History of Nanotech Can be a Bumpy Road

The New Scientist has assembled a special report on nanotechnology collecting 60 articles or more (I didnâ''t do a precise count) it has written over the past 12 months on the subject.

So far, I have just read one, which I suppose is meant to serve as an overview of the entire subject. It provides a condensed history of nanotech, which I think may stir a bit of controversy with the molecular nanotechnologists out there.

The author notes Richard Feynmanâ''s 1959 lecture â''Thereâ''s Plenty Room at the Bottomâ'' as the motivational beginning of nanotechnology. Then quickly jumps ahead to 1981 when IBM Zurich scientists Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer created the first scanning tunneling microscope (STM).

The piece gets around to mentioning K. Eric Drexler but mainly attributes to him the stirring up of concerns over nanotechnology by conjuring up the nightmare scenario of â''grey gooâ'' mentioned in his 1986 work, Engines of Creation.

It also somewhat controversially attributes to Drexler the creation of the term â''nanotechnologyâ''. This is one of those tempest-in-a-teapot debates, but others have noted that the term â''nanotechnologyâ'' was first used Norio Taniguchi in his 1974 published work â''On the Basic Concept of â''Nanotechnologyâ''â''.

The piece makes no distinction between the different visions of nanotechnology held by molecular nanotechnologists, like the Foresight Institute, or the advanced material nanotechnology vision as represented by the NNI.

I am not certain of the orthodoxy of molecular nanotechnologists, but is it accepted to refer to Drexler as a â''futuristâ''?

Related Stories

Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

Advertisement
Advertisement