Nanotechnology Feed

November 30, 2008

Walking Proteins Move Cargo

Kinesin dimer / David S. Goodsell, Scripps Research Institute

One way to transport objects inside a cell is by the use of Kinesin motor proteins. Three things are required: a motor to move the cargo, a track along which to move it, and the cargo itself that needs to be delivered.

Motor Proteins

Proteins are essential components of cells that are involved in a number of processes. They are formed by linking amino acid molecules together in chains. The sequences of amino acids needed to build proteins are specified by genes as part of the genetic code.

Motor proteins are a special form of protein that do physical work. Remarkably, these proteins have the ability to move along surfaces, transport cargo that is attached to them, or produce force. They use the chemical Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) as an energy source to power their movement. The motor protein myosin, for example, is involved in the contraction of muscle fibers in animals. Dynein is a motor protein that is found in flagella, the long tail-like structure that projects from certain types of cells like sperm to help the cell move.


Microtubules are one of the components of the cytoskeleton, the infrastructure that supports the cell. They are made by linking repeating units of the tubulin protein together. The resulting chain is then curled into a hollow cylindrical shape. They can grow or shrink to produce force, and also serve as conduits along which other cellular components can be transported.

Kinesin Cargo Transportation

Small molecules in the cell can move to where they are needed by the process of diffusion. However, larger molecules that are synthesized in the cell body are transported by motor proteins to their destinations. Kinesins are a type of motor protein that use microtubule tracks to walk along. 

Two intertwined chains with globular heads on one end form a Kinesin dimer. To move, the heads repeatedly attach and detach to the tubulin units of the microtubule track, moving everything forward in a hand-over-hand fashion. The opposite ends of the dimer drag the cargo along that they are attached to.

Thanks to Nested Universe reader Faris Naji for inspiring this topic, and discovering the attached video which shows the Kinesin protein in action.


October 21, 2008

Your Entire Life On An iPhone

Atomic Wires
iStockphoto / James Benet

Thanks to Mohir at K21st for a recent article describing how Professor Lee Cronin and Dr. Malcolm Kadodwala of the University of Glasgow have developed a nanotechnology technique that can store 150,000 times more data per square inch than current technology.

With this technique, the researchers were able to assemble a functional nanocluster just one nanometer in size. This tiny size would permit an incredible storage of 500 trillion bytes per square inch - enough capacity to store:

  • 100 million MP3s
  • 5 million CDs
  • 100,000 DVDs
  • 100 years of video at 1Mbps

Storage capabilities at this level like this will benefit projects like Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell's MyLifeBits. Gordon's project aims to store and index an entire human's lifetime of books, emails, phone calls, video, audio, and more.

Combine this incredible amount of data storage with an eyeglass cam, and OCR, speech and facial recognition software. Now imagine being able to search and play back anything you've ever seen, heard or read right from your iPhone.

You can read the original article from the University of Glasgow here.

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January 17, 2008

SciVestor Corporation launches Singularity-related technology research offerings

I spoke with Jonas Lamis, Executive Director of SciVestor Corporation regarding the launch of SciVestor this month. SciVestor is a research and advisory company focused on key Singularity technologies, and provides valuable insight as to the effects these emergent technologies will have on business, economic and societal models. SciVestor offers research reports that I believe are of value to investors who are looking to improve their investment strategies. Here is some key information that I have summarized from the SciVestor web site:

  • Robotics
    The robotics industry is expected to grow from $5B in 2007 to $50B in 2012. SciVestor believes the age of intelligent machines is at hand. From service robots to toys and teachers to companionship to war-fighting, the decade ahead will see a dramatic acceleration in human robot interaction (HRI).

  • Nanotechnology
    The rise of molecular manufacturing over the next decade portends a transformation across the supply and delivery chains. Traditional manufacturing enterprises could be displaced by distributed fabrication capabilities. Intellectual property rights for brands and designs will rise to the forefront when perfect replicas become commonplace.

