One of the Foresight Institute's goals is to stimulate efforts toward building
a BioArchive of endangered species: a set of safe repositories of properly-stored
genetic material and tissue samples. The goal is that if the worst happens--if
every living member of the species is lost--irreplaceable information will
survive. With sufficiently advanced technology and a biosphere on the mend,
species restoration could then be accomplished. If enough samples have been
taken, even substantial genetic diversity within the species would survive
Tania Ewing reports in Nature (7 June 1990) that the Centre
for Genetic Resources and Heritage (CGRH) in Australia has begun to work
explicitly toward this goal. Based at the University of Queensland, it will
serve as a library of genetic material from Australia's rare and endangered
species. Director John Mattick calls the center a "genetic Louvre,"
which will store tissues, cells, and isolated DNA samples which have been
preserved cryogenically or by desiccation. Mattick points out that if work
like this isn't done, "subsequent generations will see we had the technology
to keep [DNA] software and will ask why we didn't do it."
Exactly so: CGRH's work is critical to the future health of the biosphere.
Yet they are preserving only Australian samples, and are having trouble
finding funds to do even that much. We need to encourage the powerful, mainstream
environmental groups to become active in support of this work, and to help
establish similar efforts around the world.
To contact them, write CGRH, Centre for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology,
University of Queensland, Australia. Environmental activists interested
in furthering the BioArchive concept should contact the Foresight Institute.
Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is now planning
its Sixth Generation Computer project. This is a three-pronged effort involving
theory, technology, and applications.
The "Basic Theory" program is intended to develop a theoretical
basis for "processing of ambiguous and incomplete information,"
using ideas from artificial intelligence, neuroscience, psychology, and
cognitive science. MITI aims to build systems capable of "learning
and self-organization," "approximately correct problem solving,"
and "integration of mass information."
Under "Fundamental Technology," MITI will study architectures
for massively parallel and distributed computer systems. This effort includes
a wide-ranging investigation of new technologies for computing devices,
including superconductivity, quantum electronics, optical switches, wafer-scale
integration, and three-dimensional integrated circuits. The report mentions
molecular devices as a targeted technology.
MITI is not neglecting product development, the commercial payoff for this
massive project. The final research area is "Novel Functions,"
investigating applications of the new computer technology. MITI expects
these applications to include large-scale system simulations, self-organizing
databases, autonomous and cooperative robot controllers, high-level pattern
recognition and understanding, and generalized problem solving with soft
knowledge. Some of these areas, such as large-system simulation and robot
control, should be useful in advanced applications of molecular manufacturing.
[Nature, 345:279, 24May1990; Intelligence,
Vol7, No4, pp1-3, Aug1990]
With the opening of Eastern European countries, more is being learned about
research efforts and interests there. Some of these are relevant to nanotechnology:
In Czechoslovakia, the former president of that country's Academy of Sciences--now
director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics--has as a goal "the
bringing together of information theory and systems engineering with the
reductionist pursuit of molecular mechanisms." Bulgaria's Institute
of Electronics holds an annual meeting on quantum electronics; it is attended
by scientists from all over the world. The president of the Romanian Academy
of Sciences--also the Deputy Prime Minister--wants to set up ten "advanced
study groups" working on specific problems like molecular engineering,
materials science, and tunneling microscopy. [Nature, 344:609-619,
Two government studies this spring compared the technological capabilities
of the US with the rest of the world. The overall results came as no great
The Department of Defense reported that the US significantly leads the USSR
in all but four of 20 militarily critical technologies, while the Soviets
lead in only one. The European NATO countries were considered roughly equal
or slightly behind the US in all 20 areas. Japan, however, was called the
leader in five of the 20 technologies, generally those with near-term commercial
applications. [Science 248:299, 20April1990]
The other study, from the Department of Commerce, compared the relative
standing of the US, Japan, and the European Community in twelve emerging
technologies. According to the report, the US generally leads both Japan
and Europe in research and development in these technologies, but lags Japan
in creating new products. The Commerce Department also described the trends
in these areas, showing the US holding even with Europe but rapidly falling
behind Japan. The report covered twelve new technologies which together
are expected to reach $1 trillion in sales worldwide in the year 2000. [Science
The Office of Science and Technology Policy has been asked to combine these
two studies into a single report, which is expected in late October.
