Re: BOOKS The Molecular Biology Of The Cell

Ken Clements (
Sat, 02 Oct 1999 00:38:01 -0700

Spike Jones wrote:

> Jeff Davis wrote:
> > ...I fully expect, as the truth is revealed, to be dazzeled by the fractal
> > elegance and complexity and beauty of natures art.
> Well said Jeff. Me too. {8^D While discussing nanomachines with
> a group of coworkers today, I noticed they didnt seem to understand
> my comment that we already *have* nanomachines running around in
> our bodies, repairing damage, taking out harmful...foreign nanomachines.
> They were uniformly under the impression that nanomachines had to
> be made of silicon, like 7 of 9's. They thought there is something
> different about carbon based microrganisms and a replicating
> assembler. Am I missing something, or is there some fundamental
> reason why a replicating assembler must be made of something other
> than carbon? Seems like carbon is an ideal material for that purpose. spike

Spike, you are correct. Biology is a subset of MNT that is here now and already has replicators. Some researchers call biology "wet nanotechnology" see:

Biology is under study for clues to self assembly and other techniques, see:

However, for wet nanotech to use carbon the way general MNT is proposed, we would need to make enzyme systems than can put it together in ways that biology just does not do at this time. It may be possible to reach general MNT through a large number of tiny changes to existing organisms, and some biologists are thinking about this. The basic idea calls for changing the building
blocks of the cell in a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" path. However, it would not be so easy.

It would require many generations of genetic engineering and organism growth cycles
that researchers in that field would rather devote to projects in that field. Especially
with an existing market for genetic products. At each step the organism has to be
able to live, so you cannot replace something vital until you have a fallback system
in operation for that part. It is possible that for some changes "you just can't get
there from here" and you will have to back out and try again.

On the other hand, it is possible to use forced/directed evolution to put millions of
organisms to work trying to find the solution to the problem in parallel. If generation
times are fast enough and mutations are frequent enough, and selection is clever enough, you might (in a few years) get bacteria that start looking more like general assemblers that can work with harder and harder materials.