Nano Tech

Nano Tech is the (hypothetical) technology of nanometre-scale machines; these would have to be built from precisely arranged individual atoms, and so are rather challenging to build, but may offer immense power.

I think Nano Tech is bunk. Basically, its proponents make the mistake of assuming that tiny machines will work like normal-size machines, only smaller; our extensive experience with natural molecular machines (ie proteins) teaches us that this is not the case: life at the nanoscale is governed by quite different laws to that at the macroscale, with thermal motion and quantum-mechanical effects being much more significant. -- TA

For some completely absurd ideas on how nanomachines might be used in medicine, see <>. I mean <> has a little spaceship thing repairing DNA; leaving aside for a minute that the interior of the cell (or the nucleus, in this case) is not even remotely like the cavernous empty space they depict (rather, it is packed solid with proteins and DNA), how exactly do they propose to deal with the fact that human DNA is packaged in a complex and dynamic architecture of proteins (called chromatin)? Are they just going to pull them off at random? What makes them think they can get them off, examine the DNA, repair the DNA, and then put them back on, all more efficiently and correctly than the cell's own enzymes? It's ludicrous! They say "Upper arms, meanwhile, detach regulatory proteins from the chain and place them in an intake port"; how exactly are these arms going to grab the proteins? What force sticks the grabbers to the protein? Presumably, something stronger than the force which sticks the protein to the DNA, which is an intimate electrostatic interaction which has been optimised over evolutionary time to bind the protein to the DNA as strongly and as specifically as possible. Apparently, after this feat, "The molecular structures of both DNA and proteins are compared to information stored in the database ..."; so, they've got a molecular structure analyzer, which can rapidly and accurately determine the three-dimensional structure of a protein, which is scarcely bigger than the protein itself. How the hell do they propose to build this? This is the core problem with the Nano Tech movement: lots of cute ideas, lots of cool pictures, but bugger all actual workable ideas.

That said, there is a certain amount of 'real' Nano Tech; however, it is all based on biological structures, and is known as Bio Nano Technology.

The latest technothriller on the subject is Michael Crichton's Prey... opinions of this differ, but Archie forbids its presence from the library --TL

Prince Charles has been the latest one (4/2003) to ponder whether all this nanostuff will end with the world (universe?) drowning in a sea of 'Grey Goo'... <,3604,945498,00.html>

see also: <>

Tue, 29 Apr 2003 14:58:17 GMT Front Page Recent Changes Message Of The Day