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Real Nanotechnology Getting Closer, Says Drexler

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the so-is-fusion-i-hear dept.

Sun Microsystems 134

destinyland writes "Sun Microsystems has helped fund a 198-page nanotechnology roadmap — but how close are we to real nanotechnology? A science writer asked four nano pioneers, including K. Eric Dexler ('progress is accelerating') and Ralph Merkle ('the exponential trends continue to be exponential') Though we don't have Star Trek replicators yet, the article lists some surprising recent nano developments (artificial tissue, nanoparticle sheets, ultrathin diamond nanorods). And the roadmap's scientists are envisioning targeted cancer therapies, super-efficient solar cells, high-density computer memory chips and even responsive 'smart' materials."

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Don't we already have it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335767)

Wouldn't most of the microchips be considered nanotechnology?

Re:Don't we already have it (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336047)

Nanotechnology is like cybernetics: Any application that no longer feels exotic no longer falls under the common use of the term. This is why people with cardiac pacemakers or cochlear implants are generally not considered to be cyborgs, and microchips are not considered to be nanotech.

Re:Don't we already have it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336077)

Nope, microtechnology, hence the micro. ;)

Spell check says it isn't a word, but what do spell checkers know? Bah!

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336267)

My first thought was that we already had nanotechnology. Microchips would count. Hell, we already manipulate bacteria to make things like insulin, clotting factors, and other stuff for us.

Dunno abut microchips but this does (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336285)

Surely the technology inside of this baby [apple.com] qualifies as Nano(TM) technology.

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336451)

I think you answered that for your self they are called "Micro"chips for a reason

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

aniefer (910494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337083)

Microchips may have been at the micro scale when they were first invented, but they've certainly moved down into the nano-scale in the years since then.

Re:Don't we already have it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337441)

But in a sense, they still operate over micro-dimensions.

To be truly considered nanotech (IMO, maybe), it would have to be physically confined to a nanoscale universe.

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

jebrew (1101907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338067)

AMD is fabbing on the 45 nano meter process...or the 4.5 micrometer process if you will. Super small, but not nano yet. I think there are fabs getting down to the 25nm process, but that's still only micro.

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338381)

Metric prefixes change once every factor of 1000. 45nm == .045 micrometers.

Re:Don't we already have it (1)

grep_rocks (1182831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336537)

we already have nanotechnology - it is called molecular biology

Java (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335793)

I'm looking forward to JavaNE. :)

Re:Java (2, Funny)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336157)

You just don't want the garbage collection to go wrong.

Re:Java (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28338097)

If it ever does come to pass, the only ones doing the garbage collection will be humans.

I, for one, am not looking forward to that, those damn robots are messy.
Did you see the mess they made in all those Terminator films? Jeezo guys, calm the beans a little will ya, things cost money to build y'know.

anal sex (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335815)

wooo

5 to 10 years. (1)

locster (1140121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335847)

In short, 5 to 10 years.

Re:5 to 10 years. (3, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335957)

Just around the corner! No, really!

And while I'm at it: many things that are now called 'nanotechnology' were formerly called chemistry or submicrometer fabrication. 'Nano' has become way overhyped and a way to get more money for research proposals.

Re:5 to 10 years. (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336237)

Just around the corner! No, really!

I think the problem with nanotechnology is that people make the assumption that it has to be a miniature self aware all purpose robot.

Where really we already have nanotechnology being used in the real world today.

I think we should call it "nanorobotics" instead of nanotechnology to make it more clear to people.

That said, they do have nanobots out there in the research phase which are very promising for chemical delivery for tumors at this point so we are going to see something in 5 to 10 years.

Re:5 to 10 years. (2, Informative)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336043)

That's pretty optimistic. If you RTFA, they're estimating 20-30 years.

Re:5 to 10 years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336239)

It doesn't matter really. In 5 to 10 years it will be 5 to 10 years away. In 20 to 30 years, it will be 20 to 30 years away.

