Foresight Update 21 (page 1)
A publication of the Foresight Institute
Table of Contents
Nobel Physicist on the Nanometer Age
Need to Prepare for 'Tremendous Changes'
Rohrer, who will serve on the Selection Committee for Foresight's
Feynman Prize this year, shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics for his
role in the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope, capable of imaging
and moving individual atoms. His paper at a physics conference in Italy
on "The Nanometer Age: Challenge and Chance" presents his
view of a future with nanomachines, and the need to prepare society for
the coming changes:
"The new players in the emerging nano-world are individual, selected
objects of the size of some 50 nm down to molecules and atoms. The new aspect
of science and technology on the nanometer scale is that these objects are
treated as individuals, not as ensemble members. To a great extent, this
requires real-space methods. Local probe methods, such as scanning tunneling
microscopy (STM) and its derivatives, are therefore a key to the nano-world.
Major challenges of the new nanometer world are to interface the macroscopic
world to the nano-individuals, to exploit the new possibilities which arise
from nanometer dimensions, to establish new concepts for working with very
large numbers of nano-individuals and large sets of controls parameters,
to create the basis for broad interdisciplinarity, and to prepare society
for the tremendous changes anticipated in a nanometer world."
Dr. Rohrer then looks at the next 20 years of miniaturization: "the
challenge will be to develop new types of elements...the investment into
new technologies versus anticipated possible return will be a central problem."
After 20 years, "miniaturization, the division into ever smaller blocks,
will come to an end...Supra-molecular chemistry might eventually provide
the functional elements for the assembly scenario in the post-miniaturization
Computational methods will be important: "Numerical approaches have
taken a similar development like that of chemistry, from atoms and small
molecules to ever larger nano-objects. They will be of great importance
in understanding properties, functions, and processes on the nanometer scale..."
In the nanometer age, "parallel operation will become the norm, and
assembly and self-organization will replace miniaturization procedures.
Progress after miniaturization will be based on increased complexity. A
promising route could be the assembly of molecular-sized functional elements
into complex functional units."
Dr. Rohrer discusses advanced uses of proximal probes for information storage,
then comments, "However, even more exciting might be the prospects
of creating sophisticated and complex nano-structures and nano-machines
by manipulation and modification. Such nano-machines would be used for specific
experiments or could perform specific tasks that cannot be reasonably executed
or are even impossible by other means."
As to how these would be constructed, "Local probe methods appear indispensable
in the exploratory stage of the nano-world. Once standard, however, fabrication
of nano-machines and their control might be achieved by other means."
In his conclusion, Dr. Rohrer points out the prospect of great change and
the need for care in handling it: "Being able to handle condensed matter
on an atom-by-atom basis opens tremendous perspectives, but also fears.
Both engender the wish for controlling science. The destiny of society,
however, lies in the proper use of science, not in its control."
For the complete text of Dr. Rohrer's paper, in English, see Il Nuovo
Cimento, Vol. 107A, No. 7, pp 989-1000.
Table of Contents - Foresight Update 21
Call for Papers
Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
[Editor's note: For additional information about the conference,
see the conference archive
web site and Update
November 9-11, 1995
Palo Alto, California
Assembling the 21st Century today
Sponsor: Foresight Institute
Caltech Materials and Process Simulation Center
USC Molecular Robotics Lab
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
Apple Computer, Inc.
Molecular manufacturing Enterprises, Inc.
This conference is a meeting of scientists and technologists working in
fields leading toward molecular nanotechnology: thorough three-dimensional
structural control of materials and devices at the molecular level. The
conference will cover topics relevant to the pursuit of molecular control,
drawing from fields such as:
Developments in these fields are converging, opening opportunities for fruitful
collaboration in developing new instruments, devices, and capabilities.
- supramolecular chemistry and self assembly
- proximal probes (e.g. STM, AFM)
- biochemistry and protein engineering
- computational chemistry and molecular modeling
- computer science (e.g. computational models, system design issues)
- natural molecular machines (e.g. flagellar motor, ribosome)
- materials science
- mechanical engineering (CAD) and robotics
- many others
Topics and invited speakers include:
- Donald Brenner, N. Carolina State Univ.
