DNA was the first nanotechnology. History has been the highly contorted process of humanity learning to understand itself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This phase of the Earth School is mastery of physical. The mastery of nanotechnology is synonymous with mastery of genetic engineering. There is a word to describe what such a technological novelty would be, though it is rarely if ever spoken above a whisper:

- Terence McKenna See also:
technology singularity
blue goo
I know when the world will end

Nanotechnology is no longer just a hypothetical science. Over the past few decades, both theoretical and experimental work of great importance has been done.

Nanotechnology was born with the speech "There's Plenty Of Room On The Bottom" given by Richard P. Feynman at Caltech in 1959. The fundamental idea is that by manipulating individual molecules and atoms, we can make objects more accurately than nature itself.

Since the first humans, we have manipulated our environment in an inaccurate way, be it chipping flint with stone or pressing aircraft aluminum. Our technology is limited by our size as we can only manipulate materials using force and heat, basically brute force. By using an intermediate that is smaller than us, we can manipulate the building blocks of the universe and create perfect objects. The arrangement of atoms is a chief problem in this world. What makes tissue one way makes cancer another, and what makes coal one way makes diamonds another. When we have the power to make objects atom by atom, and rearrange atoms in living things, man will have god-like powers. Disease, poverty and hunger will be things of the past. Flexible diamond like sheeting will revolutionize space travel, shelter, and unfortunately warfare. The first step is to learn to manipulate atoms.

Currently, scientists can manipulate atoms using the tips of tiny pointers attached to microscopes. They can position atoms at will on a substrate, and have been able to spell out messages, make drawings, etc. But in order to take the next leap, many people believe we must build robots small enough to manipulate atoms themselves, and have them do our bidding. These robots are called nanobots. In “Engines of Creation” a book by K. Eric Drexler (who popularized the phrase “nano”) a system is proposed in which a first generation of nanobots builds a second, smaller generation of nanobots. These would then replicate until they numbered enough to do work, and could assemble atoms taken from raw material into structures. Although it was published in 1986, Engines of Creation is one of the best books to read if you are interested in nanotech.

The Foresight Institute (www.foresight.org) was started by K. Eric Drexler in order to help regulate nanotech research and is a good place to go for information. Research occurs globally, but is centered in California and Japan. Nanotech is an interdisciplinary science. It requires knowledge of physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering, and even biology. It is one of a few areas of science that promise to change the world as we know it.

If you are interested in nanotechnology, or think you might be, I highly reccomend the website at http://nanothink.netfirms.com as a good place for information.
nanofortnight = N = nasal demons

nanotechnology /nan'-oh-tek-no`l*-jee/ n.

A hypothetical fabrication technology in which objects are designed and built with the individual specification and placement of each separate atom. The first unequivocal nanofabrication experiments took place in 1990, for example with the deposition of individual xenon atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very large computer company. Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book "Engines of Creation" (Anchor/Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-19973-2), where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of productivity and personal wealth (there's an authorized transcription at http://www.foresight.org/EOC/index.html). See also blue goo, gray goo, nanobot.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Up until 1959 most scientists and engineers working at or below the nanometer scale were primarily concerned with the theory of breaking very small things (or at least whacking them as hard as possible) ... with admittedly spectacular results. Physicists ripped apart, smashed, and bombarded the atom until they were fairly sure that they could be predictably uncertain of its workings.

However, in 1959 Richard Feynman suggested that some of the same techniques made available through modern physics might be used to design and build novel types of machinery from the atom up. This reversal of the classic strategy of fabrication, which tends to whittle down large objects until they roughly approximate the desired product, is the fundamental concept upon which nanotechnology is based.

After Feynman's address, there was a brief period of excitement involving a lot of dreamy talk and a reprint in Engineering and Science, and then everyone went quietly back to finding out who could throw a subatomic particle the hardest. Most scientists considered the prospect of directing the manipulation of material at the molecular level improbable and impractical at best, but with the advent of recombinant DNA technology in the '70s, and the ever-increasing need for miniaturization of computer components and astronautical hardware, it became apparent to some that nanotechnology was not only possible, but essential to the continued advancement of science in the coming century.

Nanotechnology strives to use biological, physical, chemical, and computational techniques already in existence to build things with atomic precision. What sorts of things? Items like self-cleaning clothing and blood vessel maintenance robots are some of the long-term goals of nanotechnology's most ambitious advocates. Conservative researchers and groups are concentrating on much more modest goals, such as developing computational devices which exceed today's cycle rates by as much as ten orders of magnitude, simulating hypothetical molecular components, using DNA computing to solve brain teasers, and writing their names with individual xenon atoms.

From the BioTech Project at http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/. Written largely by David Cook. For further information see the BioTech homenode.

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