Re:5 to 10 years. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337107)

Well, you're clearly drawing parallels with claims with AI. I think the difference between Molecular Nanotechnology and Artificial Intelligence is that 40 years ago, people didn't really have an understanding of artificial intelligence or how to achieve it. Or perhaps it's more fair to say that what people really meant by artificial intelligence is artificial consciousness and that the underlying mechanism for consciousness is still not understood. However I think it's getting clearer that it's an emergent property of certain types of extremely complex neural networks. If the electrical/nanotechnological engineers can keep Moore's law going, then we should be able to simulate that level of complexity in another 30-40 years, which would mean that artificial consciousness should be technically feasible by that time, even if it's likely to take some more time to actually achieve it. That's something that was far from true 40 years ago. In addition, fMRI's are now helping us get significant macro-structural insights into the functioning of the human brain. so that we can work both top down and bottom-up to a solution.

Now the thing about molecular nanotechnology is that, unlike with artificial consciousness 40 years ago, we do actually have some idea of the types of mechanisms that we want to achieve. While we do need to develop a lot of tools, and there are some questions about the feasibility of certain activities, there appears to be far fewer major unknowns in the roadmap than there were in AI/AC 40 years ago.

Law of Accelerating Returns... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335903)

"progress is accelerating"
"the exponential trends continue to be exponential"

Like you guys always say, that Kurzweil is such a crank, isn't he?

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (3, Insightful)

vintagepc (1388833) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335985)

(... And circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works.)

We've seen this with so many things, including solar cells - Constant assurance that they are getting cheaper easier to make, more efficient, etc; people ranting about how it is finally feasible and will be seen in mass quantities soon... yet we still don't.
IMHO, it's vaporware until the common Joe is purchasing and holding it in their hands.
That _DOESNT_ mean I don't acknowledge the advances, just that I don't get my hopes up.

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (4, Informative)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336307)

We've seen this with so many things, including solar cells - Constant assurance that they are getting cheaper easier to make, more efficient, etc; people ranting about how it is finally feasible and will be seen in mass quantities soon... yet we still don't.

Maybe you should take a look at these graphs: http://www.frozennorth.org/C197109377/E20080427143258/index.html [frozennorth.org] and http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2008/12/387-world-photovoltaic-pv-production.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336571)

Maybe you should take a look at these graphs: http://www.frozennorth.org/C197109377/E20080427143258/index.html [frozennorth.org]

Interesting graph, that little hook back up starting around 2003 suggests that the drastic increase in oil prices over the last 5 years or so which 'magically' made solar more competitive was enough to actually reduce the rate of efficiency improvements.

I would like to see a graph that also included price per watt for oil too, although I doubt that information (versus watts from the generic "grid" which includes non-oil sources) is easy to get.

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336795)

His point is valid, as solar power is still a very small minority in the production of electricity. I think the parent's point was that we should have nearly free electricity by now, as predicted by "solar innovators" in the past. However, it is encouraging that the price continues to drop and production continues to increase. I'd personally love to use it, but it is still and will continue to be far too expensive for many years to come for someone like me who lives in the upper north.

What I'd really like to see is PV efficiency in the 20-30% range. Then not only would it be viable for home use, but it would mean the solar panel roof of the new Prius could drive the whole car, instead of just the AC.

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (2, Insightful)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337737)

What I'd really like to see is PV efficiency in the 20-30% range. Then not only would it be viable for home use, but it would mean the solar panel roof of the new Prius could drive the whole car, instead of just the AC.

Er, well, no, not really.

Cars use tens of kilowatt hours to get around over the course of a few days. Even with 100% efficiency, the upper surface area of a (normal) (street legal) (meets all US federal safety standards) car isn't big enough to soak up that much sunlight. Now what high(er) efficiency does allow is for the roof of the typical suburban home to power both the entire house underneath it (including overnight, with batteries) plus a car. That's something worth wishing for.

