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The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Vindicates Radical Visions of Molecular Nanotechnology

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The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.” The award vindicates the dreams of nanotechnology enthusiasts, and points the way to the molecular nanotechnology proposed by Drexler in the eighties.

“2016’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken molecular systems out of equilibrium’s stalemate and into energy-filled states in which their movements can be controlled,” notes the Nobel announcement. “In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to washing machines, fans and food processors.”

They have developed molecules with controllable movements.

The enthusiasm for nanotechnology started with K. Eric Drexler’s cult book “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (1986).” While Engines of Creation was mainly focused on visionary dreams of unlimited power and abundance enabled by nanotechnology, Drexler’s last book, “Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization (2013),” is more focused on additive manufacturing at the nanoscale, or Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM) – building precisely manufactured goods from the bottom up, one atom or molecule at the time, a concept essentially equivalent to 3D nano-printing.

“In Engines of Creation, I pictured molecular manufacturing using ‘replicating assemblers’ to build things, including more machines like themselves,” noted Drexler in a twentieth anniversary edition of the book (2006). The concept of replicating assemblers stimulated breathtaking visions of far future technologies, such as the “utility fog,” and fears of self-replicating nanobots that would destroy the biosphere (the infamous “grey goo” scenario).

Replicating assemblers tend to be dismissed as unfeasible hype by most of the science establishment. But even outspoken Drexler critic Richard Jones, the author of “Soft Machines: nanotechnology and life,” acknowledges that biology proves the feasibility of replicating molecular nanotechnology. In fact, replicating assemblers must be feasible in-principle, because our very cells are assemblers.

“Further study showed that [replicating assemblers] would be needlessly complex and inefficient,” added Drexler. “In a detailed, technical book [“Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,” 1992], I described and analyzed desktop-scale molecular manufacturing systems that would be far simpler and more efficient.” So he did, but this and similar statements have been interpreted as defensive backpedaling.

From Drexler’s visions and today’s first wave of practical achievements in APM and molecular machines, molecular nanotechnology will continue to develop, and someday achieve replicating assemblers as well.

A Major Step Toward Drexler’s Vision

K. Eric Drexler

K. Eric Drexler

It’s unfortunate that most of the press articles about the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry ignore or downplay Drexler’s seminal work on nanotechnology. An exception is George Dvorsky’s Gizmodo article. Dvorsky notes that “molecular nanotechnology is still in its infancy, but by awarding the Nobel Prize to these three scientists, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is acknowledging the technology’s huge potential.”

With the 2016 Nobel Awards, it’s clear that nanotechnology has finally arrived.

The Nobel press release notes that molecular machines will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems. But the possibility to control the movement of molecular machines, pioneered by the new Nobel laureates, opens the door to visionary applications – tomorrow’s “washing machines, fans and food processors” – such as medical molecular nanorobots that roam our bodies and hack our cells to fix all problems. According to Nicholas Negroponte, who created the prestigious MIT Media Lab, nanobots will hack our brains as well.

The concept of medical nanorobots is illustrated in the infographics below, due to media and nanotechnology expert Gina “Nanogirl” Miller.

Molecular nanorobots

Miller, who in 1999 launched the popular nanotechnology newsletter “Nanogirl News” with over four thousand subscribers, has written articles and provided interviews on the subject of nanotechnology and created digital artwork, videos and animations to illustrate future applications. Her work has been featured in various media including History Channel, Wired, PC Magazine, Fast Company, and various books such as “Nanofuture” by J. Storrs Hall, the inventor of the “utility fog” concept.

Miller has collaborated with Drexler and other nanotechnology pioneers such as Robert A. Freitas Jr., author of “Nanomedicine,” and is a frequent collaborator of the Foresight Institute created by Drexler.

“The 2016 Nobel Chemistry Prize is validation that mainstream science has accepted the proposition that it is possible to design and fabricate molecular machines capable of using energy to control motion,” says Miller.

This is a major step toward the Feynman-Drexler vision of systems of molecular machines manufacturing large, complex objects to atomic precision.

