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Unbounding the Future


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The team of authors of the fine Engines of Creation has succumbed to a premature sequel in this attempt to envision for the general reader an industrial biotechnology revolution. This update of Engines is two-thirds scenarios, most of them cloying ``looking back'' reports from a near future of nanotechnology. The authors' stated purpose--to prepare a channel of understanding for a molecular-level industrial revolution--is sound, but their answers beg at least half their own questions. A true molecular industry probably lies just below the horizon of popular science reporting; this ceasarean-style report of its birth obscures nanotechnology's future possibilities without clarifying the present science. (Sept.)

Nanotechnology sounds like a fantasy straight out of Star Wars , but then 50 years ago so did many of the things that we take for granted today--space exploration, computer chips, organ transplants, etc. The term (``Nano'' comes from the Greek word meaning ``dwarf'') refers to ``the products and processes of molecular manufacturing, including molecular machinery.'' The idea of molecular technology was first mentioned in 1959 by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, but until fairly recently little was done here. The Japanese, however, forged ahead with research and have built the Nanotechnology Center. Drexler, one of the leading proponents of nanotechnology and author of the only other book on the subject, Engines of Creation ( LJ 6/1/86), offers a fascinating glimpse at this new science that will affect almost every aspect of human existence--environment, agriculture, transportation, communications, medicine, etc. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-- Eugenia C. Adams, Univ. of Houston-Downtown Lib.

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