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Nanofuture: What's Next For Nanotechnology Hardcover – May 6, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nanotechnology has become a hot topic in recent years, but few laypeople understand what it is. Hall writes that nanotechnology "involves building machines whose parts are of molecular size, but more importantly, of atomic precision...." He foresees nanotechnology progressing through five stages of development, stage one being our current ability to image objects at an atomic scale with a limited ability to manipulate them, and stage five being the ability of miniature robots to reproduce and learn from experience. A fellow of the Molecular Engineering Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., Hall devotes a chapter to his own concept, "Utility Fog," a fog composed of nanoparticles that will coalesce to form sofas, coffee tables and maybe even artificial plants, and then disintegrate back into fog. More realistic predictions include thin body suits that will control body temperature, allowing people to live in the tropics or in the Arctic and medical advances that will send artificial antibodies into the bloodstream to destroy bacteria or viruses. Hall admits that civilization could face many dangers as nanotechnology advances, but he argues that banning its development in the U.S. would only result in other countries or groups gaining technological dominance. Readers excited by the promises of nanotechnology will find this book a gripping read. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A leading nanotechnology researcher, Hall offers this popularization of the subject, covering the physical principles of engineering at the atomic scale, possible applications of nanomachines, and their potential alteration of human society. Before overreacting to that last prospect, readers would benefit from learning how a nano-sized gadget is built, which Hall explains clearly with references to chemical bonds, the van der Waals force, and quantum mechanical behavior. What to build comes next, and Hall explores the mechanical possibilities. Traits such as self-repair and self-replication, Hall avers, could be imitated by tiny machines designed for targeted medical therapies, as touted in a recent tract of techno-optimism, More Than Human, by Ramez Naam (2005). Hall also discusses wild-sounding household appliances--a synthesizer that makes clothes and furniture, air cars, fog composed of nanobots, and more that would make techno-pessimists, such as Bill McKibben (Enough, 2003), blanch, and Hall directs more than a few ripostes McKibben's way. Expressed in conversational prose, Hall's positive outlook gives readers the buzz behind the buzzword nanotechnology. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591022878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591022879
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. A. Plus on November 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I had the feeling I've read this book before. And in a way I have, because it recycles much of Eric Drexler's book, "Engines of Creation," from nearly 20 years ago, even copying Drexler's condescending way of explaining basic scientific and technological concepts. It would have made more sense for Hall to publish an updated edition of "Engines" and list himself as a co-author, instead of writing a largely derivative book of his own. He could still have put in a chapter about his "invention" of Utility Fog, yet another example of nanotech vaporware that many of us long-time "Transhumanists" probably won't live long enough to see. I didn't feel I got my money's worth, so borrow it from the library before you decide whether to buy it.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all I must say this book is not for the faint of heart or faint of mind. I wouldn't reccomend someone who hadn't been educated at a university or at least had interest in nanotechnology. For those who don't know nanotechnology in the loose usage is just parts that range from 1 to 1000 nanometers in size-essentially many billions of times smaller than the width of a human hair. However, what people in the industry refer to as true nanotechnology is machinery that can operate at a molecular or atomic level. Some aspects of the book get fairly deep into biology, physics and chemistry. For the first half of the book there is a "nanofact" or possible amazing thing that can be done with this technology every other page. The second half gets into the logistics and actual possiblity of nanotechnology.

Not to be terribly critical but it is clear Hall's PhD is in science and not literature. I didn't go looking for errors but I did find a few. So if you are looking for a well edited book or mind some of the goofy onomotopia then you probably shouldn't read this book. Nanofuture is more like a science fiction novel written by an actual scientist than a reference. About halfway through the book I felt like could have really started to curtail. Instead Dr. Hall starts going into more opinated topics such as space living and transhumanism. I say opininated because they are his opinions. While some are warranted, others are just what he feels should happen. This is why scientists don't run countries.

Hall touts nanotechnology as the next technological revolution and he makes a very good argument for it.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't give this book more than two stars, and that's being generous.

Mr. Hall does present some interesting ideas, but unfortunately, his editors have done him a huge disservice. Here are the first three sentences of Stage I, on page 23;

Essentially what we have now--nanoscale science and technology--including the ability to image at the atomic scale with scanning probe microscopes, and a very limited ability to manipulate, that is, by pushing things around with the same scanning probes. A scanning probe is essentially like feeling something with a stick. Because you have a computer behind it, you can touch it in a very close grid of points and produce a picture.

I made it through the first fifty pages, and it didn't get any better.

I don't know if Mr. Hall had a final read before publication, or not, but someone should have stopped this book from being published until it was properly edited.

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Format: Hardcover
For those who are new to nanotechnology, this is a good place to start. But be prepared for a journey through a variety of disciplines that relate to this topic, including physics, engineering, biology, and others. The descriptions and analogies that explain what nanotechnology is, how it would work, and what it would be good for are useful and understandable. Those who are already reasonably familiar with these concepts might find the first half of the book tedious, and should probably look for something more advanced, perhaps addressing particular applications of nanotechnology.
The character of the narrative changes about two-thirds of the way into the book, as Hall shifts to discussions of possible nano-futures and why we should embrace them rather than fear them. At this point, technical explanation gives way to speculation and opinion. There's nothing wrong with that - it's always interesting to hear what experienced, forward-looking technologists have to say about their perspective on the future. From my perspective (political scientist specializing in science & tech policy, especially for space), I would have liked to see more about how evolving nanotech can be used to develop capabilities and solutions in the medium term and less about how we're going to become preternatural transhumans who all own Star Trek-style matter synthesizers.
The artificial intelligence chapter is an interesting intro to AI, but the tie-in to nanotech is almost non-existent, so it seems like a sidebar discussion. Regarding the chapter on space, I would have liked to see this topic far more developed given the author's obvious interest in it.
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