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Nano-trains in New Scientist

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the one-step-closer dept.

Science 26

The Evil Dwarf from Hell writes "New Scientist has a very interesting article on Nano-trains. The researcher built the tracks out of microtubles in cow neurons with the motors of kinesin running on fuel of ATP. " OK, next I need a nano-train that speeds up the flow of my neuropeptides across the synaptic cleft. Then I'm set-or starting on a whole new set of things.

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Cool.... (1)

_Spirit (23983) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847000)

Looks pretty cool. Where would they get the miniature traindrivers ?

Science never ceases to amaze me. The only thing I don't understand is how they would assemble whatever they are building.

Message on our company Intranet:
"You have a sticker in your private area"

MS obsession (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1847001)


I have a question - why is it that /. posters feel an immense need to drag MS into every single topic?

Nanotech doesn't have anything to do with MS, even remotely, and yet a good % of the posters can't keep their attention span on the theme for the few minutes it takes to write, before losing control and ranting on about how stupid MS software is and how evil they are (with numerous clever spellings using $ signs and hilarious remarks at how unstable it is).

After it's been repeated a few hundred times, it does get a little tiresome. Give it a rest, please. We don't need to be reminded of it every 1/5 post, esp. since I only use linux and don't see any context-relevant stuff.

Tattoo it on your chest. Go see a shrink. But don't keep yapping the same tiresome thing over and over.

Non-Stick Cow Goes off the Rails... (1)

z1lch (35931) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847002)

Vogel has discovered the perfect combination: Teflon and cow brains. Her trains are made from fragments of microtubules, protein filaments one thousandth the diameter of a human hair that crisscross the inside of nerve cells-- including those in cow brains. Slice these filaments into minute segments, drop them onto thin Teflon tracks and the tiny trains race off.

Gee, hope she didn't get any mad cow disease inflicted bovines volunteering for the job.

Othwerwise we'll literally be driven off the nano-rails.

Re:Non-Stick Cow Goes off the Rails... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1847003)

geez z1lch, hope this gets moderated down...

talk about a rude awakening tomorrow morning...

--
cryms0n

Re:The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1847004)

Fortunately there is a lot of work going on in this area. Have a look at the subsumption architectures they are working on at MIT (No URL I'm afraid). Its for macro scale robots but the principle of build behaviour from a hierachy of simpler behaviours will still apply.

BigTom (who still cannot remember his password)

Top X Things You Could Do If You Were Nanosized (1)

RimRod (57834) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847005)

1) Fight Mini Me on equal footing.

2) Swim around (without showering) in Bill Gates' morning cup of coffee.

3) Freak out your coworkers by being the bug in their program.

4) Get lost under the CAPS LOCK key of an experienced programmer, thereby hiding safely for years on end.

5) Still inside people's keyboards, rewire them permanently from the inside to be in DVORAK mode.

6) Build a gigantic mansion in the vast expanse of land that is Jennifer Love-Hewitt's cleavage.

7) Be a mosquito that torments Tinker Bell at Peter Pan productions.

8) Beat up bacteria and take their lunch money.

Re:Cool.... (1)

Raphael (18701) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847006)

Looks pretty cool. Where would they get the miniature traindrivers ?

I have been wondering about that too. Not about little men driving these trains, but about how such a system could be told to do complex tasks involving stopping and starting trains, changing tracks, telling the trains to drop their load, synchronizing trains, etc. This should not be too hard with a small number of trains (well, if you consider that building these trains is "simple"), but controlling thousands of these trains on the same surface would be a nightmare.

It would probably be necessary to have some kind of electronic circuits controlling the trains or the tracks. Maybe it could be possible to build a control grid under the glass layer? Of course that grid would have to be built by a previous generation of nano-machines...

Re:nano technology (1)

Kuroyi (211) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847007)

Strangely, that reminds me of Jurassic Park and the failsafe's they built into the dinosaurs...