One of the new Nobel laureates, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, won the Feynman Prize awarded by Drexler’s Foresight Institute in 2007. Miller shared memories of the event and thoughts:

The 2007 Foresight technical conference was held October 9-10 in Arlington, Virginia. It was held in conjunction with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) to launch the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap. The original web site for the Conference was hosted by SME and no longer exists, although a pre-conference brochure describing the Conference in some detail can be downloaded from Foresight.

This was also the last Foresight Conference at which Eric Drexler appeared. Drexler was Chief Technical Consultant to the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap, and the Roadmap was the last Foresight project that drew Drexler’s participation. The Roadmap is available on Drexler’s website and also on the Foresight Institute web site.

The Roadmap was sponsored by grants from the Waitt Family Foundation and other partners to the Foresight Institute, and was prepared by Foresight and Battelle, which manages US National Laboratories, including Pacific Northwest, Oak Ridge, and Brookhaven, all of which hosted Roadmap workshops. The goal was to chart a path from current (2005-2007) nanotechnology to the vision of building large, complex objects molecule-by- molecule. It was the first attempt to systematically map out research and development paths through several disciplines leading to nanosystems that could produce other nanosystems, and eventually to general purpose, high-throughput, atomically precise manufacturing.

A number of researchers representing different disciplines and different research stages from basic nanoscience and fundamental research to technology development for near-term applications presented recent results and research plans at the conference.

A highlight of the Conference was the Feynman lunch, at which the 2007 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes were announced. The winner in the Experiment category was Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, at that time at UCLA and since moved to Northwestern University, announced by Foresight: “who has pioneered the synthesis and assembly of unique active molecular machines for manufacturing into practical nanoscale devices. His many accomplishments in synthetic chemistry have produced functional molecular machines, in particular a ‘molecular muscle’ for the purposes of amplifying and harnessing molecular mechanical motions, that may ultimately lead to the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems.”

The winner in the Theory category was David A. Leigh of the University of Edinburgh (since moved to the University of Manchester) for “the design and synthesis of artificial molecular motors and machines from first principles… focusing on the construction of molecular machine systems that function in the realm of Brownian motion.” When presented with his award, Sir Fraser commented that these awards represented a unique, scientific “father and son” celebration since Prof. Leigh had obtained his PhD in 1987 under Prof. Stoddart’s supervision at the University of Sheffield.

Sir J. Fraser Stoddart sharing the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the design and production of molecular machines is also an event to be celebrated. AFAIK this is the first instance of a Foresight Feynman Prize winner going on to win a Nobel.

Written in collaboration with Gina “Nanogirl” Miller.

Images from Gina “Nanogirl” Miller, Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.




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Altcoins

Crypto Market Development: South Korea’s National Policy Committee Chair Calls For ICO Legalization

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  • A member of South Korea’s governing Democratic party and the chairman of Korea’s National Policy Committee, Min Byung-Doo, is urging to ease the current regulations on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
  • Min Byung-Doo wants to introduce necessary regulatory framework, allowing ICOs in the country.

Allow ICOs In South Korea

The South Korean National Policy Committee Chief, Min Byung-Doo, is calling for a regulatory framework to be explored. This would be to allow for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to take place within the country. He stated that the current prohibiting of ICOs weakens the industry’s competitiveness appeal with foreign markets. Further boldly adding, this would be preventing growth.

In his statement at to lawmakers, Byung-Doo said, “We can see that the flow of investment is clearly changing compared to ICO and angel fundraising. The ICO has raised $1.7 billion for Telegram and $4 billion for Block.One, it is getting bigger and bigger.”

Further in the statement, Min Byung-Doo said, “Let the government, the National Assembly and the blockchain association quickly create a working group to block fraud, speculation, money laundering and develop the block-chain industry,”. However, he acknowledged the government’s reluctance to create the needed framework.

In September 2017, the Financial Services Commission in South Korea announced a ban on ICOs. The law has not yet been enacted.

