The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives


234 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-670-06378-9
DDC 620'.5





Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


Welcome to the strange world of nanotechnology. It is a world in which
the unit of measurement is a billionth of a metre, a world in which
molecular interactions are the keys to understanding, a world in which
the uncertainty principle holds sway. At the same time, it is a world in
which very stable processes can be formed in spite of the uncertainty of
the components—in short, a world that beckons scientists to explore,
to understand, and ultimately to use in building new compounds and new

We are accustomed to designing products and systems from the top
down—that is, where the overall function has been specified and the
parts (both hardware and software) designed specifically to meet that
overall function. That process has worked well, but there are limits
that we are approaching. The limits of computer performance, for
example, are determined by the limits of resolution of the lithographic
approach to semiconductor design. New concepts are needed if we are to
surpass such fundamental limits.

Enter biology. The design approach to living things is the reverse.
Molecules as created prosper only if they find compatible molecules with
which to “dance.” One might visualize, then, a biological computer
using hardware storage derived from DNA-like structures with very high
reliability even though the basic components from which the process
derives are not highly reliable. Fortunately, some scientists, including
Dr. Ted Sargent, have already accepted the challenge and demonstrated
nanotechnology processes in their laboratories.

Dr. Sargent is an ideal spokesperson for this relatively small group of
researchers. He is both a scientist and a teacher. As a teacher, he has
the rare ability to present the issues in terms understandable to lay
readers. Given his standing in the scientific community and his ability
to communicate with lay readers, we must not ignore the exciting
possibilities that The Dance of Molecules presents in the fields of
health sciences, environmental protection, and information processing.


Sargent, Ted., “The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,