Newsletter of the Molecular Manufacturing Shortcut Group of the National Space Society
Volume 4, Number 2 Second Quarter, 1996

  • The Starseed/Launcher
  • President's Column
  • The Space Studies Institute View
  • Telomeres and the Mystery of Aging
  • Question Corner
  • NanoReview: Aristoi
  • Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering
  • MMSG Annual Chapter Meeting Minutes
  • _______________________________________

    The Starseed/Launcher

    by Forrest Bishop <forrestb@ix.netcom.com >

    (Editor's Preface: Spacecraft have always needed to fight high launch costs by packing the most technology into the smallest package. The "smallsat" revolution now under way in NASA's New Millennium program aims to use cutting-edge microelectronic and micromechanical technologies to shrink spacecraft down to one kilogram. Such satellites are called "nanosats" because they're much smaller than the 100 kg minisats and the 10 kg microsats, but their near-term construction emphasizes top-down techniques that are two or three magnitudes too large, so they have nothing to do with molecular nanotechnology. (for more info, see Leonard David's "Incredible Shrinking Spacecraft" in the January 1996 issue of Aerospace America). Here, Forrest Bishop takes a look at how MNT (Molecular NanoTechnology) could be applied to the problem of interstellar exploration, working from the bottom up with primitive nanomachines, or kinetic cellular automata, operating in parallel as a human-sized (mesoscopic) system. Examples of such active mesostructures include Josh Hall's Utility Fog and Joseph Michael's Flexible Robots.)

    The Starseed system will launch phalanxes of Shape-Shifting interstellar nanoprobes at one third the speed of light. The probes should be capable of inflight mutual rendezvous, some self repair, deceleration into orbit at the destination star system, and self-replication from in situ resources.

    In most interstellar propulsion studies, it is customary to consider the energy required to send a craft to another star in terms of multiples of the current world energy consumption. In contrast, the Starseed Launcher energy requirements are on the order of the storage capacity of a car battery. This represents a decrease of about a million million (10^-12) in energy usage over the next nearest proposal (Robert Forward's "Starwisp").

    (continued on page 4)

    The Starseed/Launcher (continued)

    Another characteristic of these kinds of machines is the scale of the various components, usually expressed in kilometers and tons. While the launcher in this design is about 1000 kilometers long, it is in the form of a very small diameter "wire" that could be stored on a drum. The entire mass and volume of the launch system, and its interstellar probes, might fit into a single Space Shuttle launch. What would make this possible is the ability to fabricate atomically precise "diamondoid" structures.

    The launcher is a type of linear electrostatic accelerator, based in part on Drexler's rotary design. Non-contacting electrodes are embedded in the interior surfaces of the bore, with alternating positive and negative voltages applied to them. Electrons are deposited in the probe's conductors, and then removed at the next electrode. The motive force is generated at the gap between two electrodes: a negatively charged probe conductor is attracted to the "oncoming" positively charged electrode, and vice versa. An interesting feature of this design is that it avoids the headaches of power switching, though an alternative negative 'electrode' requires a high voltage supply. The launcher can be pre-charged from a 10 volt supply before the probe is loosed.

    The launch mass of the "individual" interstellar probes is about a microgram. Each probe is composed of several million "MNT Active Cells", similar to drexlerian assemblers but much simpler. Each would be about 100 nm in size and weigh about 2 x 10^-15 grams. There would also several hundred thousand "Conductor Modules", basically little wires, that can be rearranged after the launch by the active cells to make different electrical devices such as radio antennae. One result of this rearrangement is that the individual parts of the probe can be reused several times during the interstellar passage, further lowering the launch mass.

    For launching, the active cell aggregate and the conductor modules are formed up as a thin, laminated ribbon, with the active cells in the center layer. This distributes the electrostatic launch forces over a large area, which is why the acceleration can be on the order of 100 million gravities. During the boost phase, the clearance between the probe and the tunneling contacts must be maintained at around half a nanometer while the relative velocity climbs to 100,000 km/sec.