- Simulated Engineering of Nanostructures
- Richard Colton, NRL
- Tip Surface Interactions
- Eric Drexler, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
- Directions in Nanotechnology
- William A. Goddard III, Caltech
- Computational Chemistry and Nanotechnology
- Tracy Handel, UC Berkeley
- Protein Design
- Adm. David Jeremiah, USN (Ret.), Tech. Strategies and Alliances
- Nanotechnology and Global Security
- Ralph Merkle, Xerox PARC
- Design Considerations for an Assembler
- Charles Musgrave, MIT
- Chemical Synthesis of Nanomachinery
- Aristides Requicha, USC
- Molecular Robotics
- Richard Smalley, Rice University
- Nanotechnology at Rice Fraser
- J. Fraser Stoddart, University of Birmingham
- The Art and Science of Self-assembling Molecular Machines
The 1995 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (and accompanying $10,000 award)
will be presented at the meeting to the researcher whose recent work has
most advanced the development of molecular nanotechnology. Nomination
information is available from the Foresight Institute, or here on the
Leading vendors will demonstrate products useful in the pursuit of molecular
control, including molecular modeling software and hardware, and proximal
probe systems (e.g. STM).
Call for Papers
Contributions on relevant topics are solicited for presentation in lecture
or poster format. Potential contributors are asked to submit an abstract
(200-400 words), including names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers of
the author(s), email address, and an indication of whether oral or poster
presentation is preferred. Papers of both kinds will be reviewed for publication.
Authors will be encouraged to make their papers available electronically,
and accepted preprints will be published on the Web. In choosing papers,
priority will be given to (1) cogent descriptions of the state of the art
in techniques relevant to the construction of complex molecular systems,
(2) well-grounded proposals for multidisciplinary efforts which, if funded
and pursued, could substantially advance the state of the art, and (3) reports
of recent relevant research.
Publication of Proceedings
Proceedings of the conference will be refereed and published in a special
issue of the international journal Nanotechnology and later in book form.
Abstracts due June 30, 1995
Notification of acceptance August 1, 1995
Manuscripts due October 15, 1995
Abstracts should be directed to the Foresight Institute at the address below.
The registration fee includes the scientific program, Wednesday evening
reception, Thursday and Friday luncheons, and a copy of the proceedings
journal issue. (Student and one-day rates do not include proceedings.) Amounts
over $100 are tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
postmarked: by Sept. 1 after Sept. 1
Regular $350 $400
governmental $275 $325
Student $100 $125
One day (specify day) $135 $160
For registration forms or further information, contact Foresight Institute,
Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA; tel. 415-324-2490; fax 415-324-2497;
email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Corporate Sponsors: Apple, MMEI
Two major sponsors have already signed on to participate in the Fourth
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology:
Apple Computer, Inc., which
has sponsored this series frequently in the past, will again take a prominent
role at the meeting. From the company's early days, its products have supported
the nanotechnology effort in all roles: technical research, communications,
database, and graphics. Much of the molecular modeling work is performed
on Apple computers, and will be demoed at the meeting.
Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises,
Inc, has joined as a first-time sponsor. MMEI is a seed capital
firm specializing in ventures leading to the development of molecular nanotechnology.
Advisors include Roald Hoffman (1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) and Ralph
Merkle (computational nanotechnologist at Xerox PARC). Principals will be
at the meeting to discuss possible new ventures.
Table of Contents - Foresight Update 21
Call for Submissions: 1995 Feynman Prize
sponsored by the Foresight Institute
A prize in the amount of $10,000 will be awarded to the researcher whose
recent work has most advanced the development of molecular nanotechnology.
The prize will be given at the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular
Nanotechnology (see article this issue). Young researchers
are particularly encouraged to apply.
Submissions consist of one or more of the following, in English:
In addition, each submission must include a one-page summary of the work
and its relevance to the goal of molecular nanotechnology and/or molecular
manufacturing. (If the journal article submitted has multiple authors, the
applicant's role in the research must be stated.) Summaries may be up to
400 words in length.
- an approved thesis or dissertation (bachelor's, master's, or Ph.D.)
- an article published in a refereed journal
- a paper approved for publication in a refereed journal
Research areas considered relevant to molecular nanotechnology and molecular
manufacturing include but are not limited to: supramolecular chemistry and
self assembly, proximal probes (e.g. STM, AFM), biochemistry and protein
engineering, computational chemistry and molecular modeling, natural molecular
machines (e.g. flagellar motor, ribosome), materials science.
