(Catching up on month-old news…)
The most important technical news from the Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology was the presentation by Christian Schafmeister, who is working on building molecules with a wide variety of shapes out of bis-amino acids. He is able to build protein-like molecules that are rigid, and whose shape is easy to predict from the sequence. If there are no hidden catches, this may be an innovation as valuable (for the purposes of creating new objects to atomic precision) as solving the protein folding problem. The biggest drawback that he mentioned was the time it takes to synthesize a medium-sized molecule (up to a week), but he says that could be automated.
I’m unsure whether there was anything important in the other talks about nanotech research. Ned Seeman mentioned something about a ribosome-like device – I suppose that might be something important and new that he has done, but he didn’t say enough about it for me to tell.
Rob Freitas made some vaguely impressive claims about the feasibility of building a diamondoid assembler using the tools available today, but he went through some critical issues such as error rates in placing individual atoms where we want them to quickly for me to evaluate the plausibility of his answers. I’ll try to read the papers he has on his web site real soon now to see if he presents those arguments more convincingly there.