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The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology is Changing Our Lives

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1560258094
ISBN-10: 1560258098
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sargent, visiting professor of nanotechnology at MIT, persuasively argues that advances in nanotechnology are occurring at a dizzying rate and have the potential to transform almost all aspects of human society, from health care to warfare. The book examines cutting-edge science in health, the environment and communications. Sargent's optimism knows almost no limits. He predicts that with nanotechnology's ability "to design and build matter to order," scientists will soon be able to prescribe nano-size drugs that will identify and kill single cancerous cells long before they can do any harm, and regenerate nerve cells to cure spinal cord injuries. Further, Sargent says, "new technologies may allow ground-based warfare without people." Throw in a limitless energy supply and a fully integrated computer and communications system that will become an integral part of humans, and you have a utopia almost beyond belief. Indeed, with only a few pages devoted to possible negative environmental consequences of runaway nanotechnology, Sargent's utopia is beyond belief. Although his exuberance is somewhat infectious, he tries a bit too hard to make his writing witty, such as describing an optical detector as "a voyeur, a castrato ogling the photon but under-equipped to seduce it." (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nanotechnologists work on the molecular level to "coax matter into new forms," explains Sargent, a professor of nanotechnology, in this lively and informative introduction to a burgeoning field. Uniting chemistry, physics, and biology, nanotechnology seems destined to launch a revolution even more far-reaching than the digital wave. Sargent begins in the 1980s with the creation of a new stable carbon molecule called the buckyball in honor of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome, then clearly and entertainingly describes each phase of nano-innovation. Delineating both the science and the applications involved, and profiling key scientists, Sargent explains how nanoparticles can detect and treat cancer, how nanotechnology can vastly improve the capacity of solar cells and help wean us off oil, and how molecular motors will make molecular electronics possible for the construction of ever smaller, more flexible, easier-to-use computers. As with all human inventions, nanotechnologies have capabilities for good and ill. Sargent's sharply etched explanations will help nonscientists stay informed about the pros and cons of new developments as the material world continues to morph before our eyes. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press (November 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560258098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560258094
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,600,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Wisdom on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dance of the Molecules is an engaging and informative look at some of the more recent advances in nanotechnology and its real-world applications. The book is divided into three approximately equal sections: medicine, the environment, and communications. In the first section, Sargent examines the use of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. For example, scientists have been able to create microscopic beacons which attach themselves specifically to cancer cells, enabling earlier detection of certain kinds of cancer. Similarly, researchers have discovered ways to create a synthetic scaffolding around which tissue cells and eventually organs can grow. At some point in the near future, they may be able to put entire diagnostic and pharmaceutical labs on microchips that, when implanted in humans, could not only diagnose a problem but could also automatically concoct and dispense a drug that targets that specific problem.

The section on the environment explores the use of nanotechnology in power generation (specifically solar and hydrogen power) and biohazard detection. Nanotechnology is already being used in petroleum refineries, and may someday play a key role in cleaning up toxic and nuclear waste. Similarly (and perhaps not surprisingly) the U.S. military is investing heavily in nanotechnology whereby soldiers may one day wear suits that can automatically neutralize whatever biological and chemical weapons might be deployed against them.

The section on communication includes, among other things, a discussion of electronic sensory prostheses (e.g.
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Format: Hardcover
The author is an accomplished young scientist, who I believe was trying a little too hard to write an "accessible" book. The result is a high-level treatment of an admittedly complex topic, but one which doesn't carry the impact that his professional credentials could have delivered.

Much of the content of this book has already been published here and there in Journal articles and other websites -- I didn't read anything very new, in fact. At some point nanotechnology books will progress past the "Imagine if you could write THE WHOLE ENCYCLOPEDIA on the head of a pin!" scenario that Richard Feynman presented so neatly back in the 1950's.

This book takes a "let's re-create Greta Garbo at the molecular level" scenario as a jumping off point, which I found not only inappropriate, but just plain creepy. The author also strains for a feeling of hipness, or perhaps attempts to talk down to sixth-grade readers, and presents tortured metaphors at the close of paragraphs. If a photon needs to be nurtured and protected in captivity, then "Light is a panda." Yes, the metaphors really ARE that stupid in this book. Sad.

Here's to Ted's next book being better. One gets the feeling he is out for self-promotion as much as scientific progress: witness his web site. He may also have a Napoleon complex going on: witness the extreme up-angle on his publicity photo (which mirrors the up-angle on his nose). Vertically challenged, are we Ted? It is easy to be a giant if your field is nanotech!
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Format: Hardcover
This book was a frustrating read. The topic is interesting even though technically challenging. In his attempt to make the subject accessible to the general public, the author used metaphors to an extreme throughout the book. As soon as he got close to revealing some interesting techical information about nanotechnology, he would appear to assume that his reader was too slow to grasp the real concepts and segue into a metaphor about stacked egg cartons or air traffic routes.

The metaphors do provide a simplistic visual similarity to the structures he is talking about, but I found them to be useless in trying to understand what is actually going on. There is just not much that stacks of egg cartons really have in common with a crystal lattice, and the metaphore breaks down almost immediately. It would have been better if he had included the detailed information and then offered the metaphors in case the reader didn't understand it. Instead, he left the details out, relying on only the metaphores to get his points across.

The book would also have benefitted from better illustrations. For example, when discussing the many ways that a sheet of carbon atoms can be wound into a cylinder, some drawings would have helped better than a metaphor about wrapping a label around a soft drink bottle and then trying to explain the fact that the atoms will align themselves in only a discrete number of positions, so the label can't really be put on the bottle just any old way. I was totally confused after reading that.

There is a great deal of enthusiastic hype for the future of the technology, and very little actual information about how it works.
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Format: Hardcover
Nanotechnology is talked about quite a bit and is reaching ever more into the daily news; but if you'd really understand its basics, don't miss the most readable THE DANCE OF MOLECULES: HOW NANOTECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING OUR LIVES. Author Ted Sargent is a visiting professor of nanotechnology but you'll be surprised to find his exploration is quite readable, discussing the latest potentials of nonotechnology experiments and research and equating this research to all disciplines of science. Both positives and perils are surveyed with easy examples and just enough in-depth discussion to make it useful for college supplementing reading.
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