Soft Machines: Nanotechnology and Life
By Richard A.L. Jones, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0 19 852855 (2004)
In this book, Richard Jones, a Professor of Physics at the University of Sheffield, addresses the fundamental question: should nanotech aim to take "traditional" engineering principles down to the nanoscale (crudely, to build ever smaller cogs), or should it draw inspiration from nature?
The book opens with several chapters of introductory material, explaining the background to nanotech and the motivation behind it. I was particularly interested in Chapter 7 - Wetware, as coverage of the nanotechnological aspects of living systems are often overlooked in similar texts. Jones makes some interesting observations about bacteria and chemical computing that I would have liked to have seen developed further.
Jones concludes that the "top down" Drexlerian view of nanotechnology is less likely to succeed than the "bottom up" approach of bionanotechnology, whilst at the same time acknowledging the potential risks and public concerns of using modified bacteria as devices or substrates.
Overall, Jones makes his points well in a book that is written in a style somewhere between a popular science book and an introductory textbook. It is both wide-ranging and accessible, although I would have preferred to have seen a rather more extensive bibliography. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the broader aspects of nanotechnology; it is certainly a welcome addition to my library.