Nanotechnology futurists could not contain their joy. Life was carbon-based. Might it not be possible to avoid economic extinction the same way that life avoids extinction - by simple reproduction? Carbon was so marvelously fecund. One molecule could beget two; and two could beget four; and four could beget eight, and so on; and since nobody provided for a nanobot graveyard, the pyramid scheme could continue until, well, molecular nanobots consumed all edible life.
The thought that these quasi-creatures would dine upon us was worrisome. One scientist discerned the need to develop protective nanotechnology, "blue goo - police nanobots that would try to combat the destructive ones."
Against this total annihilation of planetary life, the scientists weighed the benefits: (This is a complete list taken from the transcript, so help me God.) "Thirty years from now I'm wearing a really smart shirt and I have an accident, the shirt knows I've had an accident because it can measure the G force and it might even measure that I'm bleeding. The shirt can tell the ambulance in great detail while they're on their way exactly what's wrong with me so they've got the equipment ready for when they arrive. It might save my life." (A merciful editor deleted this from the U.S. version.) "More powerful computers would allow us to crack age old problems that have defeated science, like understanding the extreme complexities of our climate. Molecular computers would give us faster, more accurate forecasting of even the most complicated weather systems." "We'd be able to give people more advanced warning of storms and hurricanes and we'd save people's lives." "Nanotechnologists have already tinkered with carbon atoms to make lighter, stronger tennis rackets. The molecules in sunscreen have been manipulated to give improved protection." "One day scientists could manipulate molecules to create tiny computers that will fuse with our bodies." "If we can get molecular computers.. small enough, we can get these things into contact with every synapse in your brain," then, "with molecular computers in your brain other people could literally download your thoughts. You could download theirs. All knowledge would be instantly available."
Health and longevity are virtually guaranteed. "These self-replicating machines could be programed to target every diseased cell in our body." And while "white blood cells take an hour and a half to destroy a bacteria... a nanorobot can do the job in seconds. It would be far more powerful like destroying pathogens in cancer cells." And a tiny molecular computer, the already-named respiracyte,. "could be injected into the victims of drowning. Once in the blood stream these nanobots would break down the excess molecules of carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the blood. They could mean the difference between life and death." "The lives of our children could be extended by decades."
We had plunged into a Dantean "what-if" journey. We what-if'd our way through the nanobot Paradiso of a long and disease-free life and then, just as we began to shudder thinking about Thomas Malthus, the earth's burgeoning 6,800,000.000 population and its shrinking land mass, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped by. For If the gift of nanobot-induced longevity were not munificent enough - and it certainly ought to be - we were also offered the boon of nanobot weaponry. "Wars would be fought using nanobots." "Nanobots could lie silently in the environment for years, sending back information about our enemies. They could even be our assassins. These killers could be programed to know precisely who to attack." "You can target them very specifically so that they will attack people with only certain characteristics." Hmmm.. Nanobot Genocide! Ethnic nano-Cleansing!
And to think that the engine of this brave new world was sabotaged by Jan Hendrik Schon! There may be a Nobel Prize in his future, after all. Maybe not Physics... but Peace.
Fortunately or unfortunately (the program wasn't awfully clear) Schon had discovered nothing. When serious complaints were made to Bell Labs by scientists who could not replicate Schon's results, Professor Lydia Sohn of Berkeley found a message on her voicemail, prompting her to conduct an investigation. She and Professor Paul McEuen of Cornell found evidence of numerous instances of fabricated data - including the vaunted carbon transistor "breakthrough." Schon was exposed; and Bell Labs quickly fired him. And we were given the distinct impression that the Nanobot Express had screeched to a stop.
If the program had only trivialized nanotechnology, it would have been skewed but only in the way that envy can skew an observation. Or if its doomsday scenarios were played with obvious tongue in cheek, we could all have enjoyed the laugh. But the scare tactics had a taunting whiff of disdain that seemed calculated to provoke eschatological fear - a world-ending prophecy that would leave ignorant multitudes waiting on mountaintops for the heavens to open. This program went out of its way - by accident or by design - to present nanotechnology in such a grotesque way that religious fundamentalists are likely to see the need to erect a shield against it. Either that or to start making plans to evangelize the new life forms or perhaps to impose sanctions on their rate of reproduction.
