Sunday, 29 December 2019

there’s plenty of room at the bottom

Delivered on this day before an assembly of the members pf the American Physical Society at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (see also), Richard Feynman’s (*1918 – †1988) lecture—subtitled “An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics” addressed the virtually limitless possibilities of miniaturisation and is heralded in retrospect as the birth of nanotechnology. A culmination of research, including though-experiments and practical demonstrations, Feynman’s intrigue was contagious as he pondered the ramifications of manipulating matter at atomic scales—creating incredibly dense circuitry, data-storage systems as well as vanishingly small mechanisms and medical interventions that were precision-controlled rather than relying on chemical processes that could be poorly grasped or might not work outside of the laboratory.
Though these motorized enzymes and ingestibles remained theoretical concepts and the bailiwick of science fiction until recently, the seminar ended with Feynman issuing a couple of challenges to his audience, the first of which were solved in very short order: the first thousand dollar payout came with the development of the first nanomotor the following year, the second—fitting the whole of the Encyclopædia Britannica on the head of a pin took a bit more time but its equivalent was finally accomplished in 1985