    Several types of suspension systems and other devices are being studied for this, including magnetic levitation, electrostatic methods, and phased array quantum well laser focusing. Perhaps the most radical is the sliding, "atom-to-atom" interface: guide rails in the launcher bore directly contact slots in the probe. How well this might work at the aforementioned velocities remains to be seen. While it is certainly the case that the energy involved is high enough to induce electronic transitions in the atoms involved, as well as nuclear oscillations (heating), it is not clear what happens next. It might be possible to patch things back together after each such event, using a serrated guide rail and some other proactive goodies. Another possibility would be to electromechanically move parts of the tunneling electrode up and down to compensate for probe oscillations. The resulting system may be a combination of several of these ideas, with the guide rails and slots as a "last ditch" solution.

    The launch system could be made up of many individual launchers ganged together and launching simultaneously or sequentially. Because the active cells are able to connect together, a number of probes can rendezvous inflight and join to form larger structures.

    One such structure is a diffractive-optic telescope for taking bearings enroute, as well as for imaging the members of the target star. The active cells may be able to impose active control of the needed tolerances for this to within a few dozen nanometers.

    Small excursions from the desired trajectory, as well as reaction control in general, can be done by using the active cells as propellant. The efficiency of this is very poor, but the advantage is that its already built in.

    Surviving the interstellar trip is very problematical. The probes spend several (subjective) years being bombarded by cosmic radiation and grains of dust in the interstellar medium. The dust grains are moving at roughly one third the speed of light, which is a high enough energy to strip electrons from the atoms making up the probe. By launching a sequence of probes, a corridor might be formed by blasting the dust grains with "point probes", which are also destroyed in the process. The next probe would have to be closely in line with, and not too close or too far away from, these point probes for this to work. Another possibility is to use superconducting solenoid magnets made from the conductor modules to ionize and deflect the incoming particles. This might be done in combination with the sacrificial point probes.

    A much more speculative idea is to launch the probes at a higher speed, perhaps two thirds the speed of light (The Starseed/Launcher is designed for one third the speed of light simply as a matter of convenience). It may be possible for the active cells, which are about 100 nanometers thick, to pass right through the particles and dust grains without too much interaction (an idea of Forward's). In other words, it would be like flying through a wall. (Do not try this at home unless you are a trained professional ()

    Since the probe phalanx is made up of millions of identical active cells and conductor modules which are capable of connecting together and separating, the damaged cells can be either sloughed off or collected for reaction mass. With advanced technology, they might be repaired. With these survival strategies (and others not mentioned here), it becomes a question of how many probes need be launched to reach any star system.

    As the nanoprobe phalanx nears the target star, it may be possible to decelerate by interacting with the interstellar medium as well as the stellar wind. The conductor modules would be rearranged to form large superconducting loops, or "Magsails". The supercurrent might be provided by maser from the launch vicinity, or possibly by interacting with the charged particle medium. A braking force is generated regardless of the orientation of the Magsail. Since the stellar wind is blowing radially outward at around 100 km/sec, the deceleration can be maintained all the way to intersystem orbit. The Magsail is capable of tacking, and so can perform orbital maneuvers such as planetary rendezvous.

    The active cell aggregate might also contain "Gantry Cells" and the other components of the "Overtool" (a proposed Drexlerian Universal Assembler). By rendezvousing with native hydrocarbon material, such as comets or planetary rings, it may be possible to synthesize new active cells and machine civilizations that will spread further through the galaxy. The astute reader may notice that this work shares an important characteristic with some other interstellar propulsion studies: the further out it goes, the farther out it gets. ()

    For more information on this ad related topics, see http://www.speakeasy.org/~forrestb.


    President's Column -- Of Pundits and Prizes

    by Tom McKendree <tmckendree@msmail3.hac.com>

    Recent events have focused attention on two areas of interest to MMSG, published criticism of the idea of molecular nanotechnology, and the announcement of major prizes for technical progress.

