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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another Tiny Step Forward -- Nano

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A news release just came out on a major theoretical improvement on modern nanotech assembly methods. Even if this innovation proves out, it won't instantly revolutionize human technology, but it could make possibly some extraordinarily strong structures (diamondoid), that could be whipped up very quickly. A huge improvement over nanotech as it stands now, in that respect.

So if you have your heart set on an orbital "beanstalk," don't despair. We may have elevator to orbit before you know it. =)


"We stand the problem of self-assembly on its head," said Torquato, a professor of chemistry who is affiliated with the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, a multidisciplinary research center devoted to materials science.

Instead of employing the traditional trial-and-error method of self-assembly that is used by nanotechnologists and which is found in nature, Torquato and his colleagues start with an exact blueprint of the nanostructure they want to build.

''If one thinks of a nanomaterial as a house, our approach enables a scientist to act as architect, contractor, and day laborer all wrapped up in one," Torquato said. "We design the components of the house, such as the 2-by-4s and cement blocks, so that they will interact with each other in such a way that when you throw them together randomly they self-assemble into the desired house."

To do the same thing using current techniques, by contrast, a scientist would have to conduct endless experiments to come up with the same house. And in the end that researcher may not end up with a house at all but rather—metaphorically speaking—with a garage or a horse stable or a grain silo.

While Torquato is a theorist rather than a practitioner, his ideas may have implications for nanostructures used in a range of applications in sensors, electronics and aerospace engineering.

"This is a wonderful example of how asking deep theoretical questions can lead to important practical applications," said Debenedetti.

So far Torquato and his colleagues have demonstrated their concept only theoretically, with computer modeling.

They illustrated their technique by considering thin films of particles. If one thinks of the particles as pennies scattered upon a table, the pennies, when laterally compressed, would normally self-assemble into a pattern called a triangular lattice.

But by optimizing the interactions of the "pennies," or particles, Torquato made them self-assemble into an entirely different pattern known as a honeycomb lattice (called that because it very much resembles a honeycomb).

Why is this important? The honeycomb lattice is the two-dimensional analog to the three-dimensional diamond lattice—the creation of which is somewhat of a holy grail in nanotechnology...

To create the honeycomb lattice, the researchers employed techniques of optimization, a field that has burgeoned since World War II and which is essentially the science of inventing mathematical methods to make things run efficiently.

Torquato and his colleagues hope that their efforts will be replicated in the laboratory using particles called colloids, which have unique properties that make them ideal candidates to test out the theory. Paul Chaikin, a professor of physics at New York University, said he is planning to do laboratory experiments based on the work.

The paper appearing in Physical Review Letters is a condensed version of a more detailed paper that has been accepted for publication in Physical Review E and which will probably appear sometime before the end of the year.

Torquato said that he and Stillinger initially had trouble attracting research money to support their idea. Colleagues "thought it was so far out in left field in terms of whether we could do what we were claiming that it was difficult to get funding for it," he said. The work was ultimately funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy.

"The honeycomb lattice is a simple example but it illustrates the power of our approach," Torquato said. "We envision assembling even more useful and unusual structures in the future."


Future Imperative

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » »

February 15, 2007 3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great site » »

April 24, 2007 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Moch.Rasyid said...

i really waiting for this technology to be implemented....i can't waaaaiiittt..... :D

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