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Robotics Technology

Nanocar Wins Top Science Award 175

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-than-meets-the-eye dept.
Lucas123 writes "A researcher who built a car slightly larger than a strand of DNA won the Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental nanotechnology. James Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice Univ. built a car only 4 nanometers in width in order to demonstrate that nanovehicles could be controlled enough to deliver payloads to build larger objects, such as memory chips and, someday, even buildings, like a self-assembling machine. Tour and a team of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers constructed a car with chassis, working suspension, wheels and a motor. 'You shine light on it and the motor spins in one direction and pushes the car like a paddle wheel on the surface,' Tour said. The team also built a truck that can carry a payload."
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Nanocar Wins Top Science Award

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  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:31PM (#26204719) Homepage Journal
    The researchers will be asking for a bailout instead of a grant?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bubba tells me these Nanonascar stuff is better than wrestling, but I just bodyslam him and tell him he's wrong.

  • Where is 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong', 'terminator', and 't2000'?
  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:40PM (#26204787) Homepage

    No cup holders? Worthless. Even Nanites need somewhere to put their Nano-Dr Pepper.

  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:40PM (#26204791) Homepage Journal

    Oh hell no, please.

    My wife has enough trouble finding the regular sized car when she has been shopping.

    How the hell will she find a nano-car?

  • by olddotter (638430) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:41PM (#26204799) Homepage

    I think we are nearing some sort of "singularity" as the number of stories about real science invading what was until recently only Science fiction becomes common place. (http://inttech.blogspot.com/2008/11/sci-fi-and-real-science-collide.html)

    Read this article, listen to the Futures in Biotech (http://twit.tv/FIB) podcast, we are progressing technology at a fantastic rate. It feels me with equal parts hope and dread.

    • by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:57PM (#26204957)

      I don't know about that. There are, I think, definitely things that we haven't even begun to imagine. I mean, a couple of centuries ago, they could've only imagined "horseless carriages". I don't think they could even grasp the concept of a nanocar back then, or nano-anything for that matter.

      It's pretty pessimistic to think that all that we can achieve is only what we can imagine at the moment. There will probably be more out there for us to discover. Don't worry.

      • by olddotter (638430)

        I never meant to imply that we were about to run out of things to invent. I just have found that in almost Sci-Fi story I have read recently that there is a part of it that has or is very near coming true.

        Some like Vernor Vinge's Localiers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Localizer_(fictional_device) [wikipedia.org]) which are slightly advanced RFID devices.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "I mean, a couple of centuries ago, they could've only imagined "horseless carriages"."

        Two centuries ago = late 1808

        Nicholas Cugnot produced a working steam-driven horseless carriage in 1769. The first steam locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick in 1804.

        http://nevertoolatebook.com/FardierdeCugnot20050111.jpg [nevertoolatebook.com]

        • "I mean, a couple of centuries ago, they could've only imagined "horseless carriages"."

          Two centuries ago = late 1808

          Nicholas Cugnot produced a working steam-driven horseless carriage in 1769.

          Okay. 2.39 centuries ago. So could you remind us all what the significant digits are for "a couple" again?

    • Dunno how near we are, but in my estimation, we're either going to get destroyed by our creations, or they'll take control of themselves.

      I'm not 100% sure of them taking control of themselves (software still isn't really close IMHO), but some of this crap put into the hands of a few nutsoid individuals will be enough to push us back at least 50 years or so... given the trajectory of the power and portability of new technology, I think that's pretty difficult to argue against.

      So, in my estimation, si
      • by nschubach (922175)

        1. Make everyone afraid of this new tech. Make them think it's bad for us.
        2. Let them vote to leave it in the hands of the government or someone wiser.
        3. ???
        4. Profit!

        Joking aside. You bring up a valid point, but I give you a counterpoint. If you fear that the technology will be used against you and you delegate such power to control it to someone else, you are essentially giving them the wheel. Do you think someone else can run your life better than yourself? I'm talking about your view on yoursel

        • Well, I think you misread my post. I wasn't advocating locking this stuff in a box where only the "smart people" can handle this stuff, by any means. That would practically guarantee something nasty happening.

          On the contrary, I was stating that if our collective intelligence as a species is not high enough to handle this powerful tech, then we may be 1) Victims of our own inventions in the sense that they permanently destroy us or 2) Keep hitting a wall of advancement, where, when we advance to a cert
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I think we are nearing some sort of "singularity" as the number of stories about real science invading what was until recently only Science fiction becomes common place

      It's been that way since I learned to read 50 years ago. Actually since way before - in 1946 before there were computer screens or keyboards, when computers were programmed with solder and plugs, and their output was simply lights turned on or off and there were less than half dozen in the world, Murray Leinster wrote A Logic Named Joe [baen.com] that f

      • The old 1964 Star Trek foretold flat screened voice activated computers

        The ones where you could tell had display devices that were distinctly CRT-shaped, so they seem to have gotten things quite backwards (having us using something very much like CRTs for display, while having computers that had little problem with processing input and producing output in spoken natural language.)