    Let's start with the bad news. Scientific American in their April 1996 issue appeared to assail molecular nanotechnology with the article, "Trends in Nanotechnology: Waiting for Breakthroughs." One interpretation is that Scientific American is so biased against the concept of molecular nanotechnology that they cannot see the flaws in shoddy journalism when it supports those biases. That interpretation presumes that the subject of the article was molecular nanotechnology itself. However, an another interpretation would be that the article was a description of the sociological phenomenon that many people are interested in molecular nanotechnology, while many experimentalists in nanoscale science are disdainful. This is accurate journalism, but shed very little light on the real substance of the technical issues.

    Considered as an attempted rebuttal of molecular nanotechnology, the arguments were primarily ad hominien attacks, combined with the uncritical regurgitation of points from a book review of Nano! in Nature while willfully ignoring a rebuttal to that book review (http://nano.xerox.com/nanotech/nanocritics.html)

    of which members of the Foresight Institute informed the author. The article did not raise any scientific reason why molecular nanotechnology would be unfeasible, although some sincere criticisms were made of ideas that the critics thought were molecular nanotechnology. From the point of view of MNT's technical substance, the Scientific American article is discussed at length by Ralph Merkle, with a point-by-point rebuttal, available on the web at http://www.foresight.org/SciAmResponse.html.

    The second critique was really a review of Nano!, by Ed Regis, in MIT's magazine Technology Review. Of the three published apparent major attacks on molecular nanotechnology, two are book reviews of Nano!. An uncharitable view would be that Nano! is the preferred book about molecular nanotechnology to review, because unlike Drexler's books, it does not have a purpose of directly defending the concept of molecular nanotechnology, and thus is an easier target to use if one wishes to discredit the idea. In this case, however, it looks more like a casual dismissal of MNT than a malicious attack.

    Now for the good news. Two major recent prizes have been announced which should be of interest to MMSG members. Most obviously, the Foresight Institute, which awards the biennial Feynman Prize, is now also offering the Feynman Grand Prize for designing and building a robotic arm that can fit within a 100 nm cube and meet certain other requirements, and also designing and building a device that fits within a 50 nm cube and can add two 8-bit numbers. The goal here is two-fold. First, obviously, to motivate progress in MNT. Second, and more subtlely, to help set a definition of what MNT is.

    The other major prize being announced is the X Prize, a multi-million dollar award for the first space-ship to carry three people on a 100 km sub-orbital flight, and do it again. The exact rules and details are being announced May 18, so you may have heard more news after this has been written. The purpose of the X Prize is to motivate progress in the private Space-launch industry. If it is very successful, and MNT is slow to be developed, then cheaper launch costs than today may influence the space business environment into which MNT will emerge.

    If these prizes prove useful, Marc Arnold will deserve a tremendous measure of credit. He proposed the concept of the Feynman Grand Prize and substantially funded it. Furthermore, he is on the New Spirit of St. Louis X Prize Committee, where I imagine he has contributed much more than just a check. We should all thank him for his efforts in both areas.

    So, the conclusion is that MNT as an intellectual movement is still not winning the battle for mainstream acceptance of its goals, perspective, or point of view. On the other hand, there is real interest in promoting actual technical progress in MNT and space. Loses in opinion and victories in substance are not a bad place to be right now, but we will need to turn the court of public opinion around for serious investment to occur towards our goals.

    Two final notes: I gave a presentation on "Future Space Applications of Molecular Nanotechnology," at NASA Ames Research Center on March 15, which went very well. Also, the latest issue of Foresight Update contains the article "...One Very Large Step for Mankind," which discusses our efforts and some efforts of others to further the concept of using molecular nanotechnology for space. We are very happy to share the idea.

    Ad Astra per Nanotechnologia!

    Tom McKendree


    SSI and Nanotechnology

    by Tihamer Toth-Fejel


    The late Gerard O'Neill can safely be called the father of the space activist movement. The organization he founded, the Space Studies Institute, is not geared for political or educational goals, but is the most important research arm of the activist space movement, doing the crucial long range technical work for opening the high frontier of Space.