The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (3)

Chris Worth (18843) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847008)

A basic principle of Drexlerian nanotech is that bottom-up is better than top-down. This nanotrain is a huge achievement, but ultimately it's quite simple - just a few moving parts. And once you've built something simple but foolproof, you can build something a bit more complex on top.... and test it to foolproofness again... and then... it's essentially how life developed, except evolution is somewhat more random.

There's a parallel here with software, of course - open source stuff "grows" bottom-up from hundreds of coders solving real problems, whereas Windows trickled top-down into a thousand pools of problems. For me, this is a more fundamental difference between OSS and CSS than the few coders/many coders difference. If we're to build the incredibly complex machines nanotech will make possible, we have to go the bottom-up route - no question.

Re:The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (1)

binarybits (11068) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847009)

But as I wrote in another comment, I am still wondering about how you can control all these initial steps. How to tell thousands of nanotrains moving on the same surface to deliver their load in the right place?

I think this may be a general problem with the whole nanotech concept. Even if we can build an assembler, you still can't do anything interesting on the macroscale without communication lines, energy, raw materials, and coordination between the assemblers. The assembler might be able to build a copy of itself in a very controlled environment, but when you try to make something much bigger, you run into a whole host of problems. Agriculture and macro-scale processes will probably always be the most efficient way of building things like furniture, buildings, vehicles, etc. There's really no reason we need to build couches one molecule at a time. Cutting down a tree and making cloth works just fine. Even something as small as a computer chip would require thousands of constructors working for hours to build. The logistics of coordinating, feeding, transporting and supplying all those assemblers will be a nightmare to say the least. Certainly, it wouldn't be possible to do any kind of top-down, real-time control of each of those thousands of assemblers. Just the communication lines would be prohibitively complex.

Ultimately, the only way I can see it ever working is if the machines themselves communicated among themselves and made decisions without much outside intervention. You would need a large number of different types of robots--messangers, transporters, assemblers, computers, etc--each in several varieties for different environments and tasks. Each of these components will take years to develop and perfect. And the AI framework necessary for such a system still is in a preliminary stage. So even if an assembler is developed, we'd still be decades from the sort of world Drexler envisions, in which we have diamond airplanes, microscopic spaceships, and nano-generated food.

Re:nano technology (1)

speek (53416) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847010)

Try reading "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson for a whole bunch of much scarier and wonderful ideas about nanos.

Re:MS obsession (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847011)

Could it be there really is a problem with Microsoft?

Nah... couldn't be!

nano technology (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847012)

A bad round of computer problems got me thinking. Who will be the nano technicians when a batch of self replicating little robots go amok?

It would be great if we had nano robots to help us in our world, such as microsurgery or building houses. However, am I the only one who imagines self sustaining intelligent robots that are short a few lines of code or under the control of someone with less than pure intensions? A bad breed of nasty robots could run unchecked if only a priviliged few had nanotechnology. If technology like this were freely distributed, we would have the means to keep it under control. If it were a trade secret, watch out for nanoviruses!

Re:nano technology (1)

ufdraco (78193) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847013)

In Moonwar by Ben Bova, the people on the moon use nanotechnology to survive on the moon. This causes them to be at odds with the people of Earth, who all fear nanotechnology and have banned it. Anyway, at one point, it gets revealed that they designed the nanobots to deactivate in the presence of UV light. This prevents them from going completely out of control without a viable means to stop them on a macroscopic scale. They also mentioned that they weren't required to do it this way, but they preferred to (they didn't like the idea of nanobots running amok any more than you or me).

So basically, anybody dabbling in nanotechnology is going to have to be very careful to build an emergency shutoff switch into any nanobots they make--or learn how to do it as soon as possible. Of course, if the person is malignant...well what can we do? I can do good or bad things with guns and knives. Do we need to ban guns or knives? or gun and knife research?

Power is Neutral. Its use is what is good or evil.

Re:Cool.... (1)

Reg Braddock (127149) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847014)

Billions and dollars and decades of research and they play trains?!?!?!

Think of this: a way is found to build tracks inside tumours which are then used to deliver anti-cancer drugs. Excellent stuff.

