Quotations for the week

This week’s quotation on Soft Machines comes from that pioneer of British empiricism, Sir Francis Bacon:

It cannot be that axioms established by argumentation can suffice for the discovery of new works, since the subtlety of nature is greater many times than the subtlety of argument.

I write this with Philip Moriarty in mind, since he’s going to be taking a break from participating in debates on Soft Machines and elsewhere. I would like to record my gratitude to Philip, because he’s made a tremendous contribution to this blog in the last couple of months. I think he’s made a really important contribution to the debate, not least by forcibly reminding us how subtle and complex surface physics can be. As another oft-quoted saying goes (usually attributed to Wolfgang Pauli):

God made solids, but surfaces were the work of the devil.

5 thoughts on “Quotations for the week”

  1. Shame that the fascinating fencing match is over between Chris and Philip. It appears that there is a clash between ‘Can do’ American engineering and ‘Stoic’ Englishness. Personally I actually with Chris. The reasons are pragmatic. By conpletely going over the top, Chris ensures the world listens to what he has to say and has to take his views into consideration. This is very useful in terms of funding, I mean lets face it the reason why anything to do with ‘Nano’ is hot at the momemt is due to people like Chris. Now the only downside to this is that ‘Nano’ will ‘fail’ to deliver result. But if the worst that could happen is Soft Machines, then for the technocrat middle classes, the world is getting very tasty indeed.
    Keep up the hype!

  2. Well, that’s one way of looking at it! I do think there is a danger of disillusion following on from the technology failing to deliver on over-inflated promises. This is why it’s really important, in my view, to have some realism about the timescales. Looking 20-30 years ahead, whatever happens in detail about the way the technology turns out, I’m confident that there will be some pretty dramatic consequences, very beneficial ones if we play our cards right. But if we say that the world is going to be turned upside down in 10 years, then it’s all too likely that people will notice when the revolution doesn’t take place and will resolve not to be taken in a second time.

    By the way, Philip isn’t English, and if you’d met him you wouldn’t describe him as Stoic!

  3. It looked to me more like a clash between flippancy and wishful thinking on the one side and rationality/cold hard reality on the other.
    Hype was very good for getting funding for nano – right. Look at what’s getting funded! Absolutely nothing to do with the MNT vision.

    A great debate by the way. If only more scientists would seriously look into MNT. Is there any way we can encourage them to do so?

  4. If only more scientists would seriously look into MNT. Is there any way we can encourage them to do so?
    They’ll seriously look into it when its proponents are serious scientists. Like Phillip mentioned, if someone were to demonstrate a single ‘low-level’ molecular manufacturing step, that would go a long way towards encouraging further interest. A lot of words != experimental proof.

  5. Isn’t that a bit of a catch-22? “Serious scientists will look at it when serious scientists have looked at it and perfomed serious science?” *wry grin*


Comments are closed.