We've been saying for a while that Richard Smalley's objections to molecular manufacturing are without foundation. It's nice to see that another skeptic of molecular manufacturing also is questioning Smalley's arguments.
Richard Jones writes: "But, on the other hand, I'm not convinced that a central part of Smalley's argument is actually correct. In fact, Smalley's line of reasoning if taken to its conclusion would imply not only that MNT was impossible, but that conventional chemistry is impossible too."
Jones goes on to explain Smalley's argument, and why he thinks it's incorrect. The explanation is quite technical, but looks about right. Jones continues by describing a reaction that's been accomplished with a scanning probe microscope. He notes that it was done at low temperature and with the help of electricity, but concludes, "Nonetheless, I rather suspect that this is exactly the sort of reaction that one would say wasn't possible on the basis of Smalley's argument." Precisely!
And this* just in: a nano-patterned reaction has been done purely mechanically, no electricity needed. In fact, no microscope needed. Just put an amino acid on a micro-stamp, and push it onto a surface containing molecules for it to bind to. Normally, this requires a coupling catalyst -- some other molecule to help the reaction happen. But in this setup, it happens due to pressure and concentration, factors that mechanical-chemistry systems will certainly be able to provide.
This appears to support Jones's statement that, "You don't need an impossible number of fingers to guide the system through configuration space for the same reason that you don't need fingers in conventional chemistry, the structure of configuration space itself guides the way the system searches it."
* Source: "Forced Peptide Synthesis in Nanoscale Confinement under Elastomeric Stamps". According to Science (sorry, not online), they make a monolayer of amines on a gold surface, then press down with a stamp inked with carboxylate containing N-protected amino acids. No coupling catalyst is used. Three successive cycles created a layer of Arg-Gly-Asp molecules (a type of protein) that mouse fibroblasts would stick to.