But while we're wishing, you're aiming too low. Let's wish for the 40% to 70% efficient cells we've heard about in labs but that never saw the light of day afterwards. Whatever happened to multi-bandgap or quantum dot solar cells, anyway?

The problem with linear extrapolation (0)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337467)

So, according to that first graph, by the year 2025, they will be paying us to take the solar cells off of their hands? You have to hit an asymptote before then, don't you think? From the graph, it looks like the asymptote might have been reached around 2003.

Re:The problem with linear extrapolation (2, Funny)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337959)

Clearly, you've yet to fathom the mysteries of log-scale plots.

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336721)

We've seen this with so many things, including solar cells - Constant assurance that they are getting cheaper easier to make, more efficient, etc; people ranting about how it is finally feasible and will be seen in mass quantities soon

Have you been living under a rock? Solar cells are flying off the shelves as soon as the manufactures can make them. They are putting them on top of cars (have you seen that Prius commercial?) and cramming them into every other device possible.

It sort of like SSDs as well which are rapidly changing.

Re:Law of Accelerating Returns... (4, Funny)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336661)

"the exponential trends continue to be exponential"

They didn't say that the exponent was necessarily > 1.

Nanoleash (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335947)

"Mites, like viruses, can infect or inoculate people."

At birth you will be infected with government approved nanomites to help regulate your body. I'm betting there will be a built in kill switch in case you become disruptive to the common good.

Re:Nanoleash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336109)

a built in kill switch in case you become disruptive to the common good.

I, for one, welcome our new Nanosocialist overlords...

Re:Nanoleash (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336435)

I know a guy in Hong Kong who can deactivate nanotech kill switches.

Re:Nanoleash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336447)

that sounds a lot like a certain Stargate SG-1 [stargate-s...utions.com] episode...

Re:Nanoleash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336887)

Neuromancer all the way.

Re:Nanoleash (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336449)

At birth you will be infected with government approved nanomites to help regulate your body. I'm betting there will be a built in kill switch in case you become disruptive to the common good.

Until someone stages a coup by hacking the "kill switch" of the entire executive and legislative branches.

Re:Nanoleash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337069)

That's why my son was born at home. ;^)

Seriously, though, it is going to be pretty hard to do something like that. Sure, most Americans do the sheep thing and have their children removed from the mothers at hospitals, often via unnecessary C-section, as well as other unnecessary procedures immediately following birth. But there is a large, possibly growing, minority that don't bother with the whole obgyn or hospital thing.

thoromyr

Ah.. (3, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335953)

Ahh... Nanotechnology.

The next big thing.

Re:Ah.. (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336313)

Nanotechnology is the artificial intelligence of today. Back in the 1970s, we were all promised that real artificial intelligence would someday exist and we'd all have all-in-one robot maids running around doing our dishes and vacuuming our floors and answering the phone, the door, etc. Lots of things, like natural language processing get called AI, but real AI? A real, self-aware robot with a mind? Forget it. A computer is a billion switches. Even if we turned it into a googolplex switches, it's still nothing more than a googolplex switches.

Nanotech is doing the same thing: we have lots of things we're calling 'nanotech' that aren't what we were promised.

Re:Ah.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336413)

A brain is a billion neurons...

Just saying...

Re:Ah.. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336553)

Yes, but there is still much that is not understood about the brain, along with other things that are. Chemicals and their various states, for example, contribute much to brain function, perhaps even more so than the neurons themselves. So, it's a billion neurons, but that's not ALL it is.

Re:Ah.. (5, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336671)

A computer is a billion switches. Even if we turned it into a googolplex switches, it's still nothing more than a googolplex switches.

Our brains are nothing but billions upon billions of neurons, synapses, etc. forming complex interconnections.. yes, any first generation intelligent AI would have to be created by humans, but if we exactly modelled a human brain in software and trained it like any other child (it would probably need the aid of a prosthetic or virtual body to be able to learn), what would really make the resulting AI different from ourselves if it reacted as we do? I know it's a big if, and that there probably isn't much point in creating an AI that has human flaws - but there is nothing in life to indicate that we are anything other than purely physical constructs. Otherwise, why bother with having bodies in the first place - unless perhaps our bodies are as to the soul as cars and aeroplanes are to humans?

