Why does it matter whether atoms are moved by quantum effects?
A few days ago, I received an email from a student who was interested in molecular manufacturing. He had asked a chemistry professor whether molecular manufacturing could work.
The professor said no: quantum uncertainty would mean that the atoms could be in two places at once, so they couldn't be picked up by machines or used to make gears.
It is a crying shame that in 2010, some university professors are 1) so uninformed about the physics of atoms and 2) so willing to talk beyond their knowledge.
Richard Feynman, who won his Nobel Prize for his work in quantum physics, believed that mechanical-style molecular manufacturing would work just fine.
Single atoms have been imaged using scanning probe microscopes, even at room temperature.
I hesitate to make blunt statements that other people are wrong. It's not good politics, and it's not good debating tactics. But I don't know what else to say in this case. Dozens of experiments, plus Richard Feynman, say that the chemistry professor is simply wrong.
Why does it matter? First, it's shameful to teach students incorrect scientific information. And second, if we don't know what can be done with nanotechnology, we cannot prepare for the problems nanotechnology will create, and we cannot benefit from the potential advantages.