Nanotech news November 16th, 1998
Good news from the Sixth
Foresignt Conference in Santa Clara.
Five major advances were announced. Here is a brief summary of each advance:
1 - Bucky Horns: Sumio Iijima of NEC Corporation, Japan, announced the ability to grow this new class of carbon nanostructures, the next step beyond buckyballs and buckytubes.
2 - Biopowered Nanomotor: Carlo Montemagno of Cornell University announced success in building biological-motor powered mechanical devices. All the tools are now in place to make this happen within a living cell.
3 - Nanomanipulator: MinFeng Yu of Washington University generated excitement by showing the first-ever movies of interactive 3D manipulation of carbon nanotubes, using a new research device built by Zyvex LLC.
4 - Nanotube Transistor:
Cees Dekker of Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, presented
work on buckytubes as a
new kind of molecular quantum wire and a field effect nanotube transistor, called TubeFET.
5 - Single-Molecule Tape Measure: Mark Akeson of University of California, Santa Cruz, announced the use of a molecular pore able to electrically "read" long molecules at high speed, even differentiating among DNA bases in groups as small as five. Next goal: rapidly read DNA base-by-base.
"DNA can be considered to be biological nanosoftware; ribosomes, large scale molecular constructors. Enzymes are what Nature chose as truly functional molecular sized assemblers. Genetic engineers are not creating new tools per se, but rather, adapting and improvising from what Nature has already provided. Future generations of engineers, armed with molecular engineering techniques, will have a real chance of imitating and perhaps improving on Nature."
- "Imitating The Molecular Workings of Nature"
Programmable protein machines resembling ribosomes, and working under the direction of molecular tapes, will split and join molecules to join them to the workpiece anywhere desired, not just to the end of a chain. Resulting second-generation nanomachines - built of more than just proteins, will be able to tolerate acid or vacuum, freezing or baking. These assemblers will be able to use as tools almost any reactive molecules to precision build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist - including more assemblers.
A flexible replicator would include several assembler arm units and a simple computer of 100 million additional atoms. Using just one assembler arm, a billion atom replicator will copy itself in just over fifteen minutes, about the time a bacterium takes to replicate itself under good conditions. The exponential growth of new replicators at the end of ten hours would result in over 68 billion.
A conservatively designed
system, a million-fold faster than a brain and dissipating a million-fold
more heat, could consists of an assembler-built block of sapphire the size
of a coffee mug, honey-combed with circuit-lined cooling channels. Cables
supply fifteen megawatts of electric
power and a high pressure pipe carries heat away in a three-ton-per-minute flow
of boiling-hot water.
Optical fibers carry as much data as a million television channels to other
AI systems with engineering simulators, and with assembler systems that
build designs for final testing. Every ten seconds, the system gobbles
almost two kilowatt-days of electric energy. Every ten minutes, the system
completes as much design work as a human engineer working eight hours a
day for a year.
- K. Eric Drexler, _Engines of Creation_
Nothing is unannounced.
Everything is preceded by the shockwave of its coming. So somehow the spreading zaniness of reality is part of the boundary-dissolving qualities that are going to make up this new cultural mix of disembodied human beings, nanotechnologically-maintained environments, dissolved self-definitions, people living at many levels at the same time; intelligence as a kind of free-flowing nonlocal resource that comes and goes as needed; prosthesis, implant, boundary dissolution -- these things are usually presented as fairly terrifying. But in fact I think behind it all lurks, you know, the demons who do calisthenics in the angles of every room on this planet to keep it all from collapsing into a flat line.
- Terence McKenna - _Live at Wetlands Preserve, NYC July 28, 1998_
"Nanotechnology. The era of
molecular mechanism promises the most radical of the green
visions, since it proposes that human-engineered quasibiological cells and organelles
take over the manufacturing of products and culture. Nanotechnology takes
seriously the notion that manufacturing techniques and methods of manipulating
matter on the microphysical scale can affect the design process
of the human-"grown," and everything that is manufactured is closer to flesh
than stone. The distinction between living and nonliving and organic and
artificial is blurred in the electronic coral reef of human-machine symbiosis
contemplated by the savants of nanotechnology."
