RE: Wil McCarthy's HACKING MATTER free download

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Jan 05 2006 - 10:03:55 MST

At 12:27 AM 1/5/2006 -0500, Amara D. Angelica wrote:
>Just posted:
>The book HACKING MATTER: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the
>Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms Hacking Matter "contains a deep
>scientific misconception," says a leading nanotechnology expert in response
>to our news item Wednesday.

Wil asked me to pass this along:

>"The 'programmable atoms' of the title are quantum wells, structures much
>larger than individual atoms. These wells can have electron wave functions
>that resemble atoms in their spatial patterns, but not in scale or energy."

This point is acknowledged repeatedly throughout the book. There's also an
annotated version available on my personal web site which goes into further
detail. In any case, the shifting of electrons through the discrete,
well-spaced energy levels of quantum wells and dots can alter their
thermal, optical, and electrical properties -- and those of the surrounding
substrate -- very dramatically, for example by causing semiconducting
materials to behave like metals. Their energy spectrum is redshifted, yes,
but the overall behavior of the electrons in their shells is extremely
atom-like. This is no misconception but a simple statement of widely
acknowledged fact, and I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect a popular
science book to contain detailed explanations of the underlying
quantum-mechanics. My publisher was half-apoplectic over the science
content as it is.

The Programmable Matter Corporation works closely with researchers at CU
Boulder and the surrounding local industry, and holds one issued and six
pending U.S. patents. The confinement energies we typically work with are
fairly high -- about 10% of the values in natural atoms. A peek at our
company web page may provide some additional clarification, and I'll invite
this leading expert -- whoever he or she is -- to engage in open discussion
rather than anonymous sniping.

Wil McCarthy    < >

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