    SSI directors believe that in terms of technical achievement, the greatest disappointment in the past few decades has been that the cost to orbit has not decreased as projected, and possibly not at all. Meanwhile, the greatest miracle is the astounding advances in computer and communications technology. These observations led to a reassessment of the most effective direction of space settlement strategy, specifically to examine the value of unmanned "seeds in space" as precursors to human activity. Basically, since the cost to orbit has not decreased, the strategy is to use the unexpected advances in computers to increase the effectiveness of launched mass by orders of magnitude.

    Given this strategy, there are three research criteria that determine whether SSI will get involved in any particular project:

    ¨ Is it key to space settlement?

    ¨ Are others doing it?

    ¨ Will SSI's contribution be catalytic?

    Based on these criteria, the SSI Board of Directors approved four new research initiatives:

    ¨ Sub-Kilogram Intelligent Robots (SKIT)

    ¨ Molecular Nanotechnology for Space (MNTS)

    ¨ Accelerated NEO Discovery

    ¨ Quest for Self-Replicating Systems

    SKIT will be the primary thrust of the Ph.D. research performed by Alberto Behar, concentrating on the potential of exploring near-Earth-orbit asteroids with a colony of cooperative telerobots, each of which weighs less than a kilogram. Since the telerobot links will vary from under a second to over an hour, variable autonomy will be a key issue, as will the issue of concentrated vs. distributed control. SKIT components will undoubtedly use many of the micro technologies described in last quarter's issue of The Assembler, but from MMSG's point of view, the importance of this project has to do with the control algorithms that it will develop -- before we can control Avogadro numbers (~10^23) of nanorobots, we have to learn how to control less than a thousand.

    MNTS is another Ph.D. project, this one by MMSG president Tom McKendree. He begins with established "location theory", which helps planners make decisions regarding the geographic placement of terrestrial factories. This model will be expanded to take into account orbital mechanics and other aspects of the extraterrestrial environment. The resulting model will then be further adjusted to take MNT into account, examining lowered cost conventional rockets, feasible skyhooks, momentum transfer tethers, and advanced solar sails. The impact of low cost, high strength, and self-replication will undoubtedly be phenomenal, and with this detailed analysis, decision makers and policy analysts will undoubtedly pay closer attention to MNT.

    An acceleration of the Near-Earth-Object Detection project is supported by SSI for obvious reasons, since a near astroid would easily contain trillions of tons of richer resources than the lunar resources with less of an energy investment. However, SSI is not contributing any financial support to this worthy project because it is already receiving over a million dollars of funding from NASA and other organizations.

    SSI has approved the Quest for Self-Replicating Systems as a worthwhile project, but has not found any specific research that meets the criterion for financial support. Von Neumann's seminal work distinguished between two models of self-replication -- the first is a mathematically unwieldy but real-world kinetic model while the second is a computationally tractable but very abstract cellular automata model. Almost all the research in the Artificial Life field has been done on the latter, and seems to indicate that even at the purely logical level, full self-replication is more difficult than originally thought. SSI believes that continued advances in computer technology will enable the solution of this problem, first as an internal program, then a simulation of an external system, and then finally in the real world. The next issue of The Assembler will include a debate over whether self-replication can or cannot occur with non-nanotech. Stay tuned!

    (For more information on SSI's new research initiatives, see SSI Update, Oct/Nov/Dec '95)


    Telomeres and the Mystery of Aging

    by Brian Drozdowski <bdroz@umich.edu>

    Molecular Nanotechnology has the potential for impressive technical accomplishments, but it can do nothing about the speed of light. And Space is Big. Mind-bogglingly Big. If the human race is to explore the stars, we must choose between multi-generational arks, the deep freeze, or increased lifespans. The third option is undoubtedly the most exciting because it applies to everyone on Earth. For centuries, humanity has searched for ways to slow down the process of aging. Juan Ponce DeLeon explored the area now known as Florida for the elusive "Fountain of Youth" that promised eternal youth to the person bathing in its warm waters. Although this fountain was never found, scientific breakthroughs such as refridgeration, vaccines, and antiseptics have paved the way for a longer average human life span. But now scientists are close to discovering the secrets of the aging process on the cellular level. Some believe, as does Patricia Kruk at the National Institute on Aging, that telomeres, the tips of chromosomes, hold the key in solving this mystery.

