Interesting tech developments in nanotech, nanostructured materials, etc.
Ken Novak's Weblog
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Craig Venter update:
Nice summary of Venter's latest work by Steve Jurvetson
. "Craig Venter set sail around the world to shotgun sequence the millions of viruses and bacteria in every spoonful of sea water. From the first five ocean samples, this team grew the number of known genes on the planet by 10x and the number of genes involved in solar energy conversion by 100x. The ocean microorganisms have evolved over a longer period of time and have pathways that are more efficient than photosynthesis.
Another discovery: every 200 miles across the open ocean, the microbial genes are up to 85% different. The oceans are not homogenous masses. They consist of myriad uncharted regions of ecological diversity… and the world’s largest digital database.
From the collection of digital genomes, we are learning to decode and reprogram the information systems of biology. Like computer hackers, we can leverage a prior library of evolved code, assemblers and subsystems. Many of the radical applications lie outside of medicine.
At the Venter Institute, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith are leading the Minimal Genome Project. They take the Mycoplasma genitalium from the human urogenital tract, and strip out 200 unnecessary genes, thereby creating the simplest synthetic organism that can self-replicate (at about 300 genes). They plan to layer new functionality on to this artificial genome – to make a solar cell or to generate hydrogen from water using the sun’s energy for photonic hydrolysis – by splicing cassettes of novel genes discovered in the oceans for energy conversion from sunlight. ..
The limiting factor is our understanding of these complex systems, but our pace of learning has been compounding exponentially. We will learn more about genetics and the origins of disease in the next 10 years than we have in all of human history. " Also see Venter's latest company, Synthetic Genomics
. 7:47:25 PM
Monday, October 17, 2005
Recipe for Destruction: So Kurzweil and Joy agree on this; they disagree on other advanced tech issues. "To shed light on how the virus evolved, the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database.
This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous. ..
We urgently need international agreements by scientific organizations to limit such publications and an international dialogue on the best approach to preventing recipes for weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. Part of that discussion should concern the appropriate role of governments, scientists and their scientific societies, and industry.
We also need a new Manhattan Project to develop specific defenses against new biological viral threats, natural or human made. There are promising new technologies, like RNA interference, that could be harnessed. We need to put more stones on the defensive side of the scale." I'd like to learn more about RNA interference and other biodefense technologies. 10:00:02 AM
Monday, October 10, 2005
Environmental Defense - Nanotechnology
: Selection of articles by EDF on nanotech. "Getting Nanotechnology Right the First Time : Nanotechnology –- the design and manipulation of materials at the atomic and molecular scale -– has great potential to deliver environmental and other benefits, but it may also pose significant risks to human health and the environment. Novel properties emerge as materials reach the nano-scale that open the door to innovations in such applications as cleaner energy production, energy efficiency, water treatment and environmental remediation. At the same time, these novel materials may pose new risks to workers, consumers, the public and the environment, as suggested by a number of preliminary studies. Environmental Defense believes that both the public and private sectors need to comprehensively address the potential risks of this important new technology to ensure its responsible development. " 5:13:26 PM