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Foresight Update 10

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A publication of the Foresight Institute


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BioArchive Progress

One of the Foresight Institute's goals is to stimulate efforts toward building a BioArchive of endangered species: a set of safe repositories of properly-stored genetic material and tissue samples. The goal is that if the worst happens--if every living member of the species is lost--irreplaceable information will survive. With sufficiently advanced technology and a biosphere on the mend, species restoration could then be accomplished. If enough samples have been taken, even substantial genetic diversity within the species would survive this hiatus.

Tania Ewing reports in Nature (7 June 1990) that the Centre for Genetic Resources and Heritage (CGRH) in Australia has begun to work explicitly toward this goal. Based at the University of Queensland, it will serve as a library of genetic material from Australia's rare and endangered species. Director John Mattick calls the center a "genetic Louvre," which will store tissues, cells, and isolated DNA samples which have been preserved cryogenically or by desiccation. Mattick points out that if work like this isn't done, "subsequent generations will see we had the technology to keep [DNA] software and will ask why we didn't do it."

Exactly so: CGRH's work is critical to the future health of the biosphere. Yet they are preserving only Australian samples, and are having trouble finding funds to do even that much. We need to encourage the powerful, mainstream environmental groups to become active in support of this work, and to help establish similar efforts around the world.

To contact them, write CGRH, Centre for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Queensland, Australia. Environmental activists interested in furthering the BioArchive concept should contact the Foresight Institute.


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

International News

by Stewart Cobb

Sixth Generation Project

Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is now planning its Sixth Generation Computer project. This is a three-pronged effort involving theory, technology, and applications.

The "Basic Theory" program is intended to develop a theoretical basis for "processing of ambiguous and incomplete information," using ideas from artificial intelligence, neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science. MITI aims to build systems capable of "learning and self-organization," "approximately correct problem solving," and "integration of mass information."

Under "Fundamental Technology," MITI will study architectures for massively parallel and distributed computer systems. This effort includes a wide-ranging investigation of new technologies for computing devices, including superconductivity, quantum electronics, optical switches, wafer-scale integration, and three-dimensional integrated circuits. The report mentions molecular devices as a targeted technology.

MITI is not neglecting product development, the commercial payoff for this massive project. The final research area is "Novel Functions," investigating applications of the new computer technology. MITI expects these applications to include large-scale system simulations, self-organizing databases, autonomous and cooperative robot controllers, high-level pattern recognition and understanding, and generalized problem solving with soft knowledge. Some of these areas, such as large-system simulation and robot control, should be useful in advanced applications of molecular manufacturing. [Nature, 345:279, 24May1990; Intelligence, Vol7, No4, pp1-3, Aug1990]

Eastern Europe

With the opening of Eastern European countries, more is being learned about research efforts and interests there. Some of these are relevant to nanotechnology:

In Czechoslovakia, the former president of that country's Academy of Sciences--now director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics--has as a goal "the bringing together of information theory and systems engineering with the reductionist pursuit of molecular mechanisms." Bulgaria's Institute of Electronics holds an annual meeting on quantum electronics; it is attended by scientists from all over the world. The president of the Romanian Academy of Sciences--also the Deputy Prime Minister--wants to set up ten "advanced study groups" working on specific problems like molecular engineering, materials science, and tunneling microscopy. [Nature, 344:609-619, 12Apr90]

Comparisons

Two government studies this spring compared the technological capabilities of the US with the rest of the world. The overall results came as no great surprise.

The Department of Defense reported that the US significantly leads the USSR in all but four of 20 militarily critical technologies, while the Soviets lead in only one. The European NATO countries were considered roughly equal or slightly behind the US in all 20 areas. Japan, however, was called the leader in five of the 20 technologies, generally those with near-term commercial applications. [Science 248:299, 20April1990]

The other study, from the Department of Commerce, compared the relative standing of the US, Japan, and the European Community in twelve emerging technologies. According to the report, the US generally leads both Japan and Europe in research and development in these technologies, but lags Japan in creating new products. The Commerce Department also described the trends in these areas, showing the US holding even with Europe but rapidly falling behind Japan. The report covered twelve new technologies which together are expected to reach $1 trillion in sales worldwide in the year 2000. [Science 248:1185, 8June1990]

The Office of Science and Technology Policy has been asked to combine these two studies into a single report, which is expected in late October.

Human Frontiers

The announcement of the initial grants in the Human Frontiers Science Program has made clear that this international effort will not favor any one country, as was feared earlier when Japan proposed the program. Grants were in approximate proportion to the number of applications from each country: Japan (9), US (8), Britain (5), France (3). Despite this reassuring result, the US and Western European countries reacted negatively to a Japanese proposal for an international effort on intelligent manufacturing systems. [Nature, 344:579, 12Apr90; Nature, 345:560, 14Jun90]

Degree patterns

Meanwhile, the US National Science Foundation reports that the number of undergraduate degrees in science and engineering granted to US students fell 10 percent from 1986 to 1988. The total number of undergraduate degrees granted to US students during the same two years rose slightly to an all-time high. [Nature, 345:655, 21June1990]

Stewart Cobb is an aerospace engineer and was an early member of the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group.


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

Journal Review: Nanotechnology

by Chris Peterson

The new journal Nanotechnology takes as its subject a broad range of fields which have, or hope to have, some connection to the nanometer scale: machining, imaging, metrology (measurement), micromachines, instrumentation and machine tools, scanning probe microscopy, fabrication of components, nanoelectronics, molecular engineering, and so on. Based on the first issue, the journal will be worth the attention of those with broad interests in nanometer-scale technologies, particularly those interested in the nuts-and-bolts of developing and implementing various enabling technologies.