-Terence McKenna - _Archaic Revival_
Alchemical gold, in short, this is what we're after. If you possess it, nothing else is worth anything because it is psychic completion, peace of mind, Jung called it the self. It's the self that we are trying to recover and remember we talked about the Gnostic myth of the light trapped in matter. Well this is the luminae de luminae, the light of light, the lux natura, the light drawn out of nature and condensed into a fixed form which then becomes the universal panacea. And I'm using as many of these alchemical terms as I can draw out of my memory to give you a feeling for it. This is the universal medicine. It cures all ills, you know, it brings you riches, fame, wealth, self-respect. It's the answer, it's what everyone is looking for and no one can find.
So this just became a consuming passion of the 15th and 16th century mind. They thought they were on the brink of it. Along the way they were discovering stuff like distilled alcohol, phosphorous, gun powder, all of these things were coming out of the alchemical laboratories but that was not it. They kept driving themselves onward because they knew that this was not the real thing and they were pursuing the real thing. Then for some people it became reassociated with this notion of the utopia that I mentioned this morning in the passage that I read about the city of Hermes Trismegistus, they began to see, it's almost like the crisis which overcame Buddhism, it must be an archetypal, and notice how rarely we've used that word here, it must be almost an archetypal stage in human thought. Theravadin Buddhism stressed individual thought, and individual redemption through meditation on emptiness, and then with the great reforms of Nagurdjuda(sp?), the idea of Bodhisattvic compassion was introduced and there carries with it political freight. An obligation to society and mankind.
So, as the 15th and 16th century progressed there began to be this awareness that what was wanted was not for an alchemist to break through, to his own personal salvation, but somehow to create an alchemical world. You get then the notion of the multiplacio, the idea that the stone, once created, will replicate itself and be able to change base matter into itself almost like a virus spreading through the ontological structure of matter itself and the world will be reborn and this idea then, what was happening was that these alchemists were getting bolder and printing was invented in Meins, near Frankfurt, in 1540, the distribution of alchemical books was changing the character of alchemy, it was no more the solitary hermit working away in his cave or mountaintop, far away from the minions of the church. These alchemists began to dream of banding together, of forming societies, of creating brotherhoods that were united in the sharing of their knowledge and their purpose.
This brings us to the curious episode in history called the Rosicrucian enlightenment. Dame Frances Yates, once again, got there first and she wrote a book called the _Rosicrucian Enlightenment_ which traces the history of these alchemical brotherhoods and reveals to us what they were really about and what they were about was this dream of somehow taking thephilosopher's stone, and the power, the immortality, the insight that it would bring and making it a general utility of mankind and in the, one way of looking at modernity, I have one friend who claims that the summoning of the Holy Spirit into matter can be seen as the creation of the modern world of electricity. That people like Heimholz(sp?) and Farraday were completing the alchemical work. It's very hard for us to realize how mysterious the electromagnetic field seemed to the 19th century. The 19th century had entirely imbued itself with the spirit of democratian atomism translated through Newtonian physics and they believed that everything was little balls of hard matter winging through space. When Heimholz and Farraday and these people began to talk about action at a distance and generating the electromagnetic field and trapping lightning and light in jars and running it through wires, what could this be but the trapping of spiritus. What could it be but the literal descent of the holy ghost into history and, you know, give it a moment's thought. For thousands of years, electricity was something that you saw when you took an amber rod and a piece of cat fur and went into a darkened room and stroked the cat fur and then when you would bring the amber rod close to the cat fur you would see the crackle of static electricity through the cat fur. For thousands of years that's what electricity was. Who would dream that you could light cities, that you could smelt metals, that you could illuminate the earth with this energy and yet from the 1850s to the present, this was done. It's almost the final literalizing of the alchemical dream.
- Terence McKenna lecture on Alchemy
There's this woman named Kathleen Goonan, she writes about nanotechsci-fi, its really amazing--she has a great book called"Queen City Jazz"--it's all based on nanotech. But on a basic level with Hip Hop, if you ever listen to a lot of vocals by like the Wu-Tang crew, they have this thing about their group mind. They say, "we form like Voltron", which is great. And when they come together as a crew, the Wu coming through, they have their own situation. It's parallel, like with King Tubby and of course Lee Perry. He'd always talk about his mind and Satan ....he felt like the studio was a channeling space, the mixing board and all this kind of stuff and a lot of the kind of artwork on his albums is hilarious, but the actual artistic concept of what he was doing came through. I mean you have these different zones whether its Neal Stephenson or Lee Perry, these are people who are dealing with technology as--I really think, as sublimation zones.
- DJ Spooky
The Foresight Institute
Nanotech at Future Multiplex, Kheper