Tuesday, August 31, 2004

We all live in a nano submarine

nano submarine

Richard Jones, Eric Drexler, just stop worrying and learn to love the silly submarines. Do you want the public to pay attention? Do you want to spark some young person's imagination? Or do you want to continue talking nano to your own closed circle of friends? A little while ago, I decided the latter choice was not only dull, but self-defeating.

moonInspire dreams, or the purveyors of nightmares will win the image war, resulting in more wasted, dark decades or ages.

So open the show with a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants and then -- before they know what's hit them -- sneak in some real information. At the very least, they'll walk away thinking nano.

More than a hundred years ago, moviegoers were shown the comically false image at right. Despite this artistic depiction of laws of physics and proportion being so flagrantly violated, mankind managed to make it to the moon a couple of generations later.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I prefer accuracy and real science to "inspiration". The thing stopping the kids from wanting to learn isn't a lack of things to capture the imagination.

Goddard didn't invent modern rocketry because he saw an early silent film. In fact, he spent most of his early career trying to tell people who didn't understand physics that things like that little film were wrong, in fact, as they assured him he was crazy because rockets can't push against anything in a vacuum. Ignorance is a pretty big problem even if a lack of imagination is not.

Meanwhile, there have been lots of really important MNT stories lately -- things like the development of scanning MRI -- but I haven't seen any of that here. What I've been reading here largely has been about fake nanotechnology (i.e. century old synthetic organic chemistry masquerading as nanotech) at best. The "ra ra nanopants" pseudo-nanotechnology-is-cool stuff is a bit more than I can take.

In fact, I can't think of the last thing posted here that I found informative or interesting. Therefore, I'll stop reading Nanobot after this. I'm sure you won't notice -- there are more than enough bOING bOING types to keep cheering for things they don't understand.

AlexaBK said...

I just want to make a comment about imagination and Science. Without inspired imagination we would have no new scientific discoveries. It is not easy to come up with a new idea, inspiration can come from the most interesting and odd places. I undertand this because I try to do it everyday. What I think is the real tragedy is the removel of the arts for primary school.

But I agree that we need to show the creativity of science for more people to become interested just not the cold hard facts.


Howard Lovy said...

Dear Anonymous,

This is a blog, not a news site. I'd love to be your complete source of all nanotech news, but unfortunately I have to write for food, as well. So, I pick and choose -- sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes thoughtlessly. The fact that you read of those other developments elsewhere shows that you did not need my blog to learn about them in the first place.

Ra-Ra nanopants? Apparently, irony is lost in blog translation.

You should take an informal poll among your serious, well-informed, friends. How many found their first inspiration in a science lecture hall, and how many found their way into that lecture hall in the first place via their first spark of imagination.

Throughout history, the scientists who have made the biggest impact are the ones who had the imagination to question the "impossible."


Anonymous said...

Howard, it's a fair cop. We need grand visions to get the public excited. My next comment, has some more reflections on the importance of this, and the need to go beyond the more mundane current applications to do this. But I'm still fond of the nanosubmarine image, because although it's very flawed indeed from a scientific point of view it's wrong in an interesting way, and as such it's a useful didactic device. If we ask ourselves why it looks so wrong, then we're in a much better position to imagine what a real nanosubmarine would look like.

Richard Jones

Howard Lovy said...

Speaking of BoingBoing, I wonder how many years the real science of space propulsion was set back when an impressionable public mistook this guy for a real engineer?