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A one thousand-year-old history lesson awaits those who would deem the cutting edge wicked

Damascus steel was forged using a process of carbon doping iron in a smelting and quenching process.  This steel became famous almost a thousand years ago; it was said a Damascus sword would cut through falling silk, a rock, and then another piece of silk while still keeping its razor sharp edge. 

The ability to make the Damascus steel was lost with the ages.   Blademasters would often take the secret of the forging process to the grave rather than reveal its mysteries. Many were persecuted as heretics, others heralded as deities.

A study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that more than 70% of 1,015 surveyed Americans deem nanotechnology morally repulsive.  Professor Dietram Scheufele attributes this repugnance for technology to American reliance on religion. 

It's easy to say that perhaps the 1,000 Americans surveyed are just not that bright.  Scheufele disagrees, stating, "They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs. The issue isn't about informing these people. They are informed."

Scheufele believes that Americans who disprove of nanotechnology do not want humans "playing God."  That is, man manipulating structures of one nanometer, one billionth of a meter, is akin to God manipulating the forces of the universe.

In 2006 German researcher Peter Paufler discovered (with the aid of a sub-nanotechnology, the electron microscope) that a four hundred-year-old Damascus steel sword gained its incredible properties from carbon nanotube structures within the blade's edge.  Fifteen years earlier NEC created the world's first synthetic nanotube. One year later it was awarded the patent for one of the sharpest materials on earth, a plasma polished carbon nanotube blade.

Science has always bordered on the fence of terrifying and mysterious.  Civilization lost the secrets of Damascus steel making when then modern thinkers deemed it a practice of deus ex hominis.

Attempting to describe the morality of natural phenomena leads to an exercise in natural fallacy. Not once, in the history of mankind, has science ever been proven immoral -- and conversely -- nor has it ever been proven moral either. 

Will society deitize nano-researchers as modern day Damascus blademasters, or will it learn to look beyond the meta-ethics of natural phenomena for a change?


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A farce?
By geddarkstorm on 2/23/2008 1:55:12 PM , Rating: 2
I really don't think this is that meaningful or realistic. It could be when people think of nanotechnology they think of something else than what nanotechnology really is (or they don't know what nanotechs have actually been made, and the technology is presented to them in such a way as to sound more mystical than it is). We don't see any major movements against the use of nanotechnology (other than potential, and even sometimes grave, health risks misuse could cause), and yet nanotechnology is starting to be used everywhere these days, like buckyballs for lubrication and such. If nanotubes are used to cure cancer, will people really hate it?

I really think this isn't important. I guess we'll only know as we see what comes when nanotechnology is more prominent in industry. But come on, things like metal rubber or that blackest material are just too cool, and I don't see anyone complaining about those clear nanotechs. Again, the only real complaints I've ever seen against nanotech is just the health risks and making sure we don't screw up the environment somehow with it.

Oh, and then, the parallel to Damascus steel is totally off. Science is clearly written down for everyone to see, no secrets taken to the grave--everything has to be reproduceable by others. So, unless all modern society collapsed at once and we lost the base industrial capacity that nanotechnology is founded on, I doubt we could lose the knowledge.




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