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43 comments

Oh god (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38900821)

That's it, we're doomed!

Re:Oh god (3, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38900853)

That's it, we're doomed!

Yeah, whew! I thought it said "Nanodroids" too.

Re:Oh god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901571)

Apple would never allow that to exist.

N B 4 (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38900833)

in before grey goo

Old (5, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 2 years ago | (#38900939)

I've been turning a nanorod into a three dimensional structure for years.

Haven't yet worked out how to make it visible to the naked eye, though.

Re:Old (2, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38900993)

Haven't yet worked out how to make it visible to the naked eye, though.

That's what she said!

no worries (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901065)

hope they'll run out of IP addresses before they run over the world :D

Oh the irony ... that's not irony (2)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901177)

The one story where that xkcd spam bot could have been even vaguely relevant, and it doesn't post.

Self-anything materials (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901103)

They scare me. Not because the gray goo idea, but because I can't help but think that it could really be a problem to stabilize them once they're in the desired shape/structure. If their curing is chemical, and we do get to see some great materials, couldn't their "self-stuff" functions be triggered once they're in place inside our objects ? I RTFA, but yeah, IANAC.

OTOH, it would be cool if these materials were easier to recycle, maybe at room temperature.

Re:Self-anything materials (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901939)

It sounds to me like they are stable once removed from the substrate. They talk about using "energenic contributions" (?) to guide the assembly process. So even if it were possible to trigger self-assembly mechanism outside that environment, you'd have to re-energize them in a similar fashion, or you'd just get some random clumping of ... junk.

Re:Self-anything materials (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902241)

Could be wrong, but I do believe that was exactly the GP's concern... Say you (eventually) use this to construct a building -- having someone able to bath part of the substructure in a chemical and have it suddenly start un-structuring itself would be disastrous.

That said, I'm inclined to say the GP's concern is largely moot, people can already use chemicals to destroy buildings...

We are Doomed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901171)

Can't wait till they pit these buggers into vaccines for kids with gps tracking chips.

But does it come with a cool yell? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901197)

What good is this if there's no cool yell to go with it?

Nanoroooodsss.... Assssssemble!!!

And yet they can't mass product them? (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901275)

What's so odd about these self assembly claims is that while they do that to some extent it's rarely very reliable or significant.

Several industries want this material for use in products but they can't get the tons of the stuff required to actually go into production.

Why use carbon fiber when we can make nanotubes that are many times as strong when weaved appropriately? Well... because no one can get their hands on enough of it to bother making anything.

It's very frustrating.

I'm sure they'll crack the problem eventually, but until then I'm taking these reports with a grain of salt until I see them going into industrial production.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901341)

This is brand new and it takes YEARS for any tech which only exists in the lab to reach commercial applications. While I agree any new thing like this has to be taken with a grain of salt, you shouldn't immediately disregard it either.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (3, Insightful)

Courageous (228506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901653)

As a technology forecaster, I can personally attest to the strategy of "taking these reports with a grain of salt until I see them going into industrial production" is quite wise. While the sheer volume of work going on in nanomaterials suggests quite strongly that interesting nanomaterial innovations are in our future, the specific innovations are gated quite firmly by commercial production problems that for some specific innovations may never materialize at all.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

koxkoxkox (879667) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901737)

Do not forget health consequences. I am OK with waiting some more and have time to check that we are not creating the next asbestos ...

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1, Informative)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901985)

Oh please don't bring up that joke all over again.

That stuff has to be the most over-hyped medical hazard in US history.

Also... its likely that removing it from the space shuttle is why started to become too hazardous to fly. They were initially designed to use asbestos between the panels and the structure. That was removed and replaced with something less effective.

Anyway... this sort of material isn't something you waste putting everywhere. It's something you use when nothing else will get the job done.

We also desperately need a replacement for asbestos that is cost effective and at least as good at containing heat.

