Re: SciAm: nano and cryonics

From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 05:53:26 MDT

On Fri, 17 Aug 2001, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:

> I didn't really want to get into a discussion of the many/fat
> fingers problem until I'd read Smalley's article. Yes, I'm aware
> of Ralph's work but its also obvious to anyone who has studied
> biochemistry. How does catechol-O-methyl transferase transfer

Sterical hindrance or sterical constraint are much harped upon items of
every chemical undergrad, and are also mentioned in highschool chemistry.

> the methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine onto norepinephrine
> prodicing normetanephrine if it can't properly "grab" and "position"
> those two molecules relative to one another? What about all the

Yes, but you're not trying to make deep cages, and you're not trying to
stick stuff to a surface.

> hydrogenases, oxidases, kinases, dehydrogenases, deoxidases,
> phosphatases, etc. that allow us to live? The argument just
> doesn't make any sense to me (this will be discussed in more
> detail in the paper I'm writing so it didn't make sense to include
> it in the letter).

> I would say a chemist's knowledge base extends up to the range of
> molecules of ~1000 daltons. The range from 150-1000 D is usually the

Chemists do random polymer libraries now, too.

> stomping ground of the biochemists. Really high molecular weight
> compounds are the speciality of polymer chemists. If you want to talk

They're molecules, not machines, though. Very different from biochemistry.

> electrical current you should be talking to a biophysicist or an
> electrical engineer. If you want to talk about self-replication you
> want to talk to a microbiologist or a computer scientist. None of

Not your typical computer scientist. They understand bits, but not atoms.

> this is to say that I think Whitesides is a poor scientist. His
> invention of nano-imprint lithography makes him pretty brilliant in my
> book. (He won a Foresight prize for that a few years ago.) I just
> think he should read a little more of the literature before he writes
> about MNT.
> One thing Vogel does get right in her NSF paper is that its
> going to take a lot of interdisciplinary training to get the
> "systems engineers" that Eric points out we *really* need.

A few years back it really looked liked we were getting an open source
virtual sandbox to study dynamics of small and not so small molecules and
assemblies of such interactively. Sadly, the efforts fizzled, so we're now
limited to the efforts of a few academic researchers, in toto a few warm
bodies, and with a biology, not nano bias.

Computers are plenty fast now, even if you're not talking about a cluster.
We really need something painless, which lets people tweak atoms
interactively, and see what that stuff does, and interacts. Once we've
made a few interesting things in machina, we can start trying to make
them, and to see whether they would work in reality.

-- Eugen* Leitl <a href="">leitl</a>
ICBMTO : N48 10'07'' E011 33'53''
57F9CFD3: ED90 0433 EB74 E4A9 537F CFF5 86E7 629B 57F9 CFD3

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:10 MDT