Foresight Update 46

page 1

A publication of the Foresight Institute


Foresight Update 46 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3

 

IMM Responds to Articles in Scientific American

The September 2001 issue of Scientific American devoted six articles and a great deal of text to various perspectives on nanotechnology. The issue included various attacks on the feasibility of molecular assemblers and the work of K. Eric Drexler and his research associates.

Drexler's textbook Nanosystems was published in 1992. It is still being used as a technical reference all over the world, and to date no significant errors have been found. As the reader can well imagine, if there were any significant errors Scientific American would have pointed them out. They haven't. The technical claims and conclusions of Nanosystems have withstood almost a decade of serious public review.

Besides Nanosystems, there is now a very large body of technical articles, books, conferences, newsletters, and technical discussion groups supporting the feasibility of molecular machines in general and molecular assemblers in particular.

Two specific articles in the September Scientific American were attempts to cast doubt on the feasibility of nonbiological molecular assemblers. In "Of Chemistry, Love and Nanobots" Nobelist Richard Smalley stated that: "Self-replicating, mechanical nanobots are simply not possible in our world". For an in depth analysis of where his technical argument falls short, see the article "On Physics, Fundamentals, and Nanorobots" on the IMM website.

George Whitesides, in "The Once and Future Nanomachine," expresses concerns about many issues that have been previously addressed in the literature. He stated: "Fabrication based on the assembler is not, in my opinion, a workable strategy and thus not a concern." For commentary and references, see the article "Many Future Nanomachines" on the IMM website.

While there are quite a few questionable statements in the rest of that issue, nowhere else is there a serious attempt to advance a technical argument against the feasibility of molecular nanotechnology.

How is it possible that an otherwise respectable publication would publish these attacks? None of their technical criticisms of molecular assemblers has withstood scrutiny — all have fallen by the wayside when it became obvious that they were incorrect. Some of the reasons are reviewed in "That's impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions" (see Foresight Update 43; also online at http://www.foresight.org/impact/impossible.html).

Many of the articles in the a special issue of Scientific American on nanotechnology (September 2001) are available on the magazine's website. About half of the articles are available online, including one by Eric Drexler ("Machine Phase Nanotechnology").

While the article by Richard Smalley being responded to in this issue is not (as of this writing) available online, the article by George Whitesides is.

Additional articles about nanotechnology from past issues of Scientific American are also available online, including the 1996 article from Gary Stix that triggered an extensive online rebuttal from Foresight.


Foresight would appreciate learning your thoughts on the above article.

Was this information of use to you?  

Your Name (optional):
Your Email Address (optional):

Any other comments?


Foresight Update 46 - Table of Contents

 

NSF Will Establish Six New Nanotech Centers

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on 19 September 2001 awards estimated to total $65 million over five years to fund six major centers in nanoscale science and engineering. The awards are part of a series of NSF grants — totaling $150 million in fiscal year 2001 alone — for research in multiple disciplines.

The six centers will be located at Columbia and Cornell Universities and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Harvard University in Massachusetts, Northwestern University in Illinois, and Rice University in Texas.

"With its nanoscale science and engineering initiative, the National Science Foundation is enabling the coming wave of research," said Mihail Roco, head of the NSF initiative and chair of the National Science and Technology Council's subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology. "Each of the six centers has a bold vision for research at the frontiers of science and technology, and together they will provide coherence and a longer term outlook to U.S. nanotechnology research and education."

The centers will each focus on a specific area in nanoscale science and engineering, and include collaborations with industry and other institutions. The Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers will develop new areas of research and help establish a nanotechnology workforce. The centers are expected to significantly advance the information, medical, manufacturing and environmental technologies, while other NSF grants will fund small, interdisciplinary research teams and individuals doing exploratory research in a wide range of areas.

According to a NSF press release, the centers will address challenges and opportunities that are too complex and multi-faceted for individual researchers or small teams to tackle in shorter periods of time. The centers involve key partnerships with industry, national laboratories and other sectors. They will support education programs from the graduate to the pre-college level designed to develop a highly skilled workforce, to advance pre-college training, and to advance public understanding of science and engineering.

Here is the NSF summary of the new centers:

Additional coverage is available in an article on the SmallTimes website, and in individual press releases from Northwestern University, Rice University and RPI.


Foresight would appreciate learning your thoughts on the above article.

Was this information of use to you?  

Your Name (optional):
Your Email Address (optional):

Any other comments?


Foresight Update 46 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3


From Foresight Update 46, originally published 30 September 2001.