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Critique of Whitesides article

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  • Chris Phoenix
    I finally got around to reading Whitesides article in SciAm, after someone on another list recommended it as a gentle, but smart and focussed critique of
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 31, 2001
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      I finally got around to reading Whitesides' article in SciAm, after
      someone on another list recommended it as a "gentle, but smart and
      focussed" critique of diamondoid nanotech. However admirable the
      writing style, such a description doesn't change the fact that the
      article is chock-full of technical errors.

      It's unrelated to nanotech, but the tone of the article is set by an
      early factual mistake: The flagellar motor does not use ATP, but instead
      uses a proton gradient.

      His critique of assemblers is based largely on Smalley's strawman of
      "fingers" or "pincers" that must manipulate the molecules. That, plus
      other claims such as that the strength of carbon bonds will make it
      impossible to release them from the placement tool, make me think that
      he is unaware of detailed work by Merkle and others on how to solve
      precisely these problems. Or perhaps he simply chooses not to mention
      it.

      He is also wrong about cancer cells not having chemical markers on their
      surface. Many of them do in fact have these markers. Many others
      differ in physical properties that would be possible for a nanomachine
      to detect.

      As to his description of nanoscale submarines, he got the scale wrong;
      he overplayed the importance of Brownian motion (white cells can "walk"
      along the surface of a blood vessel); and he described as almost
      insurmountable several problems that are simply matters for engineering,
      such as chemical sensing and power source.

      Whitesides' critique is too full of errors to be useful. Every single
      one of his objections is either flatly wrong, or has been addressed in
      far more detail than he cares to admit. There are enough known factual
      errors that the article can't even be used safely as a reference or
      starting point for further discussion.

      (If this critique is useful, feel free to republish it.)

      Chris

      --
      Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
      Interests: nanotechnology, dyslexia, caving, filk, SF, patent
      reform... Check out PriorArt.org!
    • Eugene Leitl
      ... I wouldn t put it in terms as damning as that, but the article was surprisingly weak. Well, we know that SciAm is a paltry shadow of what it used to be in
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 1, 2001
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        On Fri, 31 Aug 2001, Chris Phoenix wrote:

        > Whitesides' critique is too full of errors to be useful. Every single
        > one of his objections is either flatly wrong, or has been addressed in
        > far more detail than he cares to admit. There are enough known factual
        > errors that the article can't even be used safely as a reference or
        > starting point for further discussion.

        I wouldn't put it in terms as damning as that, but the article was
        surprisingly weak. Well, we know that SciAm is a paltry shadow of what it
        used to be in the 70s and 80s of last century.

        -- Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://www.lrz.de/~ui22204/">leitl</a>
        ______________________________________________________________
        ICBMTO : N48 10'07'' E011 33'53'' http://www.lrz.de/~ui22204
        57F9CFD3: ED90 0433 EB74 E4A9 537F CFF5 86E7 629B 57F9 CFD3
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