Both experimental and theoretical work are eligible. Special consideration
will be given to submissions clearly leading toward the construction of
a general-purpose molecular assembler. Applicants wishing further information
on the field of the prize are referred to the book Nanosystems:
Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (Wiley Interscience,
1992), or see our book order form.
The previous Selection Committee, for the 1993 Prize, included:
Submissions should be mailed to the Foresight Institute at the postal address
below, to arrive by September 1, 1995. One copy of the paper or thesis and
five copies of the one-page summary are required. The summary must include
the applicant's address, telephone, and (if possible) fax number and email
address. Finalists may be contacted for additional information. The prizewinner
must be present at the conference to accept the prize.
- Masakazu Aono, Aono Atomcraft Project; Chief Scientist, RIKEN, Japan
- Robert Birge, Syracuse University professor, chemistry and molecular
- K. Eric Drexler, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
and Chairman, Foresight Institute
- Stig Hagstrom, Chancellor of the Swedish University system
- Tracy Handel, Du Pont, protein science (now at UC Berkeley)
- Arthur Kantrowitz, Dartmouth College, professor of engineering, and
Advisor, Foresight Institute
- Ralph Merkle, Computational Nanotechnology Project, Xerox Palo Alto
- Marvin Minsky, MIT Media Lab professor, and Advisor, Foresight Institute
- Kary Mullis, winner of 1993 Nobel and inventor of PCR method in molecular
- Jane Richardson, Duke University, professor, protein science
- Hiroyuki Sasabe, Head of Laboratory for Nano-Photonics Materials,
RIKEN Institute, Japan.
For further information, contact the Foresight Institute at PO Box 61058,
Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA. Tel 415-324-2490, Fax 415-324-2497, Email email@example.com,
Web page about the Feynman
Table of Contents - Foresight Update 21
Eric Drexler spoke on nanotechnology at the MIT Media Lab and at Polaroid
on March 15; the next day he, Foresight Advisor Marvin Minsky, and Feynman
Prize winner Charles Musgrave met with Boston-area Senior Associates.
The Miles Lectures at Cornell University were delivered on April 10-12 by
J. Fraser Stoddart, professor of organic chemistry at the University of
Birmingham, UK. Titles were "Self-Assembly in Chemical Systems,"
"Nanochemistry: Whither and Thither Molecular Machines," and "Towards
Leonard Adleman of USC spoke at MIT on his DNA computing technique on April
10. (Note: this technique is sometimes referred to as "molecular computing."
Foresight members knowledgeable in computer science may want to investigate
this technique enough to understand why it is not a general-purpose computation
technique, such as is usually meant by the word "computer.") Further
information is available via ftp at ftp.cs.princeton.edu: ftp://ftp.cs.princeton.edu/pub/people/rjl/bio.ps
or via ftp at usc.edu: ftp://ftp.usc.edu/pub/csinfo/papers/adleman/molecular_computer.ps.
To join The Molecular Computation mailing list, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Advanced Technologies session at the Space Studies Institute's International
Conference on Space Manufacturing (May 4-7) was chaired by dual Senior Associate
Steven C. Vetter of Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. Three of the
four papers in this session dealt with applying molecular nanotechnology
to developing space. The audience included top people from several aerospace
companies and space programs, many of whom had not had much previous exposure
to nanotechnology concepts.
A computer search using on the word nanotechnology shows an increasing number
of mentions in US Congressional testimony. Those mentioning nanotechnology
have included Siegfried Hecker, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory;
Ron Brown, Secretary of Commerce; Scott Pace of RAND Corporation; John Petersen
of Arlington Institute; and (covered in previous Updates) Eric Drexler of
Foresight and IMM.
Table of Contents - Foresight Update 21
Call to Action: Foresight Web Enhancement Project
by K. Eric Drexler
Those of you who've read Engines
of Creation will remember the goal of hypertext publishing 
and its importance to our chances of a successful transition to nanotechnology.
There's now a way for Foresight members to make a difference in constructing
this vital tool.
The Internet's World Wide Web is a partial hypertext system, letting readers
follow an author's pointers to past documents. To give effective support
to critical discussion  on topics of public interest
such as nanotechnology, however, it must show links into a document made
by readers and later authors: it needs backlinks. Authors cannot be expected
to insert links that display criticisms or refutations of their Web documents.
