Monday, November 24, 2003

Nano's got a brand-new bag: Politics

Tim Harper and Paul Holister at Cientifica ask in their latest edition of TNT Weekly whether anybody here in the colonies actually read the nanotech bill (PDF, 56.1 KB) or understand what nanotechnology is.

They take swipes at the bill's provision for a "one-time study to determine the technical feasibility of molecular self-assembly …" and correctly point out the absurdity of the U.S. government requiring a study to prove that what has already been accomplished, can in fact be accomplished.

Harper and Holister go on to say:

    We assume that the report actually intended here to refer to the creation of materials and devices using the hypothetical, and controversial, molecular assemblers that are a part of the Drexlerian vision of 'molecular nanotechnology' (or zettatechnology, to use the latest label), and the resulting notion of molecular manufacturing. The fact that the bill made it this far containing such a basic, and fundamentally important, error is somewhat worrying, as it indicates that at least this part of the document has not been checked by anyone with a basic understanding of nanotechnology.

Tim and Paul know that I'm a fan of their work (and I've told them so), but I'm going to have to disagree with them on this one. The bill's language is no "error." The document was checked very carefully by those who understand nanotechnology. It's just that nano's got a brand-new branch: "political nanotechnology" (How about "polinanotech," since we're coining new terms these days?)

The original House version (PDF 99.4 KB) of the bill -- now worth only its weight in Thanksgiving Parade confetti --contained a provision to study "molecular manufacturing."

I'm not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, but this one is obvious. So, I hereby retract what I wrote last week about molecular manufacturing proponents having cause to celebrate, and I once again wonder out loud why Congress – despite last week's inspirational rhetoric in the House and Senate – appears to be afraid of simply asking a question.

There are ongoing efforts to find out.


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