the latest buzzword is nanotech.Right now, it’s still science fiction, but maybe in20 or 50 years, it will be practical technology.
What will it be used for? I have heard some hopes for medical uses. Maybe there will be Nano-things floating thru the blood stream, looking for cholesterol buildups. But wouldnt any foreign body , even nano-size, be attacked by the body’s normal defenses, white blood cells?
And I have heard hopes for fabrics soaked in nano-stuff that will camoflage the wearer, by changing color to match the environment. But wouldnt the nano-chips still have to be “sewn” into "regular " cotton,wool,nylon fabric, which has its own color?
the only obvious use I can see would be to make much smaller computers. But what else?
How will nano-stuff work? It will have to be attached to regular stuff in the real world, so what practical improvements might we see in the future?
Imagine you can make a really tiny machine, with gears and levers that are just a few atoms wide, and an entire machine that’s smaller than the period on your computer screen. (Almost) any task you can think for that machine to do, nanotech should be able to deliver. Of course, there are some real-world problems that have to be dealt with, such as providing power to these machines, but those are being addressed.
Yeah, nanomachines in your blood stream would be attacked by your white blood cells, but so what? As long as they do their job before they get excreted by your body, the results (for you) will be te same. And putting nanomachines in your clothing may be as simple as sprinkling them over the fabric, then letting them hook into the fibers.
The idea of nanotechnology is central to a lot of recent science fiction, not least our own project Orion’s Arm;
Many wonderful things are expected from naotech in the future; machines in the blood, repairing damage- machines inside the cells themselves, all connected by minute computer networks and with processors as small as a ribosome; new materials like buckyfibre and diamondoid, single crystal metals… utility fog…
The ultimate goal is the universal assembler, able to make anything- food? people? from a supply of raw materials and a set of suitable recipes.
It has to be said that the nanoassembly route is often not the fastest or most efficient method of manufacture, so most items will never be made in this way; probably in real life nanoassembly will be confined to the manufacture of tiny electronic components and medical devices; it is likely that most manufacture will be automated using machines operating on a much larger scale, although most machines are likely to contain nanoassembled parts eventually.
An interesting counterargument to the brave new world of assemblers can be found here: Nanotech Myths ; it is obvious that nanoscale replicators exist, as every one of our cells is an example of one; but to convert this potential into an all providing genie will take a long time, and may never be feasible.
Ignoring some minor (and perhaps some major) roadblocks, everything is practically free. Given some nano-tech, you can sort out raw materiels molecule by molecule with no effort. Assembling goods is easy, etc etc.
In such a society, Stephenson imagines that you’d only pay for power and information. (Those 'bots aren’t going to code themselves), and new forms of entertainment.
Ahem. But until then, all that’s going to happen is your DVD player is going to get a little smaller.
Imagine a home constructed entirely of interlocked nanoscopic machines -
Don’t like the colour of the walls in your living room? just tell the machines to adjust their absorption spectra.
Want to turn your dining room into a study? - tell the machines to close up the serving hatch.
Wish that door was just a little further to the left? - get some of the machines to migrate to the other side of it and move it over.
Actually, if you don’t use your bedroom in the daytime and you don’t use your kitchen and living room at night, you could live in a much smaller house and just have them reconfigure the whole thing to whatever was your current need.
And so on - assuming that we can actually make and power such small, self-organising machines, all sorts of things are possible
We already have replicators - our entire manufacturing industry is set up to build, grow, cast and forge consumer goods; nanotechnology simply promises to make some of this manufacturing smaller-
some parts of the manufacture might even be invisibly small, but there is no reason to convert all manufacture to nanoassembly lines…
it might take days to assemble a bacon sandwich- of course it takes months to grow the component parts of such an item, so perhaps it has some merit there;
but a motor car or spaceship would still mostly be assembled by conventional manufacturing because the processes of smelting, casting, forging, tempering etcetera are much faster on a macro-scale than a nanoscale.
Huh? How would this work?I am totally confused here.
The wall would still be made of wood, even if it is impregnated with nano-bots. And wood isnt infinitely flexible.
–suppose I wanted to program 100 billion nano-machines to move my door and cut a new hole in the wall for a window. Wouldnt it take a lot of time? Just re-arranging the pixels on my computer screen to display a streaming video takes 60 seconds to produce a 2-inch wide “window”, and no physical work has taken place.
And if the nano-bots can “eat” the wood cells to make a hole, and then build new wood cells to fill in the old door–can they change lead into gold, too, like in the dreams of ancient alchemists?
No, the wall, door frame, door etc would all be made entirely of nano-bots that are capable of interlocking themselves to form a rigid structure (like Lego, but on a much smaller scale) - when you want the door moved, some of them UN-interlock, migrate to the right place and lock up again.
As i understand it, Nanotech would allow the manipulation at a sub atomic level. They could break apart an atom into a protons, neutrons and electrons, and then reconstruct them into whatever atom you required.
In other words, if your wall was made of wood, you could get the nano bots to pull apart all the molecules in wood, and reconstruct them into anything else, be it made out of metal, plastic, gas or anything.
Strictly speaking the manipulation of subatomic particles is beyond the capability of nanotech; it has been sometimes been called picotech and would greatly increase the potential of such technology (if feasible)-
but as you say picotech is fiction.
while nanoscale reactions occur all the time in living bengs so it is just a case of finding ways of controlling them.