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« e-Parliament | Main | Off-Topic But Cool »

May 07, 2004


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Mr. Farlops

Simple. They are trolling for a response. Just as Scientific American was fishing for readers (Irate readers still bought a copy if only to complain about it.) back in that infamous April 1996 issue, which I wrote to complain about.

Sigh. It may be true that MNT is the equivalent of N-Rays but you'd figure experts would have leveled better criticism at it by now.

Brett Bellmore

Technically, a book with 6,000 references could be a hobby, and a rather obsessive one at that. It should be recalled that an amateur isn't someone who's incomptent, but rather somebody who does something for love rather than money. While a professional isn't necessarilly good, they're just someone who's getting paid for what they do.

In many fields it's well understood that some of the best work is done by amateurs.

Janessa Ravenwood

I agree with the trolling aspect, but I also think Chris has a point when he says: "I wonder why they are trying so hard to persuade people that it's not worth reading. What is their motivation?"

The "Smalleys" seem awfully desperate to convince everyone that MNT is not possible and no matter evidence is presented in return they just say "LA-LA-LA! My fingers are in my ears and I CAN'T HEAR YOU! Nyah!" As far as perplexing behavior goes, this is up there.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Brett, even by that excessively charitable interpretation, Freitas's work is still not amateur. He wrote them while on Zyvex's payroll, and I remember reading an interview in which Jim Von Ehr specifically mentioned the Nanomedicine books as something he was happy to be funding.

jim moore

In other news on the same website is a notice that Chevron is selling gram quantities of simple adamantane and higher order adamantanes. Also known as nano-diamonds, these are the stiff hydrocarbons that might be starting material for diamoniod parts that form the basic building blocks in a nano-factory.

This is very exciting news, many people can now start experimenting with very stiff hydrocarbons.

jim moore

Go to www.chevrontexaco.com/moleculardiamond/
for the skinny on the nano-diamonds. There is a picture of big jars filled with adamantane powder!

I now think that a five year project for a diamonoid nano-factory is doable on the material end.

Mr. Farlops

After a little digging, I found that Cientifica is at least vaguely associated with F. Mark Modzelewski, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the NanoBusiness Alliance (USA).

I wonder if Mr. Modzelewski has sway of the editorial policy of Cientifica's blog?

Another question is why, if the NBA has dismissed mechanosynthesis as a fantasy, are they wasting their valuable time criticizing Freitas' book? If it's so much claptrap written by a crank, why not just ignore it?

Mike Deering

Why are various leaders in nano-business, nano-academia, and nano-media coming out against MM? It's obviously a government conspiracy. They have hired all these people to say take these positions in order to forestall research into MM, which they are developing in secret. They have been doing the same thing with AI for decades.

Tim Harper

Nice to see some healthy debate.

Let's keep it real though - we didn't criticise the feasibility of MNT, just the use of Nanomedicine as a physics text book. Leave those non sequiturs to others.

We were not awarded the 2003 Foresight Communications Prize for pooh poohing MNT - so let's keep the debate moving forwards.

BTW, TNT Weekly, is, and always has been a team effort.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tim's comment above may have been referring to his post about my Nanomedicine book review, in which he called me "irresponsible" for suggesting that I found Nanomedicine I to be a useful physics reference.

But the article above didn't even mention that cheap shot of Tim's. It was written about his own book review of Nanomedicine, in which he wrote that "Martian nanobots ... are equally feasible."


Chris Phoenix, CRN

Mike, I'm honestly not sure whether you're being serious or sarcastic.

Here's an amusing thought: perhaps the commercial people think they can develop and/or use it better than the government, and this whole disinformation campaign is a commercial conspiracy to keep the NNI away from it while Intel or 3M or Microsoft develops it.

But I think the opposition can be explained without a major conspiracy. There are lots of little factors. The nanoscale is not well understood, so it's easy to think it's spooky and intractable. Also, scientists are naturally skeptical; as I've written elsewhere, it was a mistake from the beginning to expect them to approve MNT ideas, since MNT is engineering not science. And lots of people are threatened by various aspects of MNT, from funding priority shifts to better-than-biology performance to fictional disaster scenarios. With all these sources of opposition, the massive opposition machine that we're seeing today could easily emerge without ever being coordinated in secret.

If there is coordination, I'd look for it on the commercial side, and more or less open. For example, the calls to avoid the GMO fiasco imply the message: Don't let gray goo discussion get out of hand. The easiest way to do that, at least if you're short-sighted, is to deny the possibility of nanobots.

If there were a big overarching conspiracy, I'd expect someone to have contacted me by now to get me to join it. This hasn't happened.

Consider the Babbage Analytical Engine. In hindsight, we can identify it as the first digital computer. And we can say, "Why oh why didn't they build it back then?" But even at the end of the 19th century, a commission studied the machine, clearly realized that it was good for programmable arithmetic operations, but decided it was too speculative and not useful enough.


Richard Jones

I do get a bit seasick reading this blog sometimes, because it veers wildly between two completely incompatible views of the nanoscience community. One moment (see Emerging Mainstream) you are (quite rightly) celebrating the astonishing achievements of mainstream nanoscientists like Ned Seeman. And then the next moment you're finding a "massive opposition machine" dedicated to making sure that nanotechnology never makes anything more complicated than tennis raquets and sunscreen. These two views can't be true at the same time!

Chris Phoenix, CRN

I don't see why these views are incompatible. A lot of nanoscience researchers are doing great work--although many of them would probably deny that they're working toward MNT. And at the same time, a few scientists have joined forces with some politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and businesspeople to form a loud and unfortunately influential opposition to the possibility of MNT.

Surely you're not suggesting that the scientific community is unified?


Richard Jones

Scientists, unified? Absolutely not, and just as well, since the day that science becomes a bland consensus will be the day it stops making any progress. You're probably right that most nanoscientists would deny working towards MNT, but that's because of the premium placed on originality in science; people would rather think of themselves as working towards their own vision rather than someone elses.

Of course you are right that Smalley makes a big noise, but what the advances you highlight show is that nanoscience that goes well beyond the incremental materials science that dominates the thinking of the nanobusiness community gets well funded and well publicised.

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