I'm tired of environmental and health concerns forcing us BACK in time. Nuclear power plants are being shut down and there is nothing to replace them but coal. Coal is being shut down and there is nothing to replace them but hydro power. Many of the wonder materials we've discovered over the years have health concerns and so we ban them and replace them with inferior substitutes.

Right now the State of California in which I live is trying to build a "high speed rail" system from Los Angeles to San Francisco which will be SLOWER then an airplane, cost more then an airplane, and go to fewer places then an airplane. Does that stop them from building it even with the state going broke?

Not long ago we had a big solar power plant we were building shut down because it infringed on the habitat of a local lizard. I mean... are you f'ing kidding me? There is no where on earth you can build where something like that won't happen. So by that genius logic we can never build anything ever again anywhere.

Sorry I'm ranting here... I'm annoyed by all the Luddites.

Know what the first person to discover fire said?

Ouch.

Imagine if some group of jackasses at the time had said "oh fire is dangerous, you shouldn't use that. And it's a threat to the environment. And the smoke will give people cancer... etc"... If the alternative is worse then it doesn't matter.

Fire for all it's threats will keep you warm. It will cook your food. It will clear land. It will keep most dangerous predators away. Fire is awesome.

Likewise, there are a lot of technologies and materials and forces that have negative effects. But if we're careful about it and the pros outweigh the cons then we should do it.

Lets say a few thousand people in the US get cancer every year as result of asbestos exposure. Bad right? Okay, what if in the process we save a few tens of thousands of people from burning to death?

Choices. Now if I can get the best of both worlds, fine. But if I have to let tens of thousands die to save a few thousand then that's stupid.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

number6x (626555) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902527)

just curious....

Slower than an airplane sure, but slower than air travel? Is it still slower if you add the time to check in at the airport, get x-rayed, manhandled, board, retrieve luggage, etc. ?

I don't have good estimates on travelling with luggage by train, but medium distance commuting by train on the east coast (ie manhattan to D.C.) is usually about the same time as air travel. The manhattan to DC fight is about 1 hour but travel time is between 4 and 5 hours adding the stuff at the airports. The acella train is 3 hours and the regular runs are 3.5 hours. Total train travel is usually 4 to 4.5 hours

The train costs more, but is much less hassle. Orders of magnitude less.

Bus is a little longer, but incredibly cheap.

Distances between population centers, and population density of those centers are different out West, so I'm curious about the hassle at airports. If air travel is low hassle, the train will offer no benefits whatsoever. Except for companies that have contracts to get paid tax dollars to do stuff. That could be the deciding factor.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903083)

As to airplane versus airtravel... Yep... both.

First, the train isn't going straight from LA to SF. That would take it through park land and mountains. If we were really serious about a train them we'd do what the Swiss did when they wanted a train... Tunnel through. There are many such tunnels in the Rocky Mountains. Only way to get a freeway through them in many cases is to tunnel. Anyway, this train won't be doing any of that for a few reasons. One, it would spoil the area in the opinion of some. Cali has some of the most extreme NIYBism you'll find anywhere in the world. Second, it would make the whole thing more expensive and the cost of the project without doing this has already TRIPLED. If we then tunneled it would probably take the tripled costs and quadruple them. Third, there are no population centers in that area. They do actually want the train to be able to stop somewhere besides LA and SF. But if it goes through the mountains then that will be about it. Etc.

Second, the train is going to stop at various places along the way. Stopping means decelerating, not moving for a while, and then accelerating. That process radically slows the total travel time of the train. A plane from LA to SF does not stop.

Third, the check in process for domestic flights from LA to SF is not a big deal. The biggest problem is the security and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't have a security scan on the high speed train. I don't know if it will be as extreme but it's likely to be annoying.

