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The Big Answer

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Nanotechnology: Research and Perspectives

a book by B. C. Crandall and James Lewis

(our site's book review)

The authors tell us that advances in physics, molecular biology, and computer science are converging on the capacity to control, with molecular precision, the structure and function of matter. These twenty original contributions (in the book) provide the first broad-based multidisciplinary definition and examination of the revolutionary new discipline of molecular engineering, or nanotechnology. They address both the promise as well as the economic, environmental, and cultural challenges of this emerging atomic-scale technology.

Molecular engineering, a.k.a. nanotechnology, could change everything
Molecular engineering, a.k.a. nanotechnology, could change everything

Leaders in their fields describe current technologies that feed into nanotechnology—atomic imaging and positioning, protein engineering, and the de novo (from the beginning) design and synthesis of self-assembling molecular structures. They present development strategies for coordinating recent work in chemistry, biotechnology, and scanning-probe microscopy in order to successfully design and engineer molecular systems. They also explore advances in molecular and quantum electronics as well as reversible computational systems and the fundamental physical constraints on computation. Additional chapters discuss research efforts in Japan and present the prospects of nanotechnology as seen from the perspective of a microtechnologist.

The final section looks at the implications of success, including the prospects of enormous computational power and the radical consequences of molecular mechanical systems in the fields of medicine and life extension. But what about the dangers? Terrorists salivate at the thought of getting their evil paws on some of the nanotechnology devices contemplated here. We say "be careful" not to be a pain in the tail but to merely state the obvious: we do not need some scientist to create what could amount to "the poor man's nuke."

We do not need some scientist to create what could amount to 'the poor man's nuke'
We do not need some scientist to create what could amount to 'the poor man's nuke'