Re:Ah.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337631)

There'd be one monumental difference (if I'm correct) though... the AI would be able to 'think' and compute a LOT faster than a normal human. I can't remember where I've heard it, but impulses travelling through the nervous system or around the brain go at whatever speed, but connections over copper wire are a lot faster.

Again, can't remember where I read this, or what the specific numbers are... but if said AI is able to compute at say... 10 times the speed as a human brain for the sake of argument, then one could reason that it would be capable of 'growing up' at 10 times the speed, and learning 10 times as much in the same period of time.

Re:Ah.. (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338299)

It is unlikely that the neurons will be microchips, connected by copper wires. A more reasonable prophecy is that the neurons are simulated by software, and a single impulse between two neurons will not be a single electrical signal, but quite a number (storing a number in memory, accessing the number, etc...). Perhaps someone more into mips and flops than me could crunch the numbers.

Re:Ah.. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338325)

Our brains are nothing but billions upon billions of neurons, synapses, etc. forming complex interconnections..

No, they aren't. [geekwithlaptop.com] \

This may be true if we were robots but we are not, well some of us arenâ(TM)t anyway. Seriously though, the notion that our brain is like a computer is far from the truth. Yes the early computer models were based on what was known about the brain at the time but even if you combined the power of all the computers in the world they would never match the capacity of just one human brain.

Re:Ah.. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338615)

A computer is a billion switches.

And a brain is a hundred billion somewhat more complex (but the basic mechanism is fairly well-understood) switches. What's your point?

"Star Trek replicators" (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335963)

weren't the replicators from stargate and not from star trek? don't mind me if I'm wrong, I've just memorized every single stargate episode...

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336019)

IIRC, Star Trek replicators created food and stuff.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (2, Informative)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336027)

Star Trek had replicators too, but they were stationary units that 'replicated' various physical objects/materials that a crew member might need. They were commonly seen in the dining areas where one could order whatever form of food or drink the computer had stored the recipes for. It would convert pure energy into matter of the right specification. After a person was done with their utensils and/or dishes they would put them in a special spot to be reclaimed into energy later.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337425)

iirc the replicators in Star Trek were based on teleporters. they would take the waste organic materials that have been stored in the ship and recycle them into anything that there was the pattern in the system for. Basically taking the disorganized waste matter and reorganizing it into food and other stuff that would eventually become waste and then reorganized

Replicators [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

chebucto (992517) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336061)

I can't speak to stargate, but I do know that replicators are in star trek. They first showed up in The Next Generation, which began in 1987.

In the show, they were usually used to make food, but could also be used to make anything anyone could dream up (they had some excuse re: why they couldn't just replicate starships, I forget what it was). They could also disassembled the dishes and scraps when someone was done, too.

I believe they were supposed to work by using transporter-like technology to assemble, atom-by-atom, the item requested. Presumably the raw materials were stored in some hold on the ship.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336081)

I believe that in Stargate it would be Replicators, an alien race (hence the capitalization just like Vulcans not vulcans). Star Trek had replicators that produced all kinds of things on command (most frequently food stuff). However, Star Trek replicators were based on transporter technology so they were not in any way related to nanotech.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

Grr (15821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336121)

The replicators from star trek are machines that produce items from raw matter. Much like the matter compilers from Neal Stephenson's diamond age they would probably operate using nanotechnology.
The replicators from stargate seem to be self replicating robots. Not sure what they have to do with nanotechnology. You probably know better than me since I never managed to watch a whole episode.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336323)

Replicators in Stargate were little spider robots that were like a combination of Lego and the T-1000 that consumed metal and turned it into more Blocks that formed more spider robots and so on.
They then 'evolved' into humanoids that were just the T-1000 (impervious to bullets, remorphed themselves if deformed etc)

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336517)

actually, no. Those "spider robots" were actually based on nano technology. And the humanoid replicators built by them were based on smaller nano units. And in stargate atlantis, you can see another replicator race also based in nanotechnology. They don't have any "spider robots" as you called them, but were fully nanite based.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336603)

Replicators [wikipedia.org]

"the most commonly encountered shape is a small "bug" with four limbs and "wings" on its back. The bug can upgrade itself into a larger "queen" to facilitate replication."