    Telomeres consist of simple DNA sequences that do not code for RNA or a protein product, but nevertheless have a definite function. The repeating telomeric patterns solve a functional problem that is inherent in the replication of linear, double--stranded DNA molecules (which are the hereditary molecules of all multi-cellular organisms, while bacteria have double-stranded but circular DNA, and viruses can have single or double stranded DNA or RNA). The problem is this: at the tip of one of the DNA strands, RNA priming cannot work. RNA priming is the way DNA is replicated along the chromosome. A special protein complex called the primosome has a protein which contains special RNA segments which base-pair to the DNA. The attached RNA gets the whole thing started, and is what allows polymerase to extend the DNA strand. Anyway, RNA priming would result in a shortened chromosome if the cell did not correct this problem. An enzyme called telomerase extends the telomere, thereby lengthening the chromosome and allowing normal replication to proceed. Without the action of telomerase, a chromosome would be shortened at both ends by the length of an RNA primer with every cycle of DNA replication and cell division. Eventually, the chromosome would lose all its telomeres, and the priming mechanism would start overlaying the genes located at the ends of chromosomes. Consequently, these genes would no longer be able code for essential proteins, and during protein expression (the process by which the DNA code gets translated into RNA and then into the amino acid chains that fold and link to form proteins) these essential proteins would be produced damaged, if at all, and the result would be cell death for the decedent cells.

    Most cells of multicellular organisms lack telomerase activity, suggesting that the loss of telomerase function in cells is a basis for aging. Experimental evidence in support of this theory of aging is rapidly accumulating. It has long been known that mammalian cells grown in culture can only survive for a certain number of cell divisions. However, cancer cells have been shown to possess relatively long, stable telomeres, and active telomerase. The fact that cancer cells are able to produce telomerase means that these cells always have telomeres at the ends of their chromosomes. Therefore, the loss of telomeres does not stop cellular division in cancer cells, and they can to spread like wildfire throughout the body (unless checked by surgery or chemotherapy).

    Why don't normal cells possess active telomerase? It might protect the organism against a cell dividing uncontrollably as cancer cells do. If mammalian cells were normally immortal, then the incidence of cancer would probably be far greater than it is. If scientists were somehow able to selectively introduce telomerase into human cells, but in a controlled way that would not induce cancer, they could possibly eliminate the aging and death of human body cells. It would make sense to say that the frequency of cell death in an individual correlates to the age of the individual. Older people simply have older cells, and cell death occurs on a more frequent basis. By eliminating the aging and death of individual body cells through the telomere mechanism, it should be possible to halt the aging process of the organism. This type of breakthrough may be years away, and there are other, less dramatic aging processes, but preliminary knowledge about cellular aging has given us hope in dramatically extending the life span of the organism itself. In the near future, primitive MNT will give us the instrumentation necessary to observe telomerase activity more closely, and once it is understood, control it appropriately.


    Griffiths et al. (1993). An Introduction to Genetic Analysis. Fifth Edition. 482

    Kruk, Patricia A. et al. (1995). DNA Damage and Repair in Telomeres: Relation to aging. Proc. of the Natl. Acad. Sci. Vol. 92, 258-262.

    Levy, Michael Z., et al. (1991). Telomere End-replication Problem and Cell Aging. J. Mol. Biol. 225, 951-960.

    Voet, Donald and Voet, Judith G (1995). Biochemistry. Second Edition. 1044-45


    MMSG Officers

    President: Tom McKendree (714) 374-2081

    Email: tmckendree@msmail3.hac.com

    Secretary: Tihamer (Tee) Toth-Fejel (313) 662-4741

    Email: ttf@rc.net

    MMSG Home Page


    Editorial Office

    899 Starwick Drive

    Ann Arbor, MI 48105

    Subscription and Membership

    8381 Castilian Drive

    Huntington Beach, CA 92646


    Question Corner

    by Tihamer Toth-Fejel <ttf@rc.net>

    The questions for this issue are from Edward K. Gilding, who asked the following on sci.nanotech:

    What would be the correct term for a self-replicating sub-miniature device that is adaptable but manmade? nanobots? nano-ants? Molecular lice?

