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Nano Flying Cars?

The next presenter -- he just finished, and I'm falling behind -- was J. Storrs Hall, who gave a very far-out talk about how nanotech might be used to build things like, say, flying cars. (Homepage here, abstract here.) Hall is actually known for far-out thinking; he was the guy who first dreamed up the notion of "utility fog" -- that is, a nanobot swarm that could "simulate the physical existence of almost any object."

The flying car Hall mentioned, by the way, would have "a hundred quadrillion parts" (that's 100,000,000,000,000,000 parts), and building it would require a database "that's thousands of millions of times larger than any in the world today." (If you're skeptical about whether that's the right way to go, I suspect you're not alone. Even if, as one expert has suggested to me, the problem of using nanotech to build a flying car wouldn't be as complex as Hall says, I can't help but think that using more conventional materials would be easier. Hey, it worked for Alberto Santos-Dumont!)

I'll try to get Hall on camera for an interview later. In the meantime, here are two slides from his presentation, side by side. The slide on the left shows what might be called a "natural molecular machine" -- it's an ATPase, a kind of enzyme in all our bodies -- and it's a complex jumble. The one on the right is a hypothetical artificial nanotech gear of some sort. The gear would be stiffer, and simpler, and wouldn't need water to work, thus it'd be much more efficient.

October 22, 2004 in Research | Permalink


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