which listed nanotechnology in its "Tired"
column a while ago, covered the topic in its popular "Reality
Check" column in August. This regular feature selects a variety
of experts on a topic and asks them to guess the date of arrival of various
achievements in the field. The events selected were first molecular assembler,
first nanocomputer, first cell repair machine, first commercial product,
and first nanotechnology-oriented law. The experts were Robert
Birge (Syracuse), Donald Brenner
(NC State), Eric Drexler (IMM),
Josh Hall (Rutgers), and Richard
Smalley (Rice), all of whom have spoken or are slated to speak at Foresight
The ranges were: assembler, 2000-2025; nanocomputer, 2010-2100; cell repair,
2010-2050; commercial product, 2000-2015; law, 1995-2036. Perhaps the most
interesting figure is the average guess for the development of the assembler:
2011. Because we're not used to looking at years starting in 2, it looks
far off, but it's only 16 years from now-well within the lifetimes of most
Foresight members. Amusing note: in three of the five categories, the average
guess was earlier than the date guessed by Eric Drexler.
Business Week readers got a nanotechnology update in a July
3 report of the nanocatalysis being done by Lawrence
Schultz. He uses a platinum-coated AFM tip to catalyze reactions at
specific points on a surface. As Business Week puts it, "Imagine
dipping an ultrafine quill pen into platinum ink, then using it to transform
the chemical structure of individual molecules." [Editor's Note:
see Jeffrey Soreff's column in
The UK's Computing and Control Engineering Journal, in a June
article titled "Nanotechnology in the Marketplace," asserted that
"The UK's position in nanotechnology is strong, particularly in areas
such as precision machining, metrology, nanolithography, and nanostructured
materials" Unfortunately, these are all top-down miniaturization technologies,
rather than bottom-up molecular nanotechnologies.
The Dutch science and technology magazine PolyTechnisch tijdschrift
included an extensive nanotechnology article in their June/July issue featuring
Eric Drexler and Ralph Merkle. Foresight will send a copy of the article
to those able to provide partial translation.
The new book Nano
by Ed Regis (LIttle, Brown, 1995) has received many reviews, mostly
positive with a few negative. One gratifyingly positive review was published
in Caltech's Engineering
& Science magazine, Spring '95 issue: "By the beginning of
the nineties, however, which was coming to be known as the nanotechnology
decade, Drexler had written a book of equations...Nanotechnology is the
future, it is now assumed, and all that remain are the philosophical questions...[Regis]
writes with humor but takes his subject seriously at the same time. It may
sound like science fiction, but it isn't anymore."
The Boston Globe exhibited some confusion in a May article on nanotechnology,
stating "...so fast has nanotechnology moved out from the realm of
speculation that significant steps are now reported almost weekly in scientific
journals." Then later in the article: "Few other scientists believe
such claims...'nanotechnology need not be taken seriously'." And then
later, "Not only might it be possible to read the information on a
DNA strand, but someday also to 'do some very precise microsurgery' on the
DNA molecule itself to correct a genetic defect, for example." The
overall impression was positive.
The R-rated movie Virtuosity, which features nanotechnology, has
been receiving very bad reviews, so its level of accuracy or inaccuracy
in its treatment of the topic may not be crucial.
Despite its odd name, Red Herring
is a serious business magazine, we're told. Their August issue featured
an interview of Foresight's Eric Drexler.
Naomi Pearce wrote about nanotechnology and Foresight
for California Computer News in August. She reviews good and bad potential
applications, as well as both U.S. and other nanotechnology R&D efforts,
closing with, "Thus, we're not alone in developing this beyond-revolutionary
technology. I just hope we develop it with true foresight-for the sake of
the entire world."
Eric Drexler spoke on nanotechnology at a meeting of Hughes and TRW space
system engineers on July 26 and to Genentech
researchers on September 17 at Asilomar. His lecture at the Smithsonian
is being re-scheduled for the spring; we'll publish the date when available.
Also on September 17, MMEI president
Steve Vetter spoke to the new molecular nanotechnology study group at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Ninety persons attended. The next meeting is Oct. 8; contact Joe Doyle at
email@example.com, tel 328-4695.
Representing Foresight Institute, Ted Kaehler
of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple Computer spoke on the subject
"Going to the Limit with Atoms: A Swift Introduction to Nanotechnology"
at the EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium at Stanford University on May 24.
His talk was carried over the University's television network later the
same day. The talk's abstract reads, "What could we build if we really
had control of atoms? The new engineering discipline of molecular manufacturing
is exploring the answer to this question. One answer is an assembler-a machine
that can make an exact copy of itself. Another answer is the molecular mill-a
factory for spatially controlled chemical reactions. Why are computer scientists
especially interested in molecular nanotechnology?"
The Los Angeles Area Robotics and Automation Group's Spring 1995 Symposium,
sponsored by the Integrated Manufacturing Engineering Program at UCLA, the
UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Departments of Computer
Science, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering,
and the UCLA Engineering Graduate Students Association was held April 28
at UCLA. Among the speakers was Prof. Ari Requicha of USC, speaking on the
topic "Molecular Robotics." (See a description of his Molecular
Robotics Lab on the Web; http://alicudi.usc.edu/lmr/molecular_robotics_lab.html)
A molecular nanotechnology study group is getting started in the Twin Cities
of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is being hosted by the Science
Museum of Minnesota. They plan to meet the second Tuesday of each month,
7-9 PM. They have a core group including a physicist, chemist, mathematician,
and several business and computer people. At least four of the attendees
are senior associates of FI or IMM. Contact Steve Vetter at Molecular
Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. (612) 288-0093, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Molecular nanotechnology study groups also meet at MIT (contact Fred Hapgood,
email@example.com or tel 617-426-6758) and Caltech (contact Tom McCarthy,
firstname.lastname@example.org or tel 213-740-5682). The Caltech-based group has been
working its way through the book Nanosystems:
Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, chapter by chapter.