The announcement of the initial grants in the Human Frontiers Science Program
has made clear that this international effort will not favor any one country,
as was feared earlier when Japan proposed the program. Grants were in approximate
proportion to the number of applications from each country: Japan (9), US
(8), Britain (5), France (3). Despite this reassuring result, the US and
Western European countries reacted negatively to a Japanese proposal for
an international effort on intelligent manufacturing systems. [Nature,
344:579, 12Apr90; Nature, 345:560, 14Jun90]
Meanwhile, the US National Science Foundation reports that the number of
undergraduate degrees in science and engineering granted to US students
fell 10 percent from 1986 to 1988. The total number of undergraduate degrees
granted to US students during the same two years rose slightly to an all-time
high. [Nature, 345:655, 21June1990]
Stewart Cobb is an aerospace engineer and was an early member of the
MIT Nanotechnology Study Group.
The new journal Nanotechnology takes as its subject a broad
range of fields which have, or hope to have, some connection to the nanometer
scale: machining, imaging, metrology (measurement), micromachines, instrumentation
and machine tools, scanning probe microscopy, fabrication of components,
nanoelectronics, molecular engineering, and so on. Based on the first issue,
the journal will be worth the attention of those with broad interests in
nanometer-scale technologies, particularly those interested in the nuts-and-bolts
of developing and implementing various enabling technologies.
Published by the Institute of Physics, based in the U.K., it has pulled
together regional editors and an editorial board from around the world,
including the USSR, Bulgaria, and Poland. Most are from the US, Japan, Britain,
Germany, and Switzerland. Some names are familiar to those who follow progress
in work leading to molecular nanotechnology: regional editor E. Clayton
Teague (from NIST) attended our first nanotechnology conference, as did
editorial board member Robert Birge (U. Syracuse), who presented molecular
electronics work at the meeting. The editorial board also includes Robert
T. Bate (quantum electronics, Texas Instruments), Paul K. Hansma (STM and
AFM, U. Cal. Santa Barbara), Richard S. Muller (micromachines, U. Cal. Berkeley),
and James S. Murday (Naval Research Lab, chaired STM'90/NANO I meeting).
The challenge for the journal will be to maintain the quality shown by the
first issue. This included a number of broad review articles of interest
to the newcomer and helpful in orienting new readers to the interests of
the publication. To avoid repetition, however, later issues will inevitably
move toward more specialized material, such as reports of STM experimental
results, e.g. "Voltage dependence of the morphology of the GaAs(100)
surface observed by scanning tunnelling microscopy" in the first issue.
While worthy, such a report is more relevant to those working with GaAs
than it is to nanotechnology per se. There is a great deal of this
work available, as shown by the huge poster sessions at NANO I.
A promising sign is the inclusion in the first issue of a proposal for the
design of a new instrument. This focus on future tools is unusual and could
provide a valuable niche for the journal to fill.
The scope of this journal once again shows that the word 'nanotechnology,'
without a modifier, can no longer be taken to refer to the technology at
the core of Foresight's concerns. In introducing the subject of "thorough
control of the structure of matter," one must be more specific, speaking
of molecular nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing.
We'll keep an eye on this publication and report how it progresses. Two
issues are planned for volume 1 in 1990, with four in the works for volume
2 in 1991. To subscribe in the US, Canada, or Mexico, write to American
Institute of Physics, Subscriber Services, 500 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury,
NY 11797-2999. Elsewhere write to Order Processing Dept., IOP Publishing
Ltd, Techno House, Redcliffe Way, Bristol BS1 6NX, UK. Volume 1 is $99,
with a single issue price of $49.50; volume 2 is $215, with a single issue
price of $54. If you subscribe to both volumes together, the price is $270.00.
