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Molecular Nanotechnology

  1. Jan 30, 2004 #1
    Hello. I am currently living in Detroit and hooked on a syndicated radio program called CoasttoCoast. They deal with all manner of interesting topics - from the cosmos through to who killed JFK. It is a 5 hour long show broadcast night. The other day they had a guest who spoke at length about molecular nanotechnology. Some of what they explained seemed too good to be true whilst other insights were frightening.
    For example, nanomanufacturing promised cheap products at a fraction of today's cost whilst the military and terrorist possibilities were too awful to comprehebnd. (Apparently, the Russians were working on this technology in an effort to defeat America's nuclear sub fleet, removing MAD and tipping the balance towards the Soviets).
    Can people please tell me more about this fascinating subject?
    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2004 #2
    Nanotechnology, if ever developed to any degree, will change our world beyond recognition. Think of the information revolution: something intangible, self-replicating, and indestructible is suddenly one of the most valuable things on the planet. The source code for Windows XP...the instructions for the synthesis of a particularly effective anelgesic...the text of the next Harry Potter novel: any of these could fit on a memory stick or be transmitted around the world by a cable modem, but they are far more valuable than gold or platinum. (How much gold or platinum? you ask. Be quiet. I'm sermonizing.)

    Nanotech is a lot like information. It is self-replicating, or could be--and the most powerful stuff will be. Imagine an aspirin tablet fired at the moon that converts it (the entire moon) into a solar-powered colony ship, ready to head off to Alpha Centauri, in a matter of weeks. That's power, and I can really see how it's possible.

    The problem is heat. Sorry, a problem is heat. There are many more problems, and they may be insurmountable. (Just like the main problem with Star Trek transporters is that they're a product of wishful thinking and the necessities of producing a low-budget television show.) Heat: if you have a billion little robots waving their cilia about, every Joule of energy they expend is eventually converted into heat. Just doing order of magnitude calculations, it's hard to see how the poor creatures won't bake themselves to death, even if they move reeaalllllyyy... slllooowwwlllyyy...

    So where is nanotech now? It's serious enough to appear in the 'hard' (scientifically rigourous) science fiction, but not serious enough be on anyone's twenty year forecasts. Nanoconstruction, yes, but full-blown nanotech, no way.

    And what's the fun in building something out of individual atoms if you can't program it to make copies of itself from desert sand and cover the entire surface of the Sahara with solar cells?

  4. Jan 31, 2004 #3
    Nanotech is no doubt capable of revolutionizng EVERYTHING in our world. However this technology poses a massive risk of a kind unimaginable. While the constructive powers of this technology are phenomenal as with any technology the destructive powers are FAR greater. technology like this would have to be controlled in a way unimaginable to todays "free societies." If any one who did not like the US (or anyother country for that matter) got ahold of this stuff, all they have to do is program it to whatever task they want and release, nearly without fear of repercussion, as unlike a nuclear attack, nanotechnology can no only disable any mechanism meant to stop it, but it is much easier to prevent from damaging oneself (as might be the case with fallout in a nuclear war) because it will only do what you program it to do.
  5. Jan 31, 2004 #4


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    What decade is this? Or did I miss something!
  6. Feb 1, 2004 #5
    i think he meant what nanotechnology promised, past tense
  7. Feb 1, 2004 #6
    Thank You (plus correction)

    Thank you for your answers to date. I would still like to know more.
    Integral's question re: which decade I am in was unnecessary. The commentator on the radio was referring to some original research carried out by the Soviets prior to "normalisation" of relations between the USA and USSR. In fact (and quite a diferent subject I guess), I do wonder what co-ordinates are still programmed into the American and Russian missiles.
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