titled "The Impact of Emerging Technologies" which is exclusively online. It's really interesting! It covers stem cells; robotic prosthetics with a mind/machine interface; artificial polymer muscle; computer interpretation of body language; nano-scale valves; and more.

The video about using lab yeast instead of lab mice for a 50,000-fold decrease in cost and slowness of new drugs showed them using robot laboratory systems. It reminded me of an article on Edge.org by Kevin Kelly, editor of WIRED Magazine, about using robots, Google, Wikis, "Zillionics" and more, to practice science in the future.

nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
I hadn't previously heard of a few of the speakers at Stanford's Singularity Summit, but I know every single one of the following eight names, and it's the most exciting lineup of Guests of Honor ever. It's interesting to finally find out from their photos what some of them look like.

- Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist, author of "The Singularity Is Near"
- Douglas Hofstadter, cognitive scientist, author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach"
- K. Eric Drexler, nanotechnology pioneer, author of "Engines of Creation"
- Nick Bostrom, director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute
- Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, blogger, technology activist
- Eliezer Yudkowski, Director and Research Fellow, Singularity Institute
- Christine Peterson, VP Public Policy, Foresight Nanotech Institute
- Tyler Emerson, Executive Director, Singularity Institute

The "What others have said" section shows Marvin Minsky, Hans Moravec, Vernor Vinge, Ben Goertzel, Jamais Cascio and Jaron Lanier. I wonder if they'll be at the summit? That section also lists Bill Gates, Bill Joy and Stephen Hawking.

But it's not a science fiction convention, it's an academic conference. These aren't really Guests of Honor, because that implies the presence of their fans at the event. This is by RSVP only. That's fine-- it's important that specialist professionals gather to do valuable work on the problems and promises of the Singularity in peace. That having been said, it would also be fantastic to get any of these to speak at Penguicon, especially since it's a Linux and Open Source software expo in addition to a science fiction convention. Many of them would probably demand an appearance fee, which all-volunteer not-for-profit SF conventions don't pay. And many of them probably would not want to be seen to be associated with a science fiction event (except for Cory Doctorow, who has already been our Guest of Honor). But Christine Peterson says in her Singularity Summit promotional blurb "If you're trying to project the long-term future, and what you get sounds like science fiction, you might be wrong. But if it doesn't sound like science fiction, it's definitely wrong."

I enjoyed reading the comment by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee, which is extremely signifigant to me as a non-specialist:

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I recently blogged a video of a device unveiled last month that prints ribbons of carbon nanotubes at high speed. The article is here. Now there's another breakthrough. Today in New Scientist there is breaking news about a revolutionary development in nanomaterials that can make possible an elevator cable from the surface of the earth into space. This is not one of the forms of structured carbon you're used to, buckyballs or buckytubes which have hardness approaching that of diamond. Those were superheated and compressed to create a new form of structured carbon called aggregated carbon nanorods, with a hardness exceeding that of diamond, previously the hardest known material. This is the only way which is postulated as strong enough to hold together as a strand hanging from a satellite in earth orbit to a point on the equator. K. Eric Drexler told us this would happen. Graphite in a pencil is formed from sheets of carbon atoms. The sheets are only loosely connected, so they slide off onto the paper when you write. In ordinary diamond, carbon atoms are connected in every direction in a perfectly regular 3D lattice. For a drawing of this, scroll halfway down this chapter from K. Eric Drexler's "Unbounding The Future", a free online introduction by the father of nanotechnology, which I encourage you to read. Structured carbon is no ordinary diamond. The connections between carbon atoms can potentially be arranged like the engineering in a suspension bridge, acheiving qualities never before seen, making possible feats of micro- and mega-engineering never before seen. As Neil Stephenson once called it, we are entering The Diamond Age.
From BoingBoing.
Jamais Cascio from www.worldchanging.com says:
"Researchers from the University of Texas, Dallas, and Australia's CSIRO have developed a way of making strong, stable and amazingly useful ribbons and sheets made of multiwall carbon nanotubes. Their system pushes the material out at seven meters/minute; a Quicktime video of the process in action is here. If you've been following the development of nanotubes, you know what kind of accomplishment this is. In my view, this is the biggest technology breakthrough of the year, quite possibly of the decade."