If the prices look a bit steep, ask your favorite technical library to subscribe,
or have them request the first issue as a sample copy.
This year's conference on scanning tunneling microscopy was broadened to
include scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy, as well as immediately
adjacent technical fields. To reflect this increased breadth, the parallel
title NANO I was added to the conference. Sponsored by a wide variety of
organizations, it was held in Baltimore on July 23-27, 1990.
Interest in the meeting was intense, with many hundreds of abstracts submitted.
Chairman James Murday of the Naval Research Laboratory reports that the
meeting drew 675 attendees--forty percent larger than previous meetings.
With so many submissions, the great majority had to be presented in mammoth
poster sessions. The abstract "booklet" had 372 pages. One paper,
a proposal for molecular tip arrays for atomic force microscopy, is described
in this issue's "Recent Progress"
Of special interest to Foresight was the session on "Nanometer Science
and Technology--Prospects, Priorities, and Programs." It included presentations
from Japan's Nanomechanism Project, Britain's Nanotechnology Project, NIST's
Micro-metrology Group, and NSF's group on Quantum Electronics, Waves, and
Beams. Eric Drexler spoke on the results of the First Foresight Conference
on Nanotechnology (October 1990) and our perspective on molecular systems
engineering as a path to molecular nanotechnology.
Instead of publishing a separate conference proceedings volume, STM '90
is working with the American Vacuum Society to publish a special edition
of the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology (JVST)
with conference papers. We'll let you know when it is available.
The AVS is so interested in nanometer-scale work that it has agreed to host
the next meeting as part of its larger meeting in Seattle, November 11-15,
1991. This first AVS National Symposium on "Science and Technology
at the Nanometer Scale" will include topics similar to the 1990 meeting;
we suggest you check the conference papers to get a feel for which areas
will be covered. Foresight Update will publish more information
as it becomes available.
In addition to hosting the next meeting, AVS is renaming one of its journals
to reflect its new focus: the new subtitle for JVST B is "Microelectronics
and Nanometer Structures--Processing, Measurement and Phenomena." Publications
on proximal probes (STM, AFM, etc.) are expected to continue to increase.
While much of this work is not done in vacuum, AVS's enthusiasm for the
field should overcome any initial confusion this may cause.
To contact STM '90; write to the Conference Office, 750 Audubon Road,
East Lansing, MI 48823.
We could use the following materials and help: Macintosh computers, an additional
Apple Laserwriter, an additional fax machine, and a small photocopier. Office
space in the Palo Alto area is needed as well. We are in need of volunteer
help with laying out our publications, using Pagemaker software on the Macintosh.
Fundraising experience, including grantwriting, would be of great use. Note
that donations of equipment or funds are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
If you or your company can help, call us at 415-324-2490.
[Editor's Note: The above section is dated and is included solely
for archival purposes. To find out about current Foresight needs, call at
Special thanks go to Jeannine Smyth for her extensive work in redesigning
the Foresight logo and other materials; readers should start to see the
Thanks to Bob Kirby of the Technology and Society Committee for arranging
a lecture on nanotechnology to his group, and to Dave Kilbridge for converting
IBM text to Macintosh format.
Thanks to the following for sending technical articles and media coverage;
please keep these coming: Robert Allgeier, Keith Davison, Allan Drexler,
Jerry Fass, David R. Forrest, Robin Hanson, Mark Haviland, Alan Hold, Wlodek
Mandecki, B. Molnar, Anthony Oberley, Roger J. Plog, Jack Powers, Edward
Rietman, Jack Veach, Steven C. Vetter, Michael Weber.
Foresight Update and many of our other publications (e.g. Backgrounds,
new Briefings) are not sold as subscriptions per se, but are
sent to all who make a minimum donation to the organization. Currently the
minimum donation we request is $25 per year.
The holiday season is approaching fast. This is the last issue of Update
to be published before then, so we'll take this opportunity to invite you
to give Foresight for your holiday gifts. A donation of $25 will bring Foresight
publications to your gift recipient for twelve months, along with a note
identifying you as the giver.