A thread that has nothing to do with memes or the Singularity

Lyle Burkhead (LYBRHED@delphi.com)
Wed, 04 Dec 1996 02:21:09 -0500 (EST)

Anders Sandberg writes,

> I think this is a rather fun problem, but I don't see much use for it.
> What applications do you have in mind?

All kinds of cool things can be done with refrigerators!

> I think we need something like drexlerian nanotech for this,
> proteins don't work well when temperatures change.

I agree with your last statement. Proteins are always in motion.
They are like an elaborate construction of balls held together by springs,
and the whole thing vibrates and pulsates at many levels. Think of a
bowl of jello, shaking: that's what proteins look like.

When a protein embedded in a membrane encounters a certain
molecule, it reacts -- it suddenly changes its mode of vibration, and
this change reverberates all over the membrane, causing further changes
in the vibrations of all other proteins embedded in the membrane.
As a result of one molecule encountering one protein, pores may
open or close all over the membrane, as other proteins react to the
change in vibration of the sensor protein.

That's how membranes work. At a very low temperature, such
pulsations would not exist. The atoms would be nearly motionless.
Therefore biological membranes require temperatures in a certain range.
Below that range, one would have to use other mechanisms to replace

Below (far below?) that range, drexlerian nanotech becomes possible.
The fact that atoms are nearly motionless, as far as random vibrations
are concerned, means that the atoms can move in slower, more regular,
more "mechanical" motions, which they could not do at higher

What I want to do is imbed drexlerian nanotech within biological
nanotech. Machines within cells. To do that, first one must create a
region in the cell cold enough for machines to exist.

To imbed machines in cells, we are going to have to recapitulate the
steps our ancestors took when they embedded machinery in the natural
(macroscopic) world. They lived, at one time, among trees, flowers,
animals, rocks -- nothing was artificial. Somebody had to make the first
sharpened rock. Somebody had to make the first ruler -- a piece of
wood with a straight line on one side. (This was the first straight line
that ever existed on this planet, or in the universe as far as we know.)
Then they used their first crude tools to make better ones. Eventually
they reached the point where they could cast metals into pre-conceived
shapes. Centuries later, they reached a level of precision that allowed
them to make clocks and engines. This whole process began with a
crude workshop in a forest -- a bench, a hammer, a flint knife, and a
man with imagination.

We are going to have to do similar things on the nano level. We are
given a cell full of proteins, membranes, microtubules, and so forth;
this corresponds to the rocks and trees our ancestors used when they
first started making tools. What corresponds to the first sharpened
rock? What corresponds to the first ruler?