      • Even in the 19th century, Jules Verne foretold a visit to the moon, and although his astronauts were shot out of a cannon, there is much in From The Earth To The Moon that mirrors Apollo 11 in many ways.

        And the part where they meet a race of moon-men...

    • by tenco (773732)
      Or, maybe, you're just getting old. ;)
  • Let me know when they come out with the nano-porsche.
  • welcome our Replicator Overlords.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replicator_(Stargate) [wikipedia.org]

  • Everything is IP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xerolooper (1247258) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:48PM (#26204869)
    I for one look forward to the day when the physical world is reduced to being as fluid as intellectual Property is today.
    Have a Nano factory in your garage(call it a replicator for you Star Trek fans) where you can download the latest gadget and it is produced before your eyes.
    • by jav1231 (539129)
      "But in the future, things will be built not from the top down, but the bottom up -- as in nature." Agreed. As the above statement suggests and frankly, makes the notion quite exciting!
    • by Glonoinha (587375)

      Read Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age.

      Given how spot on he was when he wrote Snow Crash (we're about one generation of MMORPG and one instance of hyper-inflation away from everything in Snow Crash being dead on the money) I would say there's a good chance you are more correct than you imagine.

    • In the light of the way a lot of IP is handled today, "Everything is IP" sounds like a dystopian nightmare.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smoker2 (750216)
      And there will be no intellectual property problems. It will come down to the fact that the only thing that producers produce is energy. If you want their design, you purchase their energy to construct the device. Even if you can reproduce the design, it won't matter. The money is made in the energy you paid for. Every time.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Couldn't someone hack the factory to build a gun that shoots you when you open up the door to take out whatever you were building?

    • Who wouldn't download a car?

  • it was even a bit smaller than a Corbin Sparrow.

  • Finally... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:50PM (#26204889)

    THE car for the man with an incredibly long penis.

  • Self constructing machines and buildings? The unions will never allow it.
    • As long as the union workers still got paid, they wouldn't care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by VJ42 (860241) *
      When the industrial revolution started the workers [wikipedia.org] "would never allow it" then, either. Small groups of people, however organised will never stop truly revolutionary technologies, what ever century they're living in.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It won't be the unions that complain, it will be the IP "owners" who will complain that they own everything you make, because their plans are copyrighted.

      Meanwhile nothing but land will have any REAL worth, as nothing will be in the least bit scarce.

      • Let'em complain. Our nanites will be building objects based on open source patterns.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          Our nanites will be building objects based on open source patterns.

          Unfortunately, under the Nanosafety Act, only nanites whose manufacturers have had them cleared through very rigorous (or, at least, expensive) mandatory certifications will be legal for use, and the manufacturers of those will lease them under terms that prohibit use to manufacture anything not licensed from the nanite manufacturer. These provisions, of course, will be to insure the safety and quality of the produced goods, the effect of ou

  • Very cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dexmachina (1341273) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:52PM (#26204909)
    OK, jokes aside, that's effing cool. Starting in the new year, I'll be joining a nano research team so things like this are incredibly exciting. As I see it, the ultimate hurdle with nanoscience won't be on the engineering side. The great challenge will be theoretical, determining what microscopic abilities/properties the nanobots/cars/things will need to have in order for the swarm to exhibit the macroscopic behaviour that's desired. So for example, with these nanocars delivering particles in a ground-up assembly. Each car could be completely autonomous and somehow programmed to bring its payload exactly where it's supposed to go, but that would be completely unfeasible: if you're producing 10^23 vehicles, each needs to be exactly the same, not a custom build like this prototype. So instead you need to figure out exactly what properties and initial conditions the swarm has to have so that, collectively, it does what you want. Sort of like reverse engineering an ant colony. It sounds pretty straight forward, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done in the mathematics of this sort of thing. Anyways, very exciting!
    • So with 10^23 vehicles each bringing it's tiny payload to the assembly point, and presumably a swarm of builders at the assembly point, how the frack do you do traffic control? I would see that as a much larger obstacle than the actual construction of the vehicles and builders. Hell, we've only got 10^6 highly complex autonomous devices attempting to arrive at their destinations here in the Seattle/Tacoma area every weekday, and it's a freaking mess!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by D Ninja (825055)

        So with 10^23 vehicles...how the frack do you do traffic control?

        That's pretty much the same question the city of Los Angeles asks every day. I'm pretty sure they've given up.

      • by Nethead (1563)

        Well, if we leave out the "Outta-my-way-I'm-late" asshole circuit...

        And that's Everett/Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma area now.

        -Joe, Tulalip

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Railroads.