    Whoever builds the first one gets to name it whatever he or she wants. Since Eric Drexler has done most of the design and popularizing, those machines that are made using bottom up methods that can construct anything (in addition to copies of themselves) he has named universal assemblers. A nanobot would not necessarily be capable of self-replication, and biological-related terms like nano-ant would most probably be used to describe nanobots with either ant-like functionality or appearance.

    How small can they can get, and how much computing power can they have?

    As small as you can make them. Judging from Von Neumann's work on universal constructors in the domain of cellular automata, and Drexler and Merkle's modeling of molecular bearings, a billion atoms seems a good estimate. A limited-capability assembler could be smaller, and easier to build. If it achieves closure (ie. can manipulate all its constituent atoms, and make all its constituent chemical bonds) then it could self-replicate. Under simplified conditions (similar to crystallization and self-assembling puzzle pieces) it may be possible to design a mechanism made of relatively few atoms that self-replicates with almost no computing power, but such an advance would probably be useful for little but demonstration purposes.

    What would be an ideal power source? Could they use solar? Stored power?

    It would depend on the application. Stored power has to come from somewhere, and the big five come to mind: thermal, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and electro-magnetic radiation. Solar is very diffuse and on planets has less than a 50% duty cycle, though we could build very small antennas (chlorophyll seems to use this mechanism to some extent) that could capture sunlight much more efficiently than current silicon or gallium arsenide solar cells. In Nanosystem, Drexler describes a scheme of using sound waves to drive rachet mechanisms. To power Utility Fog (which are very simple nanorobots that don't mediate chemical reactions) Josh Hall proposes using mostly electricity with hydrogen as a storage medium.

    How would they move around? Would they have little wheels or maybe just float on the wind like pollen, or have mini-legs?

    Again, it depends on the application. Many would be fixed in place. Sure, wheels and legs are possible, but so are a host of other mechanisms -- just take a look at bacteria and their flagelli, cilia, etc. -- the possibilities are endless. Wings, turbines, and electromagnetic propulsion are also possibilities -- the only common example that I would discount is the reaction engine, because rockets and mass drivers throw away too much mass. And you're in space, solar sails are much more efficient.

    What would they be made of? What percent is carbon, fluorine, silicon etc.

    It depends not only on the properties required by the application (ie. high temperatures would probably depend heavily more on silicon oxides than diamonoids, while higher strength requirements would probably lean more heavily on the carbon-based diamonoids), but also on ease of use, human whim and convention, the direction of current research, and the decision of the final arbitrator, Mother Nature or God (whoever made up the rules about atomic binding, molecular electron distribution, etc). In other words, whatever works, and we haven't gotten very far in designing billion-atom mechanisms from the bottom up, so we really don't know. The two main enabling technologies (biology and electronics) are based on carbon and silicon, so it is likely that either hydrocarbons or silicon oxides will predominate.


    Nanoreview: Aristoi

    by Gregory Trocchia <gtrocchi@cvssys1.attmail.com>

    There are times when a long history of reading Science Fiction can dampens my enjoyment of a particular SF story. "Aristoi" by Walter Jon Williams is a case in point. The novel is set in a civilization created by survivors of a disaster where the Earth was eaten by what Williams calls "mataglap nano". This trauma is

    millennia past at the time of the story. The hero, Gabriel, is a member of the Aristoi, the group running the civilization. It is discovered that someone is trying to undermine this society and it falls to Gabriel to investigate and try to foil this plot. There were a number of problems I had with the novel though some were minor. For example, there is a distinct hierarchy in Gabriel's society, and the full names of characters is supposed to convey information about their place in this hierarchy, but how the naming convention works is not explained. Other qualms I had were much more serious, especially regarding the viewpoint on nanotechnology. In "Aristoi", nanotechnology is depicted as inherently dangerous, while the disaster which befell Earth was accidental, not intentional. Readers of the "Assembler" are probably aware that the closer we examine nanotechnology the less likely such accidents appear to be, especially in

    comparison to the threat of intentional misuse. It appears that the task of insuring that the most dangerous types of nanomachines -- autonomous self-replicators -- will cease to function rather than run wild, is simple compared to the task of designing such artifacts.

