Foresight Nanotech Institute Logo
Image of nano

Reduce agony of learning chemistry for nanotech

from the who-needs-lectures dept.
To do nanotechnology, one had better know a lot of chemistry. Chemistry is often poorly taught, so going to school isn't necessarily the answer. Instead, or in addition, get started with Bonding II from Cybered, reviewed in the 15 Dec 2000 issue of Science: "Bonding II provides electronic instruction on the basics of chemistry. Packaged on a Macintosh/Windows hybrid CD-ROM, the tutorial contains a narrated set of modules covering fundamental concepts for a freshman-level chemistry class." At $130, this is a lot cheaper than a college class, but we'd prefer an open source version: anybody know of one? Meanwhile, Cybered has other chemistry modules as well.

2 Responses to “Reduce agony of learning chemistry for nanotech”

  1. WillWare Says:

    some resources, and general pontification

    Here is a hefty list of K-12 chemistry education websites. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much free educational stuff on the web beyond the grade-school level. Some of Linus Pauling's books are excellent: General Chemistry and The Nature of the Chemical Bond. (It's amusingly difficult to type "Linus" without typing an "x" at the end.) I am intrigued by the Standard Deviants videotapes but have not yet watched them myself.

    It's probably unreasonable to hope that chemistry will develop the kind of wide appeal that has blessed computer science in the last decade, but if nanotechnology really takes hold, then that kind of popularity would serve the public well. Even today's relatively computer-illiterate people have a surprisingly accurate idea about OSes, applications, files, directories, computer viruses, and the risks associated with computers. Given the ridiculous portrayals of computers in many popular science fiction movies just twenty years ago, enormous educational progress has been made. Popular discourse about the Y2K bug was astonishingly rational.

    The educational boom in CS occurred because the computer entered the workplace. It became an economic necessity to train millions of workers, and to ensure that the training was accurate, affordable, and easily understandable. Employers couldn't afford to bother with education that didn't accomplish these goals. Interestingly, this happened entirely in the private sector with no significant role played by government programs.

    If the same level of public education can be accomplished for chemistry and molecular engineering, it will be a boon to public safety. People will be able (as they can with computers today) to assess risks, develop reasonable expectations about the capabilities of nanotech devices, and perform their own bogosity-filtering. The only alternative is a caste system with the potential for an enormous degree of human suffering. Ideally such an educational boom would come before nanotech enters the workplace as computers have done, but economic realities may dictate otherwise.

    It might be a good idea to set aside a chunk of Nanodot where readers could post reviews of educational materials that particularly impress them, in any format.

  2. TimFreeman Says:

    Re:some resources, and general pontification

    I have the aforementioned Standard Deviants videotapes on organic chemistry, and I've watched the first of the three. It was helpful. The pictures of the orbitals were clearer than I had seen before.

    Don't expect any quantum mechnics there.

    They spend more time describing how to name organic chemicals than I would like.

    It's geared to a college student trying to get through an organic chemistry course. They chose actors and actresses who look like college students.

Leave a Reply