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2.0 out of 5 stars At least in regards to this book, small is not so beautiful..., 12 Oct. 2012
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Understanding the Nanotechnology Revolution (Paperback)
If only to better understand the relentless advance in computer power, roughly defined by Moore's "Law," which is less a law than a very valid observation: the number of transistors on an integrated circuit has been doubling approximately every two years, since 1965, when I saw this book appear on my Vine list, I had to say: "Please send." Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel. Moore's "Law" is hitting the proverbial concrete wall of the size of matter itself, and will soon be augmented with a suitable corollary. Nanotechnology is not just about computer speed or the miniaturization of computer gadgets; it refers to the manipulation of matter on the atomic to molecular scale, approximately 10 to the minus 7th to 10 to the minus 9th meters, with the latter lending itself to the tech prefix, "nano."

Regrettably, I was only able to glean a few new scrapes of information, and in the process, had to slog through a meandering text loaded with redundancies and random factoids, strung together for no seeming rhyme nor reason. The introduction was, by far, the worst, so the reader gets off to a very bad start. One other reviewer commented that the book could have used a good editor, but I think the problem is far deeper than an editing clean-up. To cite a few examples: On page 4, a paragraph commences with: "For lack of good clocks, this option was not available to sea captains until after 1760, with the invention of an accurate portable clock, the `marine chronometer' by John Harrison." The NEXT paragraph commences with: "A great advance came in 1759 with the invention of the accurate marine chronometer. This clock, based on a spring oscillator, was invented in stages by John Harrison..." In terms of random factoids conveniently located in the same sentence: "It is reported that in fourth century BC the Greek wind- and human-powered merchant fleet went all the way from Spain to the Black Sea, and of course Julius Caesar invaded Egypt by sea." A couple pages later there is a whole paragraph of inventions, and their dates. In another section, the authors proclaim: "...and bones carved with prime numbers were found as early as 8500 BC." But never explain the significance of it! Indeed, what were these folks, still somewhat before the development of agricultural communities, doing with prime numbers? Figure 1.1description commences with: "A speculative but date-based map of human migrations..." and the figure clearly depicts humans originating from the area of modern day India, yet in a footnote to this same introduction, they say: "Homo sapiens, the earliest humans whom we will consider, originated in Africa some 200,000 years ago, and according to some accounts, coalesced into a small group surviving drought about 50,000 years ago in the `horn of Africa' from whence they migrated to populate the globe." Ugh! No reconciliation of these random and contradictory facts is ever attempted.

Once beyond the intro, by comparison, the narrative did improve, but only by comparison. For example, there are two chapters on the "scaling" of things; essentially that matter operates under different rules in the "Newtonian" or "everyday" world of sizes we are familiar with, and those of the very small, which operate under the rules of quantum mechanics. But they stuck a chapter on DNA in between. Sure, DNA is "small" and there are some technologies used to help define DNA strands, but it is a bit of a "push" from IT applications.

For me, the most informative chapters were those that covered the technological principles behind by latest terabyte external memory drive (it's atomic force microscope cantilevers) and the increasingly familiar medical MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. They conclude the book with some speculative looks into the future, involving single-electron transistors and quantum computers. Overall, the material could have been quite fascinating in better hands; for this exposition, 2-stars.
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Understanding the Nanotechnology Revolution
Understanding the Nanotechnology Revolution by Manasa Medikonda (Paperback - 4 April 2012)
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