Do nanobots will eat us?

24.12.2003

24.12.2003


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In August 2003, there was a message on the establishment of a molecular motor that about a million times less than what works in our cars. This engine is not only done, but also successfully tested. In scientific journals began to write about the fact that this is an important milestone in the development of nanotechnology.

Why is it important? Because the microscopic motor can drive a tiny car. But we know that many of the proteins in our body are working as motors. It inspires and nanotechnology. So, we will be able to achieve a lot of things. Even, for example, to clean the inside blood vessels to repair damaged biological cells, or to change the structure of the material — and live and artificial.

In a sense, NANOTECHNOLOGY not envy — in fact with which fines are busy! At 80,000 times thinner than a human hair finest! That they have such a scale, such scales. How else to build a molecular structure? You do not.

Jenny Wong, PhD, recently described it in the journal Nature. She, her supervisor Professor David Leigh, as well as chemists from Bologna designed and developed the molecular rotary engine. It is in the nature of these "engines" business as usual (for example, they drive the tiny eye muscles, allowing you to read the text), and try to make it artificially! There will be hell to pay. After all, physics here is quite different than in other scientific fields — quantum physics!

At this level, even the heat (and where it does not exist?) Makes the molecules and their components, as they say, "dance", ie vibrate and toss. Want to create a working molecular machines — learn to control this movement. How did it this time?

The research team used the same atomic bonds which hold the water molecule — hydrogen. This clever natural chemistry given the opportunity to "fasten" the two rings to the loop component is only a millionth of a millimeter. Small rings are moving on a large ring when they light up light with different wavelengths, ie when they get the fuel for the chemical reactions that deplete the hydrogenic connection. Each small ring blocks movement of the other ring, so that they both move in the same direction. What gives us the result driven by light directed rotary motor.

Microscopic rotors did before, but the molecule of interlocking rings can rotate in one direction only and not swirl around, as in the other experiments. The move, which can trigger and heat, and chemical effects can be both circular and straight — forward and backward. Professor Lei believes that the molecular motors a good future, and now made a tiny rotary motor shows how and by what means they will be set in motion. Where they can find the application?

This question is still difficult to give a complete answer. Maybe it will be some "included" surface consisting of a material capable of responding to specific external signals, and change its properties. Or, say, a kind of "winch", winding chain molecules (polymers), which will change the length or shape of these chains, and create any materials in its sole discretion. Or, if you think more mundane, to create antibacterial socks. Now, however, while not up to it. Must also decide how to implement a "nest" such machines in the world. But in any case, it would seem, is to be glad, Behold, there is progress.

Instead, fears erupt again. Like many other researchers working in this field of science, Professor Lei ridicules fears of molecular techniques. However, we are increasingly afraid of this. According to one well-known sci-fi scenario, the myriad of so-called nanobots out of control and turn into ashes everything that comes their way. This, in principle, is a book by Michael Crichton «Prey», which means "sacrifice." Will our world against new technologies, the victim of uncontrolled nanobots? After all, this fantastic scenario scared even Britain's Prince Charles, and not only him. But what the heck is the nanobots?

So called microscopic robots. They will be able to carry out the most precise surgical operations inside the human body to heal wounds quickly, "eat away" of the tumor, parasites, etc. In general, to prolong our lives. However, this is just a robot. If their program fails, the victim's body begins to break down spontaneously. And imagine if, because of this failure, self-replicating nanobots will rapidly multiply and devour everything indiscriminately! This is — the end of everything. Flood the world "gray goo", or "gray goo", "gray haze." Creepy script so alarmed Prince Charles, that the enlightened monarch decided to consult the experts — whether such a principle.

One expert — Roger Highfield — believes that early to worry. That is, it is certainly not the so decided, and asked a knowledgeable person from Imperial College in London, inviting Mr. Tom Pike, a specialist in the design of space technology, imagine yourself temporarily Dr. On-No.

Going into the role of Dr. Na-But, Dr. Pike explained that the idea of "gray haze" surfaced back in 1986, when there was

Eric Drexler's book "Engines of Creation". Three years ago, Bill Joy, co-founder of the company «Sun Microsystems», noted with concern that this "gray dullness" may end our existence on Earth, and it may well happen just because of some kind of a lab error experimentally. Horror, and more!