    This brings me to what I said about my experience in the field of SF making it harder to enjoy the novel. As I got deeper into the novel it looked to me that Williams was setting up what I refer to as a "reversal". This is a point in the plot where it is revealed to the protagonist (and usually to the reader, simultaneously) that the protagonist has been supporting the wrong side. Consider that the Aristoi constitute what is essentially a feudal oligarchy, albeit one based upon ability and achievement. While Gabriel appears to be a benevolent despot in his dominion (from his point of view at least), it is made clear that there are other Aristoi who are a good deal more authoritarian. The Aristoi as a class are acting as a brake on progress, ostensibly for the protection of the "Demos" as they call their subjects. I was hoping that Williams would reveal that this "protection" was, in reality, an excuse to justify the concentration of power in the hands of the Aristoi. Alas, when the details of the plot are revealed, the plotters are the bad guys in this tale and the Aristoi are on the side of angels. The whole outlook of the story runs counter to my conviction that if the nanotechnology revolution is to succeed in bettering the lives of humanity, the power of this new technology must be spread all through society, not hoarded by an elite, no matter how well intentioned. So perhaps "Aristoi" can best be seen as a portrait of a potential misstep that we could make in developing nanotechnology, though that does not appear to be the intent of the author.


    The Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering

    Forrest Bishop and Pepper T. Kim recently formed: the Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering (IASE), and applied for 501(3)c tax exempt status as a non-profit corporation of the state of Washington.

    The Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering

    P. O. Box 30121

    Seattle, WA 98103


    They see their objectives as:

    1) Public Education

    2) Nanotechnology Implementation Research

    3) Nanotech Implementation Development

    4) Information Integration and Distribution

    The first publication of the IASE "Prospectus"contains:

    VERSION 1:

    1) IASE Overview, goals, etc.

    2) "The Shape of Things to Come" (Full April issue)

    3) an updated "Active Mesostructures"

    4) "A Proposed MNT Active Cell"

    5) "The Overtool: A Proposed Universal Assembler"

    6) "A Top Down Approach to a Universal Assembler"


    7) "Starseed/Launcher"

    8) "Modeling the Shape-Shifter on a CAM"

    9) "The ABC'c of XYZ's"

    10) "Programming the Shape shifter"

    11) "Programming the Overtool"

    12) "Power and Signal Considerations"

    13) Animations of the Shape-Shifter and the Overtool


    MMSG Annual Chapter Meeting Minutes

    The chapter meeting of the Molecular Manufacturing Shortcut Group was held Saturday, May 25, at the International Space Development Conference, in Ballroom C of the Grand Hyatt New York.

    Tom McKendree, President, recognized himself and Acting Secretary Tihamer Toth-Fejel as officers in attendance, and called the meeting to order. There were 10 attendees.

    The President's report was a summary of the President's Column from the first quarter 1996 issue of The Assembler. Highlights included:

    o Bad News

    - After giving over a full year's notice, the previous Secretary has relinquished his post. Tihamer Toth-Fejel has taken over as acting Secretary

    - The former Treasurer has also relinquished his post, in this case, without warning

    o Good News

    - A reminder that MMSG has published, and NSS has endorsed, a policy paper on Nanotechnology and Space

    - MMSG has established a Web page, http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/, which the Foresight Page points to. This is an honor, and imposes an

    obligation to maintain a good web site.

    - The President presented papers on MNT and Space at the Space Studies Institute's conference, and at the Foresight Conference

    As acting Secretary, I reported the successful publication of two editions of the chapter newsletter, including a special ISDC issue. I am willing to publish the newsletter, but I need help to maintain the membership database.