They were very similar to spiders. so yes, they were originally spider robots.

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336159)

Replicator technology, not Replicators (tm) the race of sentient replicating... wait a dag gun moment...

Wesley crusher created self-aware Nanites that nearly destroyed the enterprise. Did he let them loose in the Pegasus galaxy to later be known as Replicators???

Re:"Star Trek replicators" (4, Funny)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336283)

Wait, are you telling me Wesley Crusher ruined two TV series?

Mod parent "hilarious +10" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336617)

I had a good chuckle.

"Yeah i'll have a cheese pizza with pepperoni"
"Do you want metal-burning acid on your face with that?" PFFTTZZZ
"AAH, THANK YOU REPLICATOR OVERLORDS"

"Real" nanotechnology is already there (5, Interesting)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335999)

This [cycho.org] is a cross section of the pmos transistors in one of Intels 45nm high-k metal gate CPUs. As you can see there are many layers with a horizontal and lateral extend far below 10 nm. In fact the thinnest layers are in the order of 1-2nm - The gate stack itself consists of a multilayer stack of SiO2/HfO2/TiN, where each of the layers is only 1-3 nm thick.

How is this not nanotechnology?

Most of the known bottom up approaches that are hyped and studied at universities, such as nanoparticles and nanowires, lead to significantly larger structures.

Top down beat bottom up years ago. Sorry guys, it's a nice phd topic but the industry is already there.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336315)

Also we use bacteria and viruses to do our bidding. "Nanotech" is just another buzz word to get people hyped up.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336327)

Viruses and especially bacteria are huuge compared to microchips.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336345)

well, not compared to entire chips, but single transistors.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336531)

On the other hand, the goo growing in your bathroom sink, notably without the benefit of a 10+billion dollar fab and cleanroom conditions, is pumping out structures that small more or less continually. Top down is, indeed, beating bottom up in the limited realm of what we know how to do; but bottom up has been kicking ass everywhere else since not so long after the planet cooled a bit.

Bottom-up assembly is certainly a long-term basic research type project(unless you count the sort of temperature and composition control tricks that metallurgists have been using to produce desired crystal structures for centuries, among other things); but it is ultimately a very desirable skill to pick up. As long as we have to fab them top down, nanotech materials are going to be confined to niche applications(Sure, semiconductors are common; but compared to concrete and steel?)

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338417)

Top down, bottom up. I like my nanotechnology research like I like my women.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (4, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338541)

I like my nanotechnology research like I like my women.

Fictional?

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (4, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336697)

True, we are already building electronic components at nanometer scales. But when people talk about nanotechnology, they are usually thinking of mechanical devices built from nanometer scale components, or larger structures which exhibit new properties based on manufactured, nanometer scale features.

The industry for these applications has hardly even begun.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (5, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336771)

The achievements of the lithography industry are absolutely stunning. And if you want to call them a branch of nanotechnology, that's fine too.

But they have not achieved the holy grail of nanotechnology, and the tricks of lithography never will. The holy grail is atomic-level precision; not just in restricted circumstances (e.g. single atomic layers under some constraints), but in the general case. As in, you draw in some CAD program an arbitrary (within physical law) device wherein each atom is specified... and then you get it built. Lithography cannot do this. Synthetic chemistry can do this for a subset of chemical compounds, but can't tackle the general case and certainly can't currently make arbitrary nano-devices with atomic-level precision. You're right that bottom-up approaches like self-assembly [wikipedia.org] also can't currently do this (they are more of a way to assembly precise sub-units into larger assemblies).

