From: email@example.com (Tom Perigrin)
Subject: Re: KNO3 from urine (was RE: Sulfur)
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 1995 16:09:09 GMT
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (The
Silent Observer) wrote:
> Ask again in about 20 to 50 years, and you might be able to. This kind
> of reaction is just the sort of thing that begs for someone to build a
> nanotech microbeastie to carry it out -- effectively, the little
> submicromachine would grab N2 or nitrogen oxides and H2O out of the
> air, rearrange the bonds (while burning hydrocarbon present in the air
> as pollutants with oxygen for energy), and spit out AN or even
> ready-to-blast ANFO -- likely the former, as this would be a very
> popular item with farmers -- all the while cleaning up the air. I can
> foresee a situation where farmers might have to spray their crops with
> propane to feed the nanobeasties that do the fertilizing without
> killing the plants...and where terrorists would steal truckloads of
> nanobeastie suspension for use in obtaining AN for explosives.
And how does this nano-beastie grab a N2 molecule? With metal tongs? Or
by creating a bond to it?
The nanomech people have gone overboard. I have spent hours on the net
arguing with Marvin Minsky about this. They constantly envisage things
that are just "too far", or "don't think things through".
I can see nanomachines working on membranes, moving receptors around, and
handling proteins... but when you get down to the small molecule level,
people seem to forget that you can't make "arms" and "motors" in the
fashions predicted. Oh, you can make little machines to handle small
molecules, and they have been made for billions of years - they're called
"enzymes". But enzymnes have some fundamental limitations - called the
laws of thermodynamics and chemistry. And the nano-whackos seems to forget
this by just waving the nano-wand and invoking "nano God wills it".
You describe nano-machines mking ANFO for terrorists. Now, continue to
think... if you have the capability to make a nanomachine capable of
assembling N2 and H2O into AN at the molecular level, burning oil from a
reservoir it carries around (nano-tankers?), why make it? Why not make
the nanomachine to do the job you want? You want to destroy a building
with ANFO? Why not make a building-destroying nano-beastie and let them
loose instead... the building rots rather than blows up.
You want to make something to fertilize fields? Why "build" a
nano-beastie... why not do some genetic engineering on the nitrogen fixing
bacteria and use them instead? That technology is within grasp.
If I was smart, I'd have a clever .sig