That so much brain-power could be devoted to bizarre fantasies about prolonging life - at least long enough for us to kill each other in techno-combat or to be devoured by rapacious slime - tells us that intelligent people who hold great power are not necessarily sensible enough to use it wisely.
Nanotechnology is a young science - one that, as the African proverb states, will need to be raised by the whole village. It does not need unofficial spokespersons making enemies for it or holding it up for ridicule as the village idiot.
In fact, without having received any of TV's Godfatherly nurturing, nanotechnology has managed to grow nicely. Academic and commercial interests around the world are heavily involved in the research and development of a wide variety of applications for this new science.
SciQ's program would have been better spent focussing on Schon instead of just using his name and fall from grace as an excuse to subject nanotechnology to some yellow journalism. Why would a young scientist fake data that, given the common practice of peer scrutiny and replication of results, he surely knew would be exposed as false? Who was this man? Did he not exist before the fakery began? We know nothing about him. In physics, does the "publish or perish" stress of professional life begin early, say, in high school, and if so, do the intellectual demands of physics so consume the nutritive resources of a young scientist's psychology that other areas of his personality are left barren? (And come to think of it, there is an adolescent lack of judgment in just about everybody involved in this man's career.) How much responsibility should be born by the prestigious publications and by the scientists who co-authored his papers? Would these people sign a blank check? What were the real-world effects of this fraud? There are many issues that could have been examined. Instead, SciQ opted to become SciFi and in doing so, left nanobotic ethics and judgment hanging outside, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind, and a bit too close to religion's window.
A year ago, ScienceDaily reported that scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology had succeeded in printing the entire Old Testament onto a silicon chip smaller than a pinhead. According to Professor Uri Sivan, head of the university's Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, "The nano-bible project demonstrates the miniaturization at our disposal. This research could lead to the creation of more advanced miniature structures -- and imaging -- on a nanometric scale, advances in storing information in very small spaces, and the use of DNA molecules to store information."
The Israelis had made a nice pre-emptive P.R. strike.
Nobody says that science ought to wink or bow to religion, but it wouldn't hurt to treat associated philosophical issues with half as much respect as it demands for itself.
more from link...
from the world of physics
Anti-atoms at CERN
Large numbers of cold anti-atoms were produced this year for the first time. In September the ATHENA experiment at CERN made 50 000 cold antihydrogen atoms by combining antiprotons and positrons in a series of magnetic and electrostatic traps.
Two months later the ATRAP experiment, which is also based at CERN, produced an estimated 170 000 antihydrogen atoms. This group was also able to study the internal states of antihydrogen for the first time. Both groups used similar techniques to make the anti-atoms, but different detection methods.
The ultimate goal of both experiments is to compare the energy levels of hydrogen and antihydrogen atoms in detail and perform the most accurate ever tests of CPT (charge-parity-time) symmetry. Any violation of CPT symmetry -- which would require new physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics -- would appear as a slight difference in the frequency of electronic transitions between the ground state and the first excited state in hydrogen and the corresponding transition in antihydrogen.
and the other important news that yr was also
Cosmic microwaves reveal polarization:
Astronomers in the US detected the polarization of the cosmic microwave background -- the microwave ‘echo’ of the Big Bang -- for the first time. The researchers used the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) at the South Pole to make the measurements, which agree with predictions and provide further support for the standard Big Bang plus ‘inflation’ model of cosmology. The results also confirm that ordinary matter accounts for less than 5% of the total mass and energy of the universe.
Earlier in the year, the Cosmic Background Imager produced the sharpest ever images of the cosmic background. These images allowed astrophysicists to see for the first time the tiny density fluctuations that became our present-day galaxy clusters.
Ultimately polarization experiments may be able to investigate the Universe in the very first fractions of a second after the Big Bang -- when it underwent a period of extremely rapid expansion known as ‘inflation’. If the inflation model is correct, then gravitational waves emitted during this period will leave a signature on the polarization of the cosmic background.