With backlinks, hypertext can become a dialog - more enduring than speech,
more interactive than print, and better connected than anything we've had
before. It can help us deal with world-wide issues.
Foresight's goal is to get the required features incorporated into Web standards.
To accomplish this, we will write public domain code which implements them,
run this code on our server and as many others as will participate, and
use the resulting system for critical discussion of an issue important to
the safe and widespread deployment of nanotechnology: computer security.
In parallel with the technical work, Web documents will be uploaded onto
our server with some links already in place, so that when the software is
ready it will have a body of documents to operate on. Critical discussion
on computer security issues will begin, with backlinks and filtering done
by hand, prior to completion of our software.
We are now looking for funders for the Web Enhancement Project. We are also
interested in talking with those having influence on Web standards, both
the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and commercial server software providers.
Budget for initial stage
We anticipate (at this point, guess) that a first useful version
can be produced in nine months on a budget of $100,000. Individual and corporate
donations of funds are solicited. Foresight Institute is a nonprofit public
foundation; donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.
Call to Action
In the last issue, I wrote that my estimate of when nanotechnology will
arrive has moved up. Time is passing quickly; we need to begin high-quality
critical discussion of nanotechnology policy issues today, if not sooner.
Based on my experience to date, I find it hard to imagine succeeding in
this task without an adequate hypertext publishing system. Now, with the
rise of the Web, we can build an adequate system by making a modest addition
to an existing standard. To maximize our chances of a successful transition
to nanotechnology, we need this tool, and we need it now. I ask those of
you who can to step forward now and help us make this happen.
To contribute, send donations to Foresight Institute, PO Box 61058, Palo
Alto, CA 94306. For donations of $500 or more, contact Chris Peterson,
tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email email@example.com.
Network of Knowledge," chapter 14 of Engines of Creation
by K. Eric Drexler (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986). The Notes give earlier
Publishing and the Evolution of Knowledge" by K. Eric Drexler,
Social Intelligence Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 87-120. Reprints available
In technical terms, our goal is to implement extrinsic, bidirectional, sub-document-level
links among Web documents on our server and (later) cooperating servers
(see Definitions below). One constraint on the
project is that it produce server software compatible with common Web browsers.
Software will be written in C++ to work in conjunction with an existing
http daemon (i.e. Web server software running on a UNIX computer) to enable
the following of backlinks. The software will initially run on a single
server and operate only on documents stored on that server; later it will
function with any cooperating server.
Original documents, in standard HTML, will be stored unchanged on the server.
Our software will store backlink information for these documents in a database.
When a user invokes a document's URL, our software will integrate the original
HTML and the backlink information, so that the user sees the backlinks in
The first version will make links only to anchors that have already been
placed by the original author of the document. Separately from the Web enhancement
software, Foresight may add additional anchors to all documents on the server,
to enable fine-grained linking even at the initial stage.
Technical goals for later stages:
- Support of documents on non-cooperating servers (with warning of edits,
but without sophisticated connectivity through edits).
- Support of filtering (using Web forms to gather information on links
from the link author).
- Fine-grained linking to the phrase or word level, if not done previously.
- Readers' evaluation data (gathered by Web forms from readers) to use
- Better connectivity through edits (e.g. links to obsolete wording
can be appended to the end of the current document).
Table of Contents - Foresight Update 21
- Forward links:
- Links from a document pointing onward to another document. For example,
if document A comments on document B, a forward link in A points to B. Forward
links are already standard on the Web.
- Backward links:
- Links appearing in a document that have been inserted, usually by
someone other than the author, pointing from that document to another. For
example, if document A comments on document B, a backward link visible in
B points to document A. Today, only forward links can be made on the Web;
no corresponding backward link appears. Readers can see only links made
by the original author.
- Bi-directional links:
- Links that work both forward and backward.
- Extrinsic links:
- Links that can be made visible from a document without the document-author's
cooperation. These are needed for critical discussion, since we cannot expect
all authors to go out of their way to attach critical comments to their
- Cooperating servers:
- Web servers running our (or compatible) software.
- Selective display of links based on reader-selected criteria (e.g.
links to criticisms only).
- Hypertext markup language used to format information for the Web.
- Address of a document on the Web, enabling a reader to retrieve that
- Embedded marker enabling authors to link to a specific part of a Web
From Foresight Update 21, originally published 1
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