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« Stories of a Nanotech Future | Main | Making Sensible Policy »

January 24, 2007


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Jan-Willem Bats

I'm gonna need some extra explanation on this one.

You say that three breakthrough research proposals can bring MM very close to reality.

What exactly are these proposals in detail?

Calls for directing money at MM research?

Smart ideas that will help to build MM tools?

Mike Treder, CRN


What's most significant is not just these particular breakthroughs -- although they are impressive -- but the fact that the breakthroughs occurred when a group of researchers got together, allowed themselves to think outside the box, conducted real-time peer review, worked cross-discipline (even having a sculptor involved!), and accepted a challenge that each of them alone would likely have dismissed.

The IDEAS Factory scientists took what many would have considered a 50-year goal, treated it like it was a 20-year goal, and then made a solid plan to get one-quarter of the way there in just a few years. They did it because they tried to do it, instead of simply assuming it couldn't be done.

This confirms for us, once again, that molecular manufacturing is likely to happen in less than 20 years. Probably much sooner, in fact, because CRN expects the rate of progress to continue accelerating.

The experimental projects they chose, assuming they are successful, should provide what one of the lead scientists called "proof of principle" for this type of molecular machinery. That's significant. But even more important is that the innovative process they followed could stimulate other scientists in other countries to try something similar. And even more important still is that these results are likely to encourage other researchers to adopt molecular manufacturing as an inspiration and target for their work, instead of limiting their focus to shorter-term goals.

For more on the specific proposals, see the "Software Control of Matter" blog. Note that fully detailed information has not been made public yet, but will be after the projects reach final approval.

Jan-Willem Bats

Okay, that makes it a little clearer.

Reminds me of George Danzig, who got 9 problems as homework from his professor. His professor didn't tell him they were unsolved problems in science.

George solved 6 of them in a few weeks time, all the while thinking they were standard homework that his classmates had already solved earlier.

A little while ago, Chris made a post about psychologicla barriers around solving math problems. That was essentially the same thing.

What the IDEAS factory has done is yet another example of what can be achieved as long as you don't shut doors on yourself mentally.

Does this progress make your "probably by 2015"-prediction shift to a "probably by 2012"-prediction?

Martin G. Smith

I would suggest that every step in the direction of positive development is a step in the right direction [Bias Declared]. Too, I would suggest that there need to be much less chanting about who is going to control, Read, Take credit for it and more about how we can all cooperate in achieving the common goal of responsibility.
Interesting case in point. Lucy [AKA BPM 37093] the White Dwarf was first discovered last September by an amateur using SLOOH.

Chris Phoenix

Jan-Willem, the Dantzig story has grown in the telling. It was only two problems. He solved them both. The prof had written them on the board, and Dantzig was late to class, missed the explanation, and assumed they were homework. They weren't given to him personally as homework.


But I definitely agree about the psychological barrier. That's one reason I'm so convinced MM will happen sooner than most people expect. Most people in the US have that barrier. But it only takes a few who don't.


Jan-Willem Bats


I had no idea I had read the blown up version of the story.

It just goes to show... always check your sources.

Well thanks for putting me in touch with reality anyway. ;)


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