  • Artificial Intelligence
    The software development marketplace is on a steady march to automation of more complex tasks and processes. In the decade ahead, we will see the rise of complex AI capabilities that will take ownership of virtually every repetitive digital task that could be automated. This shift will create significant disruptions in many career roles as well as with outsourcing companies that rely on human capital for efficiencies.

  • Life Extension
    At the intersection of genetics, biotechnology and Moore’s Law lies the new science of life extension. Over the next decade, we will see medical technologies deliver designer therapies targeting disease and degeneration on an individual basis. By 2015, we estimate that more than 10% of first world medical expenses will be devoted to life extension treatments, and many senior citizens in 2050 will have substantially lengthened, productive lifespans.

Jonas Lamis has extensive experience in corporate strategy, business development, and technology marketing with venture-backed enterprise software companies. He is Director of Partnerships at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. He is the founding editor of Architecture and Governance Magazine, authors the weblog Singularity U and co-launched Jonas received his MBA from The University of Texas at Austin, an MS in Systems Engineering and Optimization from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University.

Chris K. Haley, Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here. 


January 03, 2008

Special Opportunity for Nested Universe readers

A new Singularity-themed social news and discussion community that focuses on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology will open to the public on Monday, January 7th, 2008. Readers of Nested Universe have a special opportunity to join this community prior to its opening. The first 100 people to sign up on the site will become Community Founders, and will be listed on the community founders page. In addition, they will enjoy higher voting power to keep the community focused.

Community leaders such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey (Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation), Bruce Klein (President, Novamente LLC), James Clement (Execute Director, World Transhumanist Association), Jeff Hall (Executive Director of SENS Research for the Methuselah Foundation) and others have already joined.

The concept of the site is similar to, in which the community chooses what news articles and discussions are presented on the site. Users then vote to raise awareness of articles and discussions to other users by voting on the items that are most important to them.

I personally welcome the appearance of a Singularity focused social news community, and wish the founder, Waleed Abdulla, the best. To join the community, please follow this link:

Chris K. Haley, Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here. 

November 06, 2007

What is the Singularity?

What is the Singularity? Exponentially accelerating progress
© / Felix Mickel

The Singularity

The Singularity, also called the technological singularity, refers to the predicted accelerating progress of science and technology in coming years and the changes that will result. Several technologies will play key roles in this, including artificial intelligence software, computer hardware, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and robotics. A key principal in the theory is a demonstrated history, and predicted continuation of, accelerating progress in these areas that is measured not on linear scales, but exponential ones.

Greater Than Human Intelligence

One prediction is that artificial intelligence software that is more intelligent than a human being will be developed. If it is possible to develop this kind of software, it will be able to engineer something even more intelligent. A continued cycle of improvement will lead to an intelligence explosion, and the creation of superintelligence, beyond which accurate predictions of what will happen next begin to break down. The term singularity is an analogy taken from physics that refers to the lack of knowledge that happens at the center of a black hole - its singularity.

A Process

The term singularity can be misleading in some ways. It gives the impression that there is some particular event, or explosive activity that occurs at a point in time. Instead, most authors are referring to a process or sequence of activities that result in dramatic changes over time.

Here's an analogy in computer storage capabilities. Hard drives which are able to store terabytes of information have become more accessible in the mainstream marketplace recently. A quick check of several vendors shows that there are units available for around $150-200. Several years before, we saw 500 gigabyte drives - less than half of the storage space - for around the same price.

When looked at within the context of current events, that progress is notable, but not dramatic. However, a few decades ago, when the cost of a 10 megabyte drive was approximately the same, an announcement that a drive that was available that had 100,000 times the capacity of the standard drive on the market would have been seen as earth-shattering in what it would do for information technology of the time.

Dramatic Progress

In the same manner, we will experience dramatic progress over the coming decades, but it won't feel as dramatic while we are actually experiencing it.

If you're interested in the concept of the Singularity, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, stick around and keep reading!