April 21, 2004

A little Learning...

With the recent Royal Society survey showing an overwhelming lack of knowledge (and probably accompanying lack of interest) in nanotechnology by the UK public, we shouldn’t really expect much from the BBC. We weren't disappointed with this report, about "an £8m research institute at the University of Ulster is to open putting Northern Ireland at the forefront of a controversial branch of science."

Controversial?

Why?

Well apparently "Nanotechnology involves making tiny machines out of molecules and it has been criticised by environmentalists who say that swarms of rogue "nanomachines" could destroy the world."

Well that would be very necessary criticism if true, but it is just sloppy sloppy sloppy journalism (doesn't the BBC employ fact checkers any more?).

Before anyone dashes over to Northern Ireland to protest we should point out that the University of Ulster has no plans to create tiny machines, as nature has already done much of the work for us, through a process of trial and error called evolution. SARS, HIV or Malaria are examples of how this can benefit organisms other human beings. Understanding how nature works, which after all is what science is there for, may help us protect ourselves a little better. Creating rogue nanomachines, or viruses as they are commonly called, has very little to do with nanotechnology, is certainly way beyond our capabilities, and those of the University of Ulster.

The old ones are the best. "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again." Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Someone who probably drank a little deeper than the BBCs journalist is the centres director, Professor Jim McLaughlin, who said “Our ability to arrange atoms lies at the foundation of this exciting new technology. The ability to arrange atoms through new processing techniques, modifications to atomic surfaces; or molecules, or interrogating DNA at the nanoscale; all have exciting device applications, which can lead – via improved bio-devices – to a better quality of life, improved wealth creation and a stronger base to fully develop our new knowledge based economy.”

Posted by Cientifica at April 21, 2004 03:37 PM | TrackBack
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