‘Hacking Matter’ revisited

January 4, 2006 | Source: KurzweilAI

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.

“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. In some places, the book acknowledges that this makes a huge difference between quantum wells and real atoms. Elsewhere, however, it suggests that that wells could be very similar to atoms, for example, that a collection of silicon quantum wells could be given ‘the physical, chemical, and electrical properties of an otherwise impossible gold/silicon alloy’ simply by moving a few electrons in or out of the wells. This won’t work because the scale and energy of the electron wave functions will be nothing at all like those of electrons in gold.

“To be more concrete, consider an atom of carbon, an atom of lead, and a ‘carbon-like’ quantum well. Each can have an electron wave function with a similar spatial pattern, but lead scarcely resembles carbon in its chemical and physical properties, and the quantum well would have properties vastly different from either atom. Quantum wells, contrary to the title of the book, just aren’t much like ‘programmable atoms.’”