Published by the Institute of Physics, based in the U.K., it has pulled together regional editors and an editorial board from around the world, including the USSR, Bulgaria, and Poland. Most are from the US, Japan, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland. Some names are familiar to those who follow progress in work leading to molecular nanotechnology: regional editor E. Clayton Teague (from NIST) attended our first nanotechnology conference, as did editorial board member Robert Birge (U. Syracuse), who presented molecular electronics work at the meeting. The editorial board also includes Robert T. Bate (quantum electronics, Texas Instruments), Paul K. Hansma (STM and AFM, U. Cal. Santa Barbara), Richard S. Muller (micromachines, U. Cal. Berkeley), and James S. Murday (Naval Research Lab, chaired STM'90/NANO I meeting).

The challenge for the journal will be to maintain the quality shown by the first issue. This included a number of broad review articles of interest to the newcomer and helpful in orienting new readers to the interests of the publication. To avoid repetition, however, later issues will inevitably move toward more specialized material, such as reports of STM experimental results, e.g. "Voltage dependence of the morphology of the GaAs(100) surface observed by scanning tunnelling microscopy" in the first issue. While worthy, such a report is more relevant to those working with GaAs than it is to nanotechnology per se. There is a great deal of this work available, as shown by the huge poster sessions at NANO I.

A promising sign is the inclusion in the first issue of a proposal for the design of a new instrument. This focus on future tools is unusual and could provide a valuable niche for the journal to fill.

The scope of this journal once again shows that the word 'nanotechnology,' without a modifier, can no longer be taken to refer to the technology at the core of Foresight's concerns. In introducing the subject of "thorough control of the structure of matter," one must be more specific, speaking of molecular nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing.

We'll keep an eye on this publication and report how it progresses. Two issues are planned for volume 1 in 1990, with four in the works for volume 2 in 1991. To subscribe in the US, Canada, or Mexico, write to American Institute of Physics, Subscriber Services, 500 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury, NY 11797-2999. Elsewhere write to Order Processing Dept., IOP Publishing Ltd, Techno House, Redcliffe Way, Bristol BS1 6NX, UK. Volume 1 is $99, with a single issue price of $49.50; volume 2 is $215, with a single issue price of $54. If you subscribe to both volumes together, the price is $270.00.

If the prices look a bit steep, ask your favorite technical library to subscribe, or have them request the first issue as a sample copy.


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

STM '90

This year's conference on scanning tunneling microscopy was broadened to include scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy, as well as immediately adjacent technical fields. To reflect this increased breadth, the parallel title NANO I was added to the conference. Sponsored by a wide variety of organizations, it was held in Baltimore on July 23-27, 1990.

Interest in the meeting was intense, with many hundreds of abstracts submitted. Chairman James Murday of the Naval Research Laboratory reports that the meeting drew 675 attendees--forty percent larger than previous meetings. With so many submissions, the great majority had to be presented in mammoth poster sessions. The abstract "booklet" had 372 pages. One paper, a proposal for molecular tip arrays for atomic force microscopy, is described in this issue's "Recent Progress" column.

Of special interest to Foresight was the session on "Nanometer Science and Technology--Prospects, Priorities, and Programs." It included presentations from Japan's Nanomechanism Project, Britain's Nanotechnology Project, NIST's Micro-metrology Group, and NSF's group on Quantum Electronics, Waves, and Beams. Eric Drexler spoke on the results of the First Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology (October 1990) and our perspective on molecular systems engineering as a path to molecular nanotechnology.

Instead of publishing a separate conference proceedings volume, STM '90 is working with the American Vacuum Society to publish a special edition of the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology (JVST) with conference papers. We'll let you know when it is available.

The AVS is so interested in nanometer-scale work that it has agreed to host the next meeting as part of its larger meeting in Seattle, November 11-15, 1991. This first AVS National Symposium on "Science and Technology at the Nanometer Scale" will include topics similar to the 1990 meeting; we suggest you check the conference papers to get a feel for which areas will be covered. Foresight Update will publish more information as it becomes available.

In addition to hosting the next meeting, AVS is renaming one of its journals to reflect its new focus: the new subtitle for JVST B is "Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures--Processing, Measurement and Phenomena." Publications on proximal probes (STM, AFM, etc.) are expected to continue to increase. While much of this work is not done in vacuum, AVS's enthusiasm for the field should overcome any initial confusion this may cause.

To contact STM '90; write to the Conference Office, 750 Audubon Road, East Lansing, MI 48823.


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

Wish List

We could use the following materials and help: Macintosh computers, an additional Apple Laserwriter, an additional fax machine, and a small photocopier. Office space in the Palo Alto area is needed as well. We are in need of volunteer help with laying out our publications, using Pagemaker software on the Macintosh. Fundraising experience, including grantwriting, would be of great use. Note that donations of equipment or funds are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

If you or your company can help, call us at 415-324-2490.

[Editor's Note: The above section is dated and is included solely for archival purposes. To find out about current Foresight needs, call at 415-917-1122.]


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

Thanks


Special thanks go to Jeannine Smyth for her extensive work in redesigning the Foresight logo and other materials; readers should start to see the results soon.

Thanks to Bob Kirby of the Technology and Society Committee for arranging a lecture on nanotechnology to his group, and to Dave Kilbridge for converting IBM text to Macintosh format.

Thanks to the following for sending technical articles and media coverage; please keep these coming: Robert Allgeier, Keith Davison, Allan Drexler, Jerry Fass, David R. Forrest, Robin Hanson, Mark Haviland, Alan Hold, Wlodek Mandecki, B. Molnar, Anthony Oberley, Roger J. Plog, Jack Powers, Edward Rietman, Jack Veach, Steven C. Vetter, Michael Weber.