Monday, July 05, 2004

Nanotech: Scientific Realities and Political Bedtime Stories

Lawrence Lessig reminds us that the Smalley-Drexler debate (and the resultant elimination of funds for molecular manufacturing from the National Nanotechnology Initiative) was really about politics, not science:

So why do some scientists say [molecular manufacturing] can't be done? As the editors of Chemical & Engineering News put it, Smalley's "objections go beyond the scientific." They are a strategy - if so-called dangerous nanotech can be relegated to summer sci-fi movies and forgotten after Labor Day, then serious work can continue, supported by billion-dollar funding and uninhibited by the idiocy that buries, for example, stem cell research.

Lessig goes on to bemoan a political process plagued by "irrationality" where policy is based on fears. To which I say: bemoan it all you want but this is the political process we have. Given the situation, it is far better for advanced technology to have advocates like Smalley who know how to lobby for a successful iniative that brings billions of dollars into the field, some of which will go to building various kinds of "intermediate nanotech" which will then serve as a stepping stone to the eventual creation of molecular assemblers anyway... that is assuming such Star-Trekie, pseudoscience contraptions are even possible, which I highly doubt...

Link via Instapundit.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

MSNBC - Mind Reading

MSNBC - Mind Reading - I was trundled into the maw of an fMRI machine in a basement lab at the California Institute of Technology. The business end of an fMRI is a giant cylindrical magnet, similar to the MRI machines doctors use to diagnose tumors, but with the added ability to show changes in brain activity as they happen—hence the "f," which stands for "functional." In the magnet's powerful field, blood sloshing back and forth inside my head reveals its presence with minute electromagnetic signals. In the control room next door are Steven Quartz, a Caltech neuroscientist, and Colin Camerer, an economist, who are looking inside my brain to help understand some of the most vexing problems in postmodern society—irrational market bubbles, intractable Third World poverty and loser brothers-in-law who want to borrow $5,000 to open a franchised back-rub parlor. My brain was helping science explain why, despite centuries of progress in economic theory since Adam Smith, actual human beings so often refuse to behave as equations say they should.

The movie Corporate America doesn't want you to see!

THE CORPORATION is resonating with audiences all over the world. The feature documentary analyzes the very nature of the corporate institution, its impacts on our planet, and what people are doing in response. Based on Bakan's book "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power", the film has been generating popular support from street level to the boardrooms of the Corporate Social Responsibilty movement.
Help them launch the film in your town.