Oh and because you're apparently waving on this issue. The ticket price for the train is between 60-70 USD for one way. Airplanes are 50 dollars one way. And that's not counting the cost of building the track or maintaining the track. That's just what it costs to run the train. And worse still that price assumes 60 million passengers a year. Want to guess how often government projections are accurate about things like this? Expect the figures to be off by about 30 percent at least which means either the ticket price will have to go up by 30 percent or more likely the train will have to be further subsidized by the government.

The whole plan is idiotic. And I don't mind stupid plans. My problem is with the government enacting a stupid plan with my money. If some private collection of investors want to get together and build this thing then have fun. It's their money to waste. But they're effectively beggaring the richest state in the union for nothing and tying future generations to continue to maintain the tracks if only to disguise the fact that it was all a massive waste.

As to Manhattan to DC... that's a much shorter distance between SF and LA. And you have a direct line between both places and there isn't a mountain range between the two cities.

The real problem in any case is that airport security is too slow. Building a train doesn't solve that problem. What happens if a terrorist blows himself up on a train. Then they'll ask you to take your shoes off before getting on the train and whatever speed benefits you think you got are gone. Its all about the security gate. And in any case, there's no way any islamic terrorist is going to take over a US plane probably for the next 30 years or ever again. The reality is that the pilots on those planes LET the terrorists have control because they thought the worst that would happen is that the plane would fly to some foreign airport, there would be some sort of hostage negotiation, everyone would eat pizza brought in, and everyone would be released before or after the terrorists were shot in the head by snipers. Instead, the planes were flown into the sides of buildings. No pilot is going to surrender the cockpit under those terms and the passengers likewise won't submit to terrorists with box cutters. What made 9/11 work was that no one knew what the terrorists were going to do with control of the plane. That had never been done before. The fourth plane didn't crash into the white house because the passengers were informed by cell phone that the first two planes had crashed into the world trade center buildings. The instant the passengers knew that they over powered the hijackers and the plane crashed in a field. THAT is what keeps our planes safe now. Not the air marshal. Not the security scan. Not the background checks. Passengers and aircrew that will fight to the death rather then give up control of the plane. Everything else after that is just security theater.

As to airports being too busy, there are other airports. It would be a LOT cheaper to just build two more airports. One in LA and one SF that just fly between each other. No international travelers. Nothing but commuters between the cities. No need to lay or maintain track. And the airplanes could be bought for much less then the cost of these high speed trains while being cheaper to maintain and more effective. Seriously... consider a specialized airport that just connects two cities and does nothing else. How bad would the congestion be there? It would probably be easy as piss to get from one city to other. Much faster then the train and probably faster then using the big international airports.

As to trains being less hassle. Are you willing to spend 50 percent more on a ticket to take a mode of transport that is probably 30 percent slower? Most people won't.

As to buses, the bus from LA to SF is 45 dollars and air travel is 50. And the bus is a 12 hour bus ride. You'd have to be crazy to choose the bus over the plane in that context. Buses make sense for short distances or to go to places that don't have airports. But that's it. Ever heard the saying "time is money"... well the longer a trip takes the more it tends to cost. Per hour a plane is expensive but it's so fast that it tends to be cheaper then other forms of transport.

The only situation where planes become more expensive is when you're dealing with bulk cargo. High speed trains are the worst type of trains. Freight trains are great. That's how you run a train. BIG cargo. Same thing with container ships. The bigger the better. Trains a mile long traveling at between 50 and 80 mph. Container ships able to supply a whole state with a year's supply of tennis shoes steaming along at 30 mph.

High speed rail MIGHT make sense if you could get the passenger capacity WAAAAY up. But the numbers at which it starts making sense are not something you'll see outside of China or India. You just need absurd numbers of people before trains start making sense.

And that ignores the fact that we don't have that many people commuting between LA and SF on a daily basis. Both cities have different economies. LA is more industrial and media heavy where as SF is... trust funds and dot com companies. There is significant traffic between the cities but it's not to the point where you'd want such a train.

As to the reason they did this...

I'm guessing it's a union pay off. The joke of course is that the construction unions don't have the skills to build this train so they're basically getting paid to show up and drink beer while imported labor mostly from europe and asia actually does the work.

