Monday, May 31, 2010

A tale of two sticking points

Nanotech is, IMO, seriously neat stuff,  Seriously counter-intuitive, too.

Simply scaling down familiar designs ceases to work below a certain size. If you want (as I have, in fiction) to put nanobots into a living cell, you must contend with random molecular jostling: Brownian motion.

Scale down a bit smaller still, and weird, wacky quantum-mechanical effects make matters yet more challenging. Things don't get much wackier than real forces manifesting because of the ephemeral appearance and disappearance of virtual particles from the quantum foam.

So: I was delighted to happen upon this article, and with it ways to keep Casimir effect from gumming up the nanoscaled works. Here's another solution, a couple of years old, that I had managed to overlook. The latter uses meta-materials that bend light differently than do normal materials.

But speaking of things that are stuck ... the Phoenix lander on Mars did not survive the Martian winter. And the Spirit rover has been stuck in place for a year and will presumably never move again. Plucky little robot that it is, though, Spirit will keep doing science (after a long winter's nap) right where it's stuck. 

Large and small, near and far -- cool stuff. Let's hear it for... wait for it ... stick-to-itiveness.

(Image by permission of Emok.)

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