And so, in 2003, the idea of "unforeseen risks" surfaced again — on the initiative of the Canadian group «Etc.» — During the debate on the possible evil that may cause nanotechnology. These and other debates and reached a listening ear Prince Charles. Maybe it's time to sound the alarm? Should I be afraid?

Well, imagine: the atoms in diameter are one, two, three-tenths of a nanometer — desyatimilliardnyh of a meter (for example, in a point that is at the end of this sentence, the atoms could fit 200,000,000,000,000,000 pieces). Creating nanobots can be likened to building a robot from the parts of children's designer "Lego". However, atoms are round in shape and like beads, and therefore have nanobot surface was not smooth, as we are used to represent it, and like a cassette for eggs, what we see in the stores. Dr On-lists but we need to be doing so. And also explains why it is so complicated. Is so complex that, according to the scientist, it is too early to talk about the threat.

First, take the garbage "assembler" — a device capable of selected atoms and assemble them so that they are able to "replicate" reproduce itself, i.e. New nanobots. Secondly, you need a tiny propeller, maybe — something like a microscopic cilia, by which, for example, moves the bacterium. And, of course, need a "brain." In this capacity would come up, say, a certain model of the electron charge passing on polymers — if only they were able to transmit the command "replicates me."

But it would be wrong to think that the nanobots — is a miniature version of the clunky robots which have already been created. First, the atoms — not your children's designer details. The atoms cling to each other and are connected among themselves by a great many different ways. Under normal average temperatures, they are also "jump", the elastic bounce. And the "fog", the haze of electrons around an atom can deform and change the electronic "cloud" around the neighboring atoms, so that the "stickiness" of these "building blocks" of our facilities can vary — not our own. Among other things, there has to necessarily take into account the so-called "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle", which implies that the position and momentum of an object can not be accurately determined (by the way, this principle is a German physicist formulated in 1927). Simply put, how to manipulate atoms when their components are so elusive?

It turns out that it is still possible. Because in his laboratory, Dr. Pike is easily operated with them using a fine needle instrument called atomic force microscopy (AFM). This large primitive collector must be cooled to a temperature well below zero degrees Celsius, the atoms are no longer going to and fro. And the work is too slow. A team of IBM took 22 hours of continuous work to write the company's brand with 35 xenon atoms.

Another problem is how to make nanobots choose the right atoms, which would connect with each other to create a brother like him. Dr. Pike uses this flash light and analyzes this light is absorbed — thus possible to identify the atom. Other approaches are based on the electronic "interrogation" of the atom, adhering to the tip of the microscope tip. And although such a heroic task is not yet solved, Dr. Na-But it would take more of the atoms in addition to the 10 million or so — that is how much you need to have the base of the mechanical picker.

There is another problem. Biological systems tend to make mistakes (this is called a mutation). Mechanical robots simply break down. "In any case, you have to fight with the entropy (the natural tendency of any disordered medium)," — says Dr. Pike. To create a self-replicating nanobots will require billions of atoms. And the end result still will not be sought, nanobots true — it probably will be something much bigger. Nature, in principle, with such "large" structures a way to negotiate: the bacteria. About 1000 nanometers — is microbots, not nanobots, viruses — a smaller, 20-100 nanometers, but they still need living cells to reproduce.

And another reason. Even after 4.5 billion years of life on Earth Nature did not create a self-replicating nanobots. Microbots that it generated too finicky about what they eat. Some like the flesh, others eat even wet stone. Many eat our food in our stomach. But no one bothered to microbots pretend to devour the whole world.

No — sighs Dr. Paik, taking off the face of Dr. Na-But — still raging nanobots — only to science fiction. And the reality? In reality, nanotechnology are working on new ways of administering drugs, create stronger building materials, trying to reinvent the clothes, which did not sit down to spots, make flexible computer displays and more high-speed transistors. Instead of killer nanobots. And in vain dreams of Prince Charles nightmares about the "gray haze" …

Paul Volgin, IFG

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