    The President provided a summary report in lieu of the vacant Treasurer. We have roughly $300, with half in cash from a prior meeting, and half forwarded from the previous Treasurer by way of the previous Secretary. The Treasurer's post is open, and volunteers to fill this post are solicited.

    After officer reports came election of new officers. For President, Tom McKendree was the sole nominee, and elected for another term. For Secretary, Tihamer Toth-Fejel was the sole nominee, and elected for his first full term as Secretary. No nominations for Treasurer were made. The Post remains vacant and open for special appointment.

    The sole issue of Old Business was the previous meeting's motion to create a slide show illustrating molecular nanotechnology and it's importance for space, and putting that on the World Wide Web. Overhead slides exist, and were shown by Tom McKendree's presentation on nanotechnology and space at 3:00 PM in Ballroom C. What remains is to webify this material.

    Tom Huffman volunteered to translating information into html for this project. After the meeting, Tom McKendree and Tihamer Toth-Fejel will contact him about providing the exact information needed for him to start creating appropriate html files. As material is created, the three will coordinate with Dale Amon as appropriate to place that information on the Web. Translated, that means that he gave me the password to the mmsg password and I'll ftp the Tom Huffman's files across the ocean.

    Several issues were raised as new business.

    It had been previously determined by Dale Amon that the internet domain name "mmsg.org" was available, and we were asked if we wanted to get it. This would cost $100 for set-up, and a $50/year maintenance fee. After some debate, it was decided that mmsg.org was not a sufficiently self-evident domain name to be worth taking. After some brainstorming, it was decided that nanospace.org, nano.org, assembler.org, nanotech.org, and space.org (or net) might be worth the cost. The first action is to determine if any of these are available. It was felt that one might be worth procuring, if we also feel that we will be able to attract a reasonable base of dues-paying members.

    In this discussion of internet issues, Bruce MacKenzie suggested that under the auspices of the NSS.org email server, that a list-serve for nanotechnology and space might be reasonable to establish. Bruce MacKenzie will pursue this from the NSS side, and Tihamer Toth-Fejel will provide support by providing and maintaining the list-serve email membership.

    Bruce also suggested the establishment of a permanent email forwarding service, which he will investigate. If MMSG can provide this, it will be a real benefit to many members.

    Then the meeting got interesting. Bruce MacKenzie raised the issue of Forever Bound. In a bold (inspired or crazy, I'm not sure which) departure from the idea of sending our ashes into Space, William Boland has proposed the idea of sending human cell samples into deep Space with a solar sail. He was in part inspired by the idea that someday those samples might be picked up by aliens, and then you could be cloned. It was suggested that this idea has some similarities to MNT and space. Bruce MacKenzie suggested that we should be aware of the group, because a) we may be able to offer constructive suggestions, based on our knowledge; and b) we may want to consciously decide how closely associated we wish to be with this group, depending on how we believe people will perceive that group. It was discussed that even though Jurassic Park gives Forever Bound some legitimacy, there was some danger of this group gaining a poor reputation, and somehow getting Molecular Nanotechnology and Space tarred with the same brush.

    Several specific technical issues were raised, including:

    o How to preserve the DNA?

    o What should we write on the outside of the spacecraft so aliens can figure out how to clone the material on the inside?

    o How do we write cloning instructions if we don't know how to do it ourselves?

    o What about solar sail for sending the vehicle into deep space?

    o What about the damaging effects of cosmic rays?

    No motion for MMSG to take action regarding Forever Bound was proposed. It was suggested that individuals might wish to individually contact that organization.

    Forever Bound Inc. can be reached at: (212) 986-8544 email: bodemode@aol.com.

    The final subject of new business was to choose a goal for the year (i.e., the next 12 months until the next ISDC). Cursor_Loc1It was noted that we have an ongoing mission statement, which focuses on educating the public. In the discussion it was suggested, but not moved, that MMSG should set the goal of raising the paid membership to 100 within a year. After more debate, it was decided that MMSG should set as its 12 Month goal "To turn the MMSG page into the central focus on the web for information on molecular manufacturing for space applications." This objective was adopted without objection.

    The meeting was adjourned at 6:27 PM.