The MIT-based group recently met with the haptic interface entrepreneur
described elsewhere in this issue.
Christopher Fry of Harlequin Inc.
spoke on nanotechnology to 50 gifted high school students taking special
summer courses in biotechnology and space science at the University
of New Hampshire. He reports being very happy with the quality of the
Thanks go to Lewis M. Phelps, who served as Guest Editor of this issue of
Update. Lew is founder and Principal of Phelps Consulting Group,
a corporate public relations and strategic planning consulting firm located
in Pasadena, CA. He is formerly a public relations executive with two large
railroads and a major electric utility, and also has been a staff reporter
for the Wall Street Journal. His interest
in nanotechnology stems from his relationship with Global
Business Network, whose participation in Foresight Institute affairs
has been significant.
The prestige of the Feynman
Prize in Nanotechnology has increased due to donations enabling us to
increase its size, thanks to Marc Arnold, Christopher Portman, and Ted Kaehler.
Special thanks go to those of you making significant donations to the Web
Enhancement Project: Frank Comardo, James Gallagher, Thomas Landsberger,
Robert Leslie, Eric Lewis, Jim Lewis, Barry Silverstein, and John Walker.
Huge thanks as always go to Ralph Merkle,
especially now for his tireless work as chairman of the upcoming nanotechnology
conference. If you have access to the Web, be sure to see his set of
nanotechnology pages (see Web
and conference articles in this
Recruiting thanks go to Marie-Louise Kagan for bringing in new Foresight
members and to Steve Vetter for recruiting new Senior Associates.
As always, we are indebted to a number of Foresight members and friends
for providing clippings and other valuable information. These include Jon
Alexandr, Joe Bonaventura, Richard Cathcart, Michael Colpitts, Michael Edelstein,
Chuck Estes, Dave Forrest, Tom Glass, Jones Hamilton, Fred Hapgood, Ronald
Hartzell, Mark Haviland, G.A. Houston, Stan Hutchings, Samuel Lin, Scott
MacLaren, Joy Martin, Tom McKendree, Ken Meyering, Anthony Napier, Hal Puthoff,
Ronald Salesky, Tim Such, Tihamer Toth-Fejel, and Steven Vetter. We may
have missed some of those contributing by email; it's getting to be quite
a flood-please keep it coming.
We also gratefully thank Richard Terra for his donation of new Excel and
Powerpoint software to the Foresight office.
42nd National Symposium of American
Vacuum Society, Oct. 16-20, 1995, Minneapolis. Includes nanometer-scale
science and technology: mostly top-down but also supramolecular structures,
self-assembly, proximal probe based fabrication, biological nanostructures.
Tel 212-248-0327; fax 212-248-0245; email email@example.com.
From Neurons to Nanotechnology,
Oct. 18-19, NASA Ames. Sponsored by NASA, NIH, JPL. Machine intelligence
workshop including Ralph Merkle and Charles Bennett on nanotechnology. Email
firstname.lastname@example.org, Web http://biocomp.arc.nasa.gov:80/nanotech.
Wescon '95, Biomedical Engineering session, Nov. 8, San Francisco.
Includes "Going to the Limit with Atoms in Medical Technology: Nanomachines"
by Ted Kaehler. Tel 408-734-8818, fax 408-734-8898, email email@example.com.
4th Foresight Conference
on Molecular Nanotechnology, Nov. 8-11, 1995, Palo Alto. Enabling
science and technologies, molecular components, systems design, R&D
strategies. Foresight Institute, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email
firstname.lastname@example.org, Web http://nano.xerox.com/nanotech/nano4.html
Senior Associate Gathering,
Nov. 11-12, 1995, Palo Alto. Annual meeting of Foresight,
IMM, and CCIT Senior Associates (min.
pledge $250/yr for 5 yrs). Intensive exploration of nanotechnology issues;
participants need to have read Engines or Unbounding. Accessible to non-technical
participants. Foresight Institute, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email
29th International Conference
on Systems Sciences, Jan 3-6, 1996, Maui. Sponsored by IEEE. Includes
nanotechnology plenary by Eric Drexler. Tel 808-956-7396, fax 808-956-3766,
email email@example.com, Web http://www.cba. hawaii.edu/hicss
Organo/Molecular Electronics, Jan. 29-31, 1996, San Jose, CA. Sponsored
by IBC Conferences USA. Includes scanning
probes, self-assembly, structure-building with DNA. Tel 508-481-6400, email
Structure Controlled Macromolecules of Nanoscopic Dimensions, symposium
within Materials Research Society Meeting,
April 8-12, 1996, San Francisco. Includes nanoscale assemblies and nano-devices.
Tel 412-367-3004, fax 412-367-4373, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Web http://www.mrs.org
Nanotechnology lecture for Smithsonian, Washington, DC, by Eric Drexler,
date in spring '96 to be announced in later Update.