Note: this post has nothing to do with Jamie Oliver.
From seasoned, learned scholars to impressionable school students, the taint of nanofear is still present – and it’s due to misrepresentation of nanotechnology. Everyone knows that. Tiny self-replicating robots will breed in your body and eat you from the inside out! Grey goo and disaster will be the legacy of Richard Feynman, if we’re not careful.
Flicking through a GCSE science revision book from a well-known exam board, I was impressed by the inclusion of a small section on nanotechnology – it’s important to update the syllabus to include new science.
However, I was frankly staggered to see the associated image: that tired, entirely fictional artist’s impression – the one with complicated looking robots clinging onto, and injecting something into, red blood cells – with a misleading caption explaining how millions of these nanobots may one day be injected into you to combat disease.
‘Nanorobots’ would generally consist of one molecule, or maybe a few, specifically engineered to perform molecular scale manipulations. The pictured ‘bots appear to be made out of stainless steel, and look like they were designed by Audi. Vorsprung durch nanoTechnik.
It goes on to say how ‘many scientists’ think the world will be swallowed by self-replicating nanobots. There’s a bit of a counter-argument, saying most scientists disagree, which is nice.
I understand that graphic representations will grab the minds of school children and draw them into learning about nanotechnology – this is good. I don’t think it’s so good to entirely mislead them – they’re a discerning audience, but an impressionable one – you might as well print pictures of flying cars being a byproduct of biofuels.
No wonder everyone’s scared of nanorobots and grey goo – the fear is part of the GCSE syllabus.