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NANO by Ed Regis

NANO

The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology: Remaking the World--Molecule by Molecule

By Ed Regis

Pub Date: April 10th, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-73858-1
Publisher: Little, Brown

 Omni reporter Regis, who glanced at nanotechnology in Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990), here turns to full-scale investigation of the subject. Of all the late-20th-century scientific frontiers, none seems quite so brave as nanotechnology, the endeavor to build machines the size of molecules that will be able to create any desired end product, from a filet mignon to a Porsche, using grass clippings or household trash as the raw material. Writing a book about it is not easy, since results are still scanty and its theory depends heavily on math and engineering data that few general readers would find congenial. Regis attempts to solve this problem by following the career of K. Eric Drexler, who came up with the idea of nanotech as an MIT student in the early '70s and has since become the leading figure of the new discipline. Drexler's road has not been easy. Chemists, physicists, and others who saw nanotech as poaching on their established fields were quick to label his early proposals ``pure science fiction'' and to point out theoretical and practical difficulties in bringing the technology into being. Drexler stuck to his guns and gradually saw many of his ideas accepted with the arrival of such tools as the scanning tunneling microscope, which is capable of manipulating individual atoms. Designing mechanical parts to be built one atom at a time has kept him busy, even though not a single working nanotech machine has been built to date. But the reader emerges with a feeling that they will be built and with some idea of how the world will change when they finally are. The author, clearly a nanotech booster, all but canonizes Drexler while portraying doubting scientists as dinosaurs. Despite the cheerleading, a clear and readable account of the new discipline's brief but exciting history. (16 b&w illustrations)