This final "true" nanotechnology (Drexler now calls it "molecular nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] " to differentiate it) won't be easy, and may very well require a delicate combination of everything we've learned from of top-down techniques (e.g. lithography) and bottom-up techniques (e.g. synthetic chemistry, self-assembly). Or maybe it require radically new thinking. The point is we don't yet know, so to say that "top down beat bottom up years ago" really misses the point: molecular nanotechnology has not yet been acheived.

In the meantime, our current tricks all have their uses (lithography is great for, e.g. making microchips... whereas self-assembly is great for making, e.g. coatings for pharmaceuticals and fuel-cell membranes).

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (2)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338351)

Generally agreed. But I'd like to point out the semiconductor manufacturing uses several "nanotechnology" methods besides lithography. For example the high-k deposition employs an atomic layer deposition process (ALD), that allows precise control of film thicknesses down to tenths of a monolayer. This is achieved by surface limited reactions, very similar to many techniques within the realm of "self-assembly" or bottom-up.

Having an "assembler" on the atomic level would of course be a long time goal. However it is very likely that this is not possible. Atomic interactions simply do not allow for arbitrary combinations of individual atoms.

Re:"Real" nanotechnology is already there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337573)

The difference is that in current tech, design and assembly are not precise at the atomic level.

When do we all get to be skinny and beautiful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336003)

Forget all that other stuff - where's the nano-bots that we can inject into fatty tissue, to deconstruct fat and make everyone gorgeous?

nanotechnology has the unique attribute (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336015)

that, unlike all other fields of technological innovation, when one speaks of vaporware, one might actually be talking about some sort of useful hardware that literally is a vapor

so nanotechnology has at least that going for it

Re:nanotechnology has the unique attribute (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336761)

So what do we call it when a nanotech company announces that are going to release some amazing new vaporware soon, but they have no proof and no demo yet? Vacuumware? Dukenukemware?

just like high-T_C superconductivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336017)

just like high-T_C superconductivity, nanotech will change everything, any day now

I can't wait (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336151)

I can't wait for that fantastic grey goo I'm always hearing about!

Bring it on, Mr. Ellison!

Re:I can't wait (2, Funny)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336247)

You don't have to wait....

Re:I can't wait (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336369)

Bring it on, Mr. Ellison!

You're asking for Larry's grey goo?
Ewww... -1 Inappropriate

How much money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336213)

Boy I hope this funding is in the 4-digits or less. Does Sun have better things to spend money on? I think so.

That's Stargate, not Star Trek (1, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336263)

Star Trek has the "cool" sci-fi thing, whereas a lot of people rip Star Gate, but I think the nano-tech future given by the likes of the Replicators are where this nano stuff is headed.

The single greatest shortcoming in human science is its failure to understand outcomes of complex, dynamic systems, and here we are going to make exactly that.

Doesn't get any dumber than that!

Re:That's Stargate, not Star Trek (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336355)

Why do people who like Sci-fi not watch any of the classics any more?
I enjoyed Stargate and I enjoyed Star trek.

Why do people who've never seen Star Trek assume that the summary is wrong? Are we REALLY that disillusioned by the editors or is this just classic /. troll behaviour?

Re:That's Stargate, not Star Trek (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336745)

I find it difficult to believe there would be people posting here, of all sites, who have never seen Star Trek. Go back to 4chan where you belong.

Check you pattern buffers! (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337559)

Why do people who've never seen Star Trek assume that the summary is wrong? Are we REALLY that disillusioned by the editors or is this just classic /. troll behaviour?

You need to check your pattern buffers!

Replicators in Star Trek had absolutely nothing to do with nano technology. Replicated things did not self assemble from molecular machines as much as they were broadcast into existence via a huge energy to matter transmitter.