It's incredibly stupid.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901813)

I admit I did not read the article, but that's what /. comments for, right?

Question: "while they do that to some extent it's rarely very reliable or significant". How does this compare with more ordinary self-assembly of crystals from low-molecular weight units (like NaCl, etc)?

Also, protein crystallographers were making crystals from quite large proteins since 1959, how do sizes compare? (I truly don't have any shame, may be I will read it myself after sending this)

I am always intersted in what is really new in research, not just TIL part. The delta from previous cutting edge, not from my ignoramus state.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902385)

I'd just be more interested in this sort of thing if they ever made something actually useful.

We've been hearing about this technology for years now. It should be finding its way into fabrication.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38905493)

It's a running joke in Russian social networks about special feelings that Putin and Medvedev have towards nanotechnology and all things nano-, punchline being of course that it's yet another way to embezzle state budget.

Re:And yet they can't mass product them? (2)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902225)

Well even carbon fiber products like Kevlar are still higher than crap. If you want it really strong you have to put the panel in a press mold and then into an autoclave for hours.

We do need the car companies to start spending some money on how to press out lightweight and strong structures that can be made as cheap as steel. It's simple power to weight. The vehicles and the batteries need to get lighter, if we are going to see a bunch of battery powered cars everywhere or maybe the highway department could have a mass project to put induction wires under the roads. The battery could be a lot lighter then.

But like everyone else has said, not much of this nano stuff has made it to market except in some high priced bullet resistant vest that may or may not be stronger than Kevlar or Spectra. If we could just make a long enough nano fiber, then it can be woven and made into things. An inch or two is all the length I have seen for sale and you can't buy a lot for any price.

One dimensional?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38901739)

WTF is a 1 or 2d structure?!? How is that even possible, it doesn't make any sense...

Re:One dimensional?!? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903525)

they only mean having a pattern that extends and repeats in 1 or 2 dimensions, not growing into the 2nd or 3rd. this is regardless of fact it is of course made of three dimensional components.

similarity to protein synthesis (3, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901851)

mRNA = "varying .. morphology of the block copolymers "
aminoacids = nanorods

Sans ribosome.

So easy (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901865)

These energetic contributions can be easily tuned by varying the supramolecular morphology, which is accomplished simply by attaching different types of small molecules to the side chains of the block copolymers.

Sounds so easy! Why didn't I think of that?

two- and even three-dimensional macroscopic struct (2)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38901929)

"two- and even three-dimensional macroscopic structures" = different types of uniform glass-like structures with different pattern of near-order.

Another sophisticated supernanomonomers that can do that is hydrogen dioxide and carbon. Except environmental conditions (temperature, etc) here they use a chemical agent (block copolymer)

Can anybody explain what the big deal is?

Re:two- and even three-dimensional macroscopic str (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902891)

They are making two-dimensional structures out of three-dimensional objects. Clearly they've found a way to shave it down to an infintesimally thin sheet that isn't torn to shreds by any three-dimensional objects passing through it.

Yeah, sure... (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903913)

Widgets that build things out of themselves. What could possibly go wrong? Just tell me that they're working on a "disassembler ray" gizmo too.

that's nothing,... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903995)

The Republican party already developed self-organizing nimrods years ago.

Active paint (1)

tylorsama (1876308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38910575)

We've got a lot of confusion here. If I'm interpreting their work correctly, it's a precursor technology required for industrial production of active paint. The first application to be targeted would be paint-on solar cells, followed fairly quickly by paints that change colors with the flip of a switch, and culminating in paint-on displays. The same technology would apply to textiles as well, making those color changing video clothes from the sci-fi films. Not the self-cleaning ones though. Self-cleaning nanoparticles would etch their polymers fairly quickly. I am a chemist, though I'm not intimately familiar with Dr. Ting Xu's work or motivations.
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