Critique of Whitesides article
- 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
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
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 Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
Interests: nanotechnology, dyslexia, caving, filk, SF, patent
reform... Check out PriorArt.org!
- On Fri, 31 Aug 2001, Chris Phoenix wrote:
> Whitesides' critique is too full of errors to be useful. Every singleI wouldn't put it in terms as damning as that, but the article was
> 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.
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>
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