        You only need one smart rail builder. The rest of the cars just have to follow the rail and dump their load when they hit an empty location on the side. Make that a moving spur, make the rails movable and you can build a sheet line by line. Have the rail loop back to a collection bin and pick up another chunk.

      • You don't do "traffic control". Each automaton routes itself, continually deciding where is payload is best unloaded.

    • if you're producing 10^23 vehicles, each needs to be exactly the same, not a custom build like this prototype

      Not if you've developed nano-factories that build nano-factories, either level of which takes external commands or runs through a series of variations during its processing.

      • by bar-agent (698856)

        Not if you've developed nano-factories that build nano-factories, either level of which takes external commands or runs through a series of variations during its processing.

        "All problems in nanotechnology can be solved by another level of indirection...except for the problem of too many levels of indirection."

    • by Genda (560240)

      Actually if you look at the ants, any particular ant is amazingly simple. The complexity is an emergent property of the colony. Make the cars a little more complex with simple sensors and decision making capabilities, give each car maybe a vocabulary of 10-20 words all communicated by small volatile chemicals that can be passed between cars. Create six or seven different cars, one for transporting material, another for clearing the road, yet another for getting messages from the central controller and layin

      • Yes, that's exactly what I mean. The idea is that instead of creating very complex individual entities, we figure out how to make very simple entities that, en masse, do what we want. The whole problem then is reverse engineering from the macroscopic behaviour we want to the microscopic properties that we need to engineer.
  • by cats-paw (34890) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:56PM (#26204949) Homepage

    I thought the most important point in the FA was the shift in thinking which this kind of technology could one day produce:

    But in the future, things will be built not from the top down, but the bottom up -- as in nature.

    Nature has always pushed it's own tech forward via lots of small things working together. Lots of small things working together also creates redundancy.

  • by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) on Monday December 22, 2008 @03:58PM (#26204967) Journal

    The inventor, Dr. James Tour, states that he did this "so that we can someday construct buildings and other large objects with molecular-size vehicles."

    I'm curious to find out how long it would take for nanovehicles to construct large-sized objects. However, an even greater usage for this invention would be to repair and strengthen structurally unstable buildings, dams, levees, etc.

    • I'm curious to find out how long it would take for nanovehicles to construct large-sized objects.

      Depends how many you use, and whether they get distracted writing the complete works of Shakespeare.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2008 @04:00PM (#26205009)

    4 nanometers is 1/3,657,600,000 of a Volkswagen.

  • From the article, this looks interesting "Until now, engineers have built things by taking larger objects and cutting them down to make smaller ones [...] But in the future, things will be built not from the top down, but the bottom up -- as in nature."
  • All I can think about is nano-malware.

  • When are they going to test it on Top Gear?
    • by chrisj_0 (825246)
      I too want the specs on this. What's the 0-60 time? how much HP, what's the power to weight ratio? Options and trim packages? Nano GT? Nano Truck denali?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It would have to be Hammond that tests it. Clarkson is too fat and May , well, he's just May.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does the car get gas, or does the gas get it?

  • Meh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by imrec (461877)

    Call me when someone finds a way to mount 22" rims on it.

    • Just have a metric boatload of these circumambulating on the 22" rims, and have them move instead of the engine. In fact, you won't need an engine.

      Why am I suddenly thinking of the crabs under the Black Pearl on POTC:AWE?
  • And to think that if I had taken my dad's advice on majors, I'd have had Dr. Tour as my intro organic chemistry prof...

  • The Fantastic Voyages of NanoKnight Rider. Drag racing and nano-car chases in people's bloodstreams everywhere. And you thought that voice inside your head was imaginary? It's your bloodstream chatting you up, and it sounds just like William Daniels.

  • by blue l0g1c (1007517) on Monday December 22, 2008 @05:13PM (#26205749)
    Here it is --> .
    (couldn't help myself)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tolkien (664315)

      Here it is --> .

      (couldn't help myself)

      Pff that's not actual size, that's like displaying an enhanced 4 foot poster of a fly. ... :)

  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Monday December 22, 2008 @05:38PM (#26206015) Homepage
    The whole thing with small cars like the Smartcar and the Mini has it's merits in terms of saving fuel and use on narrow urban streets, but honestly, this is just going too far with the concept. There's no way I'm going to be able to be comfortable in a car that small or have any room for any of my stuff.

    Really, I knew this would eventually go just way too far.
  • It has a little "foot" that pushes it along from the middle. Too funny.
  • by bar-agent (698856) on Monday December 22, 2008 @08:16PM (#26207413)

    You could make a movie where some guy is shrunk down to nano-size and has to navigate nano-mechanical environment. Among the hazards would be cars running everywhere, moving carpets, big switching molecules hanging down from above, assembly factories, photon trigger streams...it'd be pretty sweet, actually.

  • ...clowns can it carry?

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