Thursday, November 14, 2013

quote for the day

Credit: ESO/G. Beccari

"Those who have been true philosophers, Syrus, seem to me to have very wisely  separated the theoretical part of philosophy  from the practical. For even if it happens the practical turns out to be theoretical prior to its being practical, nevertheless a great difference would be found in them; not only because some of the moral virtues can belong  to the everyday ignorant man and it is impossible to come by the theory of the whole sciences without learning, but also because in practical matters the greatest advantage is to had from a continued and repeated operation upon the things themselves, while in theoretical knowledge it is to be had by a progress onward. We accordingling thought it up to us so to train our actions even in the application of the imagination as not to forget in whatever things we happen upon the consideration of their beautiful and well-ordered disposition, and to indulge in meditation mostly for the exposition of many beautiful theorems and especially  of those specifically called mathematical." - Claudius Ptolemy

- science fun extra,

- Science/Technology extra - Nanotechnologists argued for decades now that nanomanufacturing will revolutionize everything.  Maybe it ultimately will. But, it looks to me that technological revolution will come before nanomanufacturing and make it possible and not the other way around.
Eric Drexler, in his "Engines of Creation" pointed out that after nanomanufacturing systems are built, the limits to what we can make are our computing ability and imagination. But, it seems more and more that nanomanufacturing cannot be built till we have the computing ability to design and build nanomanufacturing.  Eric Drexler had noted that nanomanufacturing systems will be dependent on nanocomputers with molecular chemistry computer programs.  These programs are needed in order for the nanomachines to know what a given atom is, what it's doing, and how to bind them together. Nanomanufacturing systems will be completely computerized from the get-go.  It seems that this ability to simulate chemistry and materials properties will revolutionize technologies the world over long before nanomanufacturing systems are made. 
Back in 1878, Thomas Edison set out to try out thousands of different materials to find the right ones with the right properties for his electric lightbulb.  Ever since, scientists/engineers have followed his lead. An article in December 2013 issue of Scientific American, points out that on average, materials science takes twenty years to hit the market from conception. They give one example - the lithium ion battery. Today, one would think that we could just use supercomputers to compute materials with the desired properties, but the progress of computers apparently just now got to the point of doing this.
Shortly after Thomas Edison, physicists started coming up with equations of the atom and its constituents.  But, even then, the equations were to hard to solve for practically calculating any given desired material property.  Walter Kohn and John Pople worked on making quantum mechanics equations suitable for supercomputers.  I can think of another not noted in the Scientific American article, William A. Goddard, III(not sure of any relations to William Goddard way back in the early 1900s, who made the first liquid fuel rockets.)  I'd like to point out some other computer programs that help engineers make technologies that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
F-1 racecars at that point used supercomputers and finite element analyses to precisely place the fibers of carbon fibers.  Now imagine using supercomputers to calculate materials to precise properties desired. They call it high throughput computational material design.  One example is touch screen of smartphones; those are not just arbitrary materials.
Once again, for whatever reason, the computing software and hardware just wasn't sophisticated enough - till around 2011. They mention five thousand engineers have projects their working on to make use of this just now matured computational tool. It's too bad the IBM "Blue Waters" photonics supercomputer was shelved due to the budget guys.  Right now, that might realize their missing out on opening new markets.  I mentioned this blue waters photonics supercomputer near the very beginning of this blog.
When nanosystems mature enough, the computational tools to design what we want will already be in place.
- In other high technology news, metamaterials might conquer any temperature superconductivity.  How Metamaterials Could Hold the Key to High Temperature Superconductivity.   They could also lead to superconducting memristers. Superconducting Memristors.
And in even more exciting technology news, 3d printing advances to making objects in minutes instead of hours. USC Viterbi engineers cut time to 3-D print heterogeneous objects from hours to minutes

- Dna-nanomanufacturing news related to the end of the Edison trial and error method has magically come at the right time.  This 'genetic algorithm' dna-self assembly method also combines with colloidal chemistry. Express yourself: Scientists use genetic algorithm to design self-assembling ssDNA-grafted particles

- the futuristic technology/nanotechnology news just keeps coming in today(and yesterday).  Related to the genetic algorithms to design self-assembly right above, Chad Mirkin's group shows off their dna self assembly of nanoparticles, DNA-mediated nanoparticle crystallization into Wulff polyhedral Chard Mirkin's group suggests they will have nothing better to do than parallel process a bunch of nanocrystals as nanoparts for a nanomachine that can pick and place individual atoms on its own.  But, maybe they'll be excited to see the 'genetic algorithms' paper above.

Credit: Evelyn Auyeung/Ting Li/Chad A. Mirkin/Monica Olvera de la Cruz

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