My real point though, was that everyone is building stuff for the future because Star Trek is so wonderful, but, of all ironies, Stargate actually had the best example of nano-tech going wrong, in its Replicators. The Replicators were nano-beings that were created to fight some other bad guys... anyway, it didn't work out the way the nano-inventors had planned and the Replicators were actually some of the worst, most evil, villians in the universe of sci-fi.

Unlike Galactica's Cylons, the Replicators never sissied out... "Nice Centurions" at the end of Galactica. The Replicators would have NONE of that!

Re:That's Stargate, not Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336575)

Honestly,

It only took 3 seconds in google [google.com] to check to see if Star Trek had replicators.

You missed the point. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337481)

If we are going to be so gayly pedantic about it, I should point out that replicators were an offshoot of an energy to matter conversion via a complex wave generator managed by a pattern buffer!

Replication had nothing to do with nano-technology. There was no self assembly and that is the essence of nano-technology. The only real nano-tech in trek was 7 of 9's "nano probes"... and boy would I'd have liked to have given her a "mano probe.."

But of course Star Trek had replicators. Replicators were alluded to in the first Star Trek TOS and were made explicit in the TNG, although the TOS movies did have a kitchen scene and I think the TOS alluded to a galley every now and then. In any case, by TNG, the replicator as we know it was here to stay and it was more of a plot problem than breathtaking sci-fi...every time they had an episode where the Enterprise needed something, you always were left wondering.... uh, what about the replicators.

For example, the episode where Worf gets paralyzed was just terrible. I mean, yeah they played the Alex heart strings pretty well, but, if you kept your wits about you, you would ask, why couldn't they just replicate a new Worf spine and pop it in? If the replicator is capable of making real food, like something as organically complex as tea, earl grey, then, it ought to be able to crank out some walking for Worf. Or, look at Data... there was always something goofy or unique about Data, but, why couldn't they replicate him? You could just have an away team where Data gets beamed down, killed, and then you make another Data... For that matter, you could do that with people too.

But I digress.

The real point is that Star Trek always espoused a happy view of technology, particularly when it comes to nanotech. When I ripped Star Trek in the original post, the deal was that I was lamenting that so many people want to make the world like Star Trek... I have to admit, I'm caught up in it. But I think that one thing that is cool about Stargate is that it did have a pretty dark vision of evil nanodudes running around. I know that Star Trek's Borg bugged people, but man, the Stargate Replicators just really gave me the heebie jeebies. Self assembling molecular dudes coming to blow up your planet, that's some rough stuff. Let's not build those Replicators, that's what I'm saying.

nanotech is proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336281)

that most scientists these days are 99% PT Barnum, 1% scientist.

I was watching this show called "The Universe" the other day, and they had all these cosmologists on. Ha! "Cosmologists". I'd be embarrassed to call myself a cosmologist. Everything they know right now is going to be considered wrong in 10 years!

"Science", my fanny.

Re:nanotech is proof (4, Insightful)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336815)

Science is always changing, always evolving, because we are always learning (some of us anyway). If you expect science to be exactly the same in 10 years, you have a fundamental misconception of how science works. In fact, science not only does change, it must, otherwise it becomes more dogmatic garbage the world has too much of anyway. Don't mistake your lack of comprehension for the fallibility of science.

All this... (2, Informative)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336297)

All this and they still can't make a coffee pot that can brew an entire 12 cup pot in under 60 seconds without burning the coffee.

Seriously can we get some important technology invented to make our lives easier.

For instance can I get a roomba retrofitted to water my lawn for me? For under $200 bucks?

How about some color changing siding that doesn't bust every time a golf-ball sized piece of hail hits it for less then cement siding.

Self cleaning ceiling fan blades would be nice too...

Self milking cows?

A dog poop scooper that gets under the poop without ripping up the grass...

Yeah! super hard mini-rods. That will make my toast toast faster....

ZZzzz...

