by Scientific American (Editor)
Publisher: Warner Books
Pub. Date: December 2002
"Understanding Nanotechnology," a Warner Books publication from the editors of Scientific American is a sober book. It is a compilation of essays by notable researchers in the field of nanotech and micro-electronic machine research. The book explores the fascinating experiments being done in the field with a cautious and optimistic touch. The development of the subject is careful and thorough. The basic concepts of nanotechnology are clearly defined in order to make the reading accessible.
In fact, it felt as if each essayist felt it necessary to introduce the topic from the unique perspective of their specialized domain of investigation. Occasionally this gave me the feeling that I was rereading an earlier essay, but generally it helped contextualize the unique problems and processes involved with the research in which each essayist was involved. As the book progressed, the essays did move into some fairly technical and complex arenas of quantum science that captured my attention and forced me to read, and reread paragraphs, descriptions, and definitions numerous times to be sure that I'd absorbed the complexity of the topic.
Nanotechnology is a designation widely used to define work with atomic structures in so many areas of research that it covers an innumerable array of cutting edge experiments. It has become popularized in the media and holds our imagination with its far-reaching and often wild prospects. 'understanding technology' explores the light and the dark of nanotechnology. Some of the most cutting edge experiments in nanotech stimulate ominous visions of 'gray matter armageddon' - a doomsday scenario where atomic self-replicating creatures made of a combination of organic and inorganic materials take over life as we know it.
Nanotechnology is a sexy topic for scientists. Nanotech is a study that incorporates an array of sciences from physics to biology, and intrigues industries from electronics to automotive. Atomic scale experiments creating and manipulating everything from metals to crystals, polymers to organic molecules inspire science fiction writers and doomsday theorists with visions of self-assembling micro-electronic machines (MEMS) that can replace, corrupt, or destroy organic life on this planet. Nanotech fascinates researchers with vast potential uses in medicine, technology, manufacturing and more.
Throughout the book, the scientists are careful to discuss more than just the imaginary possibilities that dreamers conceive. The essayists discuss the problems inherent with doing work on an atomic scale. They are careful to explain the ways that current manufacturing processes break down when attempted on such diminutive scales and point out the very real issues they must deal with in their research. Some seem to tread lightly around the areas of organic research out of a reticence to incite doomsayers with portents of science's promethean undoing of the human race. Despite the discretion with which the writers discuss their work, it is easy to sense their passion in the subject. The intensity with which they work shines through in their writing. Not a single article in the compilation hinted of just another professor publishing in order to satisfy their doctoral quota.
These researchers believe in what they are doing and they want to communicate that to their readers. What's more, it is evident that the many scientists who work in the variety of fields that nanotechnology spans want the support of the people for whom their research promises wonderful opportunities. understanding technology helps expose its readers to this intriguing science, and, if you're like me, will only stimulate greater interest in the field. It is after all, only around 140 pages long, so, it could leave you wanting to know more. It's satisfying, but leaves you craving more.