End quote. If the money were there, this would make a space elevator feasible! Even without the space elevator as a goal, this will make incredibly light and strong structural materials, which is exactly what NASA and private space organizations need for cheaper and safer space flight. But even without space flight goals, architecture and large-scale engineering will never be the same. That's not all. The web site goes on to say:

"...researchers from the Regenerative Neurobiology Division at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Dr. Mario Romero, Director, and Dr. Pedro Galvan-Garcia, Senior Researcher Associate, and Dr. Larry Cauller, associate professor in UTD's neuroscience program, have initial evidence suggesting that healthy cells grow on these sheets - so they might eventually be applied as scaffolds for tissue growth.

Baughman said that numerous other applications possibilities exist and are being explored at UTD, including structural composites that are strong and tough; supercapacitors, batteries, fuel cells and thermal-energy-harvesting cells exploiting giant-surface-area nanotube sheet electrodes; light sources, displays, and X-ray sources that use the nanotube sheets as high-intensity sources of field-emitted electrons; and heat pipes for electronic equipment that exploit the high thermal conductivity of nanotubes. Multifunctional applications like nanotube sheets that simultaneously store energy and provide structural reinforcement for a side panel of an electrically powered vehicle also are promising, he said."
According to the BBC, scientists have invented a treatment for cancer using fullerenes coated with a vitamin that only cancer cells have receptors for. The fullerines are heated with a laser to kill off only the cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact. R's mother is undergoing radiation therapy for a tumor which was recently removed, and it's heartening to know that someday soon radiation and chemo will not be necessary.


Jun. 1st, 2005 11:26 am
Nanodot has this report:
You may laugh, or at least smile, but the environmental benefits already resulting from the so-called nanotech toilet are substantial. With a “roughness” reported at under 30 nanometers, evidently these fixtures need much less cleaning, which means much less of that nasty chemical cleanser going down the drain. Oh, and they should be healthier for users too. Read the whole thing, on ExtremeNano by the prolific Norm Wu.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
Last time I posted this I think all of you skipped over it, since memes are ordinarily so boring. So I'm posting it again. I picked up this meme from [livejournal.com profile] jeffreyab and [livejournal.com profile] rikhei. Take the timeline and fill in the story of your past and your plans for the future.

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Anders Sandberg made this raytraced image of Death cursing K. Eric Drexler for coming up with nanotechnology. It's based on this filk written by Eliezer Yudkowski titled, "Curse You Eric Drexler" or "It's Hard To Be A Zombie." I love it. In case the page ever disappears from the web, here is Eliezer's text:Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
I picked up this meme from [livejournal.com profile] jeffreyab and [livejournal.com profile] rikhei. Take the timeline and fill in the story of your past and your plans for the future.
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
I watched the first hour of Ursula K. LeGuin's Legend of Earthsea on the SciFi channel last night and was disappointed but not surprised that it was a rehashing of tired cliches. I'm sure there is innovation somewhere in this genre that doesn't just plagiarize the ancient Myth of the Hero and use Good Vs. Evil to avoid having to motivate the antagonist. Can someone point it out to me? We aren't kids sitting around the campfire listening to a static oral tradition, folks! How did that old adage go? "There are only seven stories"? Balderdash, there are only seven kinds of unimaginative authors and readers. This brought to mind [livejournal.com profile] dawnwolfe's recent question to me, "If you met someone who had never, ever read a single SF/Fantasy book in their lives, had not even heard of the genre but was open to trying it out, what is the first book you would introduce to that person." It depends on what they want. Different books are good are for different folks and they can get different purposes from the same book. Mine is just one flavor of preference and I'll offer it as nothing more. My thesis is this: I like science fiction to the degree that it's not a fantasy.Read more... )

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