Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The NAS Meeting

Interesting group of folks. The itinerary is found on http://www4.nas.edu/webcr.nsf/MeetingDisplay3/NMAB-J-04-03-A?OpenDocument

While the government, business, and academic community was well represented, so were the interests of the Foresight devotees. Drexler was there with Mize, Phoenix, Forrest, and Jacobstein.

Now, I have a reputation of being tough on folks which is probable the result of my debate training and the fact that i have coached intercollegiate debate for over a quarter century. I need to admit that they presented a very strong case to include molecular manufacturing as an important component within the NNI.

Celia Merzbacher and Clayton Teagues opened the meeting testifying on the state and nature of the NNI. Neither spent any time discussing the controversy associated with directed assembly to produce products on the macroscale.

The next session was about "Establishing a Common Language." John Randall from Zyvex spun the corporate line. He discussed the need for massive parallelism and how the goal was assembly with degrees of freedom in 3 dimensions. Ari Equicha from USoCalifornia discussed his work with sensor actuator networks on the nanoscience. Ned Seeman from NYU discussed his work with DNA structures.

On the second day, Scott Mize from Foresight and Sean Murdock of the NanoBusiness Alliance
"Set the Scene." Mize discussed the new directions Foresight Institute is taking while Murdock discussed current efforts on the Hill to encourage legislative support and a more pragmatic approach to nanoscience.

At 9:30 AM, Drexler did a solo act. He began with the usual biology as an existence proof position, referencing compex biological phenomena, such as ribosomes. He shows the now infamous movie that follows a nanofactory through steps to produce a laptop computer. He was challenged for proof of principle experiments and claimed there were no new principles here.

Separating proofs of existence, from proofs of principle, from proofs of concepts seems to be one of the problems with molecular manufacturing as a persuasive proof (more of this in a later post).

Late morning, "Theoretical Possibilities" were discussed by Don Eigler of IBM made it clear there is a difference between theorizing, speculating/speculizing, and fantasizing and challenges the syllogistic proofs offered by Drexler and Foresight. Peter Cumings from Vanderbilt challenged Drexler with a fluctuation theorum (a system will exhibit negative entropy production). Drexler challenged him and there was no resolution. Ralph Merkle from Georgia Tech discussed the usual line on nanomachines and warned that researchers are staying away from molecular manufacturing because of its negative valence in the scientific community. Chris Phoenix from CRN discussed many of the same concepts found on the web site he shares with his colleague, Mike Treder. I suggest you visit that site for their line: (http://www.crnano.org/).

After lunch, we heard from David Forrest of IMM (not very impressive) , Carlo Montemagno from UCLA about his work in synthetic biology, and Christian Schafmeister from Pittsburgh and his work in synthetic chemistry. Montemagno and Schafmesiter blew everyone's socks off and I suggest you cruise the WWW to learn more.

On day three, we had a morning session. I led off and was followed by Neil Jacobstein of IMM, and David Rajeski from the Woodrow Wilson Institute and this presentation can be found at Lovy's nanobot blog site. It is called "NanoSight, NanoScheme and NanoHype" and can be found at http://nanobot.blogspot.com/.

Concluding remarks were mostly generous and some were interesting. For example, there was the observation that we need upstream involvement from government agencies and the focus of the meeting should be on the transition from passive to active nanoparticles.

9 comments:

Christine Peterson said...

David writes: "Now, I have a reputation of being tough on folks which is probable the result of my debate training and the fact that i have coached intercollegiate debate for over a quarter century. I need to admit that they presented a very strong case to include molecular manufacturing as an important component within the NNI."I can attest that David is hard to convince, so if he says they presented a very strong case, it must have been quite strong indeed.

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