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« Season's Greetings! | Main | A Thought for the New Year »

December 30, 2008


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This is akin to arguing whether world prosperity will lead to world peace, or vice versa: in the light of the possibilities, it doesn't matter, as long as we get there as soon as possible. In fact, given adequate resources, we should be trying parallel approaches, in both my analogy as well as the topic at hand.

Perry E. Metzger

Andrew, with respect, that analogy is very wrong. This is a technical question, with reasonable amounts of information available, and not a woolly sociology question. There also are not unlimited resources -- in fact, I'd say right now there are nearly no resources being expended on diamondoid at all, and very little elsewhere.


You guys have got it wrong with regards to Drexler. Drexler was an active member of L-5 Society and was also involved with SSI during the late 70's. It was during this time he was conceiving of manufacturing techniques for producing the solar power satellites and what not that he came up with the idea of manufacturing on the molecular level. His first concept of this was very much an extension of bio-engineering (a truly synthetic biology). This was his concept up until 1985. In 1985, Benning and one other guy won the Nobel prize for the invention of the STM. The STM took Eric (and many others) by surprise and he, among others, began to wonder if a more direct "mechanical" method of nanotechnology was possible. He wrote and published "Engines of Creation" the following year.

The idea of nano-mechanical technology got more of a boost during this time because many research groups were making their own STMs and doing lots of imaging with them (crude STMs are rather easy to make). Also, about the same time, we had the confluence of the space people, the Alcor cryonics people, and libertarians in SoCal start to show up at each others' parties and start to network with each other. The idea of nano-mechanical technology and the easy early successes with STM's naturally fed into these groups, which led to the whole vision of nano-mechanical technology. We believed that STM technology would lead directly to a comprehensive nano-mechanical technology. These were very heady times indeed!

An entire instrumentation industry based on STM/AFM was launched during this time and Virgil Euling got rich when he sold Digital Instruments to Veeco and built himself a Harley-Davidson motorcycle museum.

The whole vision of nano-mechanical nanotech was driven by the invention and commercialization of STM/AFM instrumentation.

The problem is that STM/AFM technology has failed to lead to a complete nanofabrication technology. The current AFM instrumentation is very robust and can do a great many kinds of imaging and scanning capabilities. However, a comprehensive nano-manufacturing capability is not in the cards by this approach.

I think Drexler has realized this over the years and has now returned to his earlier vision of nano-manufacturing based on bio-engineering rather than nano-mechanics.

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