Re:Cool.... (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847015)

Wow. A model railroad that can fit on a pinhead. I want one for Xmas. ;-)
- - -

Re:The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (1)

haslam (28772) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847016)

I agree. Bottom-up is the way to go - Problem is, that the higher level results of a lower level start configuration are emergent, which is why nanotechies keep talking about evolutionary systems.

How do you design a starting configuration that will evolve into the desired high level result?

In other words - how do you plan evolution?

/haslam

Now you are an epileptic (1)

squireson (32699) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847017)

"OK, next I need a nano-train that speeds up the flow of my neuropeptides across the synaptic cleft. Then I'm set-or starting on a whole new set of things ... "
Or your an epileptic . acceleration of brain functions generally has a price . People have actually tried things along these lines ( most were pretty silly ) . Nature has been working on it for a few billion years ...
All I really want is a simple Floating point processor and maybe a few registers to play with installed in my frontal lobe . I would be happy .

A New Layout! (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847018)

Wow. First 'O' gauge, then 'HO' gauge, and now, 'nano' gauge. This will make for wonderfully complex layouts, but somehow I think it will be difficult to detail and weather these suckers without an electron microscope.

Re:MS obsession (0)

clump (60191) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847019)

Great point, but as much as you can criticize those here who talk about Microsoft, your comment about them is equally off-topic. On that note, my comment is now way off-topic because I am posting about you posting about others' posting about Microsoft when they really should be talking about little trains.
-Clump

Re:nano technology (1)

Tardigrade (17769) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847020)

That's why this should be done in a controlled environment, at least initially. We should never go so far "in the wild" that we can no longer recover/halt whatever disasters may occur.

Re:Cool.... (1)

Tardigrade (17769) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847021)

A way to set this up initially would be to have it occur sequentially. That way the system would be very easy to debug, and you'd only have to control one part of it at a time. You don't need a control grid, if there's only one track the protein can travel.

Re:The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (1)

Raphael (18701) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847022)

Problem is, that the higher level results of a lower level start configuration are emergent, which is why nanotechies keep talking about evolutionary systems.

You seem to assume that the system will evolve on its own, without any external influence. I think that the evolution can (and should) be guided in order to obtain what you want.

How do you design a starting configuration that will evolve into the desired high level result?

You don't. Instead, you guide the process at every step. You start by creating some basic building blocks (nanotubes, nanoswitches, etc.) and some basic tools for putting the blocks in place (nanotrains, etc.), then you use these to create some more advanced nanomachines that will in turn create some more complex building blocks. It is only when you reach a sufficient level of complexity that you can hope to have some parts of the system that are able to evolve on their own.

But as I wrote in another comment, I am still wondering about how you can control all these initial steps. How to tell thousands of nanotrains moving on the same surface to deliver their load in the right place?

What Next? Nano Track Warrants? (1)

telegrapher (61160) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847023)

Gotta prevent those nasty collisions.

"Check box five: Avoid spurious cow sperm on main #2."

Re:Cool.... (1)

Machupo (59568) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847024)

The way you build things like this is pretty simple.... well, maybe not simple, but straightforward...

Up here at Cornell we've got a nanofabrication lab, soon to be rebuilt, moved, and renamed the picofabrication lab, as if nano isn't small enough. Basically you build things molecule by molecule, nudging them around with EM energy. So for what it's worth, these'd probably be the trains with the longest developmental period around :)

Re:The usefulness of bottom-up instead of top-down (1)

haslam (28772) | more than 15 years ago | (#1847025)

You seem to assume that the system will evolve on its own, without any external influence. I think that the evolution can (and should) be guided in order to obtain what you want.

True - My work with top-down vs. bottom-up has been with AL, so i do have a tendancy to want things to evolve without external influence. However, I do still see a problem with the guiding of evolution.

If the evolutionary process is emergent, then it is not possible to predict the results of low level complexity and thus impossible to calculate which low level changes will have the desired effect.

In other words - You can't guide if you can't see where you are going.

/haslam
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