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DesktopWeb FormText   molecular technologyThu, 16 Sep 2004 22:52:21 GMT # 

just finished 2 books: Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare (1999) and Nano: The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology (1995).

the gen. eng. book was mostly a doomsayer book. read it because i'm just beginning to think about writing genetic software programs, but i wanted some real-world genetic knowledge. surprisingly i agreed with a majority of the points that were being made about how gen. eng. could muck up the real-world. the main theme seemed to be that we could figure out the genes, but that does not necessarily mean that they will behave in the wild. it was just a little too much 'mother earth is an organism' for my taste. overall, the field is interesting, and there is an off chance i might pick up a newer book on this topic with a more balanced opinion.

the nano book was more interesting, albeit older. it was mostly about the people behind nanotechnology and the critical discoveries that drove it, with some futuristic ideas for good measure. picked this book up because i ultimately want to write code to control atoms, or code that controls the nanomachines (this want is probably further out than my gen. sofware desire). surprisingly, with the earlier publish date, this book did mention gen. eng. a little as well, as a field that might help make nano a reality. it repeatedly mentioned the assembler; a microwave type device that we will eventually use to form atoms into whatever we want. but my favorite concept was the nano-fog, out of which items would seem to materialize out of thin air. definitely will pick up a newer nano book, especially after this news.

both technologies have related 'red button' 'destroy the earth 20 times over' type scenarios. for gen. eng. it was creating a 'super virus'. basically a virus that could not be stopped. for nano it was 'gray goo'. the concept was you create a nano machine that creates 2 identical copies of itself, which create 2 identical copies of themselves, repeat. so that ultimately all matter would be turned into these self-replicating machines. scary stuff. the good news is that we have not blown ourselves up with nuclear bombs.