Crypto Market Reaction

A lack of reaction has been observed for now, despite this determination to help further legitimize the digital currency market in South Korea. Crypto market developments in the country are always watched very carefully. This is given their large crypto market participation. It was reported in December 2017 that South Korea accounted for as much as 17% of all Ethereum trades occurring in cryptocurrency markets.

Market Reactions To South Korean Related News

Ripple (XRP) crashed in January, following CoinMarketCap’s decision to remove XRP price data from Korean exchange desks. This as a result largely brought down the total average.

XRP/USD Coinmarketcap update triggered drop

On 11th January, Korean crypto exchange Coinrail was hacked, and over $40 million in tokens were stolen. Bitcoin initially dropped over 11% on this.

BTC/USD Coinrail hack triggered drop

One final example, UPbit, a South Korean exchange, was investigated by authorities for illicitly moving customer funds to the account of its executives. Bitcoin initially dropped over 7% on the news.

BTC/USD UPbit investigation triggered drop

Given the above mentioned, one should keep an eye on any developments coming out of South Korea, for the foreseeable future.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 54 rated postsKen has over 8 years exposure to the financial markets. During a large part of his career, he worked as an analyst, covering a variety of asset classes; forex, fixed income, commodities, equities and cryptocurrencies. Ken has gone on to become a regular contributor across several large news and analysis outlets.




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Altcoins

Crypto Market Update: Japan’s Self-Regulatory Group (JVCEA) Readying Tighter Rules on Digital Assets

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  • A group of cryptocurrency exchange operators in Japan is readying to tighten up measures following recent cyber breach.
  • Action follows reported hack earlier in the month; cryptocurrency exchange Zaif lost an estimated $59.67 million.

Self-Regulatory Group Set To Tighten Rules

The Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) is exploring new rules to safeguard against cyber theft, including setting a cap on the amount of digital currencies managed online. This is citing informed sources, being reported by local news outlet, the Japan Times.

Informed sources detailed that the cap will likely to be around 10 – 20% of customer deposits. The JVCEA are said to be soon revising its rules, which were originally drawn up in June following multiple cyber attacks. These will be implemented once all has been approved by the Financial Services Agency. This is as part of the payment services law process in the country.

The move likely received large motive due to the reported hack earlier in September. The Japanese start-up Tech Bureau said that its cryptocurrency exchange, known as Zaif, had been hacked. Losses were estimated around $59.67 million of Bitcoin and two other digital currencies -Bitcoin Cash and Monacoin.

Market Reaction

No initial reaction was observed across the cryptocurrency market on this latest update, coming out of Japan as of Sunday 30th September. Despite this, however, Japan and crypto sell-off are not uncommon to have been used in the same sentence over the past years and even months. This means volatility could be in store for digital assets in the short term.

Back in January of this year, the largest reported hack on a Japanese exchange took place with Coincheck losing $530 million worth of NEM in a coordinated attack. This incident massively spooked the market, and was  a heavy contributor to the large sell-off in January. As we’ve observed over the past eight months, the market has yet to reclaim January’s peak (although this can’t be solely attributed to the theft). At the time, South Korea’s Attorney General had already spooked investors with FUD related to the possible banning of digital currencies in the country.

Against this backdrop, investors are advised to pay attention to Japan-related volatility.

BTC/USD weekly chart

Most recently, looking in the month of June, another sell-off was seen. This one came after Japan’s financial regulator ordered several cryptocurrency exchanges to improve their practices against money laundering. The action led bitFlyer — the country’s largest crypto exchange — to suspend new account creation. This was initiated to improve internal processes in order to curb money laundering and terrorist financing.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 54 rated postsKen has over 8 years exposure to the financial markets. During a large part of his career, he worked as an analyst, covering a variety of asset classes; forex, fixed income, commodities, equities and cryptocurrencies. Ken has gone on to become a regular contributor across several large news and analysis outlets.




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Electronics

Berkeley Lab’s One-Nanometer Transistor Could Keep Electronics On Exponential Growth

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Decades ago Intel Co-Founder Gordon Moore observed that the density, degree of miniaturization, and ultimately the performance of electronic components, was doubling every two years.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.




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