Where is my poorly done art-deco nuclear powered car that conspicuously blows up after being abandoned for over 200 years and subsequently shot. Oddly this car will also smoke and burst into flames before blowing up... What the hell is burning in it? After 200 years there isn't going to be any upolhstry left....

Where was I? Who the hell are you people and how did you get on my series of tubes!?!?

Deborah where are my pills?!

Re:All this... (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336561)

I'm not sure who or what you are parodying, but I like it.

Re:All this... (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337143)

The car is a reference to Fallout 3. When you shoot the 200+ year old nuclear powered car it starts on fire (it's all metal, what exactly is burning?!) then explodes into a mini-nuke.

Re:All this... (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337653)

Well, from a theoretical standpoint it could be the metal itself burning (oxidized metal heated by a run-away nuclear reaction? Think thermite)

Re:All this... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336645)

Self milking cows?

I know you are being humorous, but they featured a self milking cow turnstyle on "Dirty Jobs". Cows would walk on this slowly turning merry go round and a robot would attach milking devices to them and they would ride around to the other side of the room where it would let them off when they are finished.

Apparently the cows liked it and pretty much knew what to do to get on and off the platform.

Mike still had to clean the poo which no one had built a robot to clean up.

Nano tech road map. (1)

Odinson (4523) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336527)

What's next after nano materials? [thickertha...hebook.com] Radical shifts in government and society. Comments welcome.

Membrane technology already there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336631)

Well membrane technology could apply as nanotechnology. Certain membranes on the market can sieve protiens or even seperate ions.

The scale of the pores is in the angstrom region.

Idiotechnocracy (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337265)

Feynman's "Plenty of Room at the Bottom [wikipedia.org] " drew specific distinctions between chemistry and nanotechnology. The embarrassing lack of advancement in nanotechnology has been filled in by redefining it to include chemistry.

If Nanotech is scale closer to nm than um (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337333)

If you define nanotech as technology of scale closer to a nanometer than a micrometer, ie less than 30 nm, then we are one chip fabrication generation away from it at the moment.

As was pointed out above, the thickness of some semiconductor layers already is down in the couple of nm range, the 30nm I refer to is the length and width of features.

Molecular Nanotechnology (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337863)

Whatever things people may like to call "nanotechnology," there is really only one important distinction. Can we assemble atoms in any desired configuration? That is what is commonly termed molecular nanotechnology, and it is what most people originally meant.

Once this and fusion are out of the way, life will start to get very interesting; the foundation of our economic systems will become irrelevant as scarcity will cease to be a useful concept.

how about interviewing some real nanotechnologists (4, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338047)

The goals they're putting out for nanotechnology are generally real and reasonable (more efficient energy conversion, more targeted drug delivery, better chemical sensors, integration of biological and electronic systems). What is unreasonable is that they're essentially getting credit in the media (and in form of investments) for work which they have not done.

None of these guys has worked in a nanotechnology lab. None of these guys has tried to build something starting from atoms. I'm doing both. I work at an Ivy League University in a leading lab for some of the technologies prominently mentioned in that article, but I barely have funding just for this summer. The guy who invented the DNA origami work they're so excited about was recently fired by his University (did not get tenure). A little more support, both in the media and by the companies funding the Forsight Institute, would be really, really welcomed by those of us actually doing the work.

The MIT Media lab is great, but they're not known in the field for being experts on nanotechnology. Not mentioned is the world's best collection of nanotechnology researchers, which happens to also be at MIT, in the physics and engineering departments. If you're at MIT and you want to have a future in nanotechnology, forget the Media Lab, and find one of the professors working with Gene and Mildred Dresselhaus.

Nano is old hat (1)

jebrew (1101907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338113)

Forget nano, my 4 year old processor was created using a 9000 femtometer process!

Drexler helped lead the roadmap project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28338219)

It's about accelerating "real nanotechnology", and lab nanotech is already building the technology base. US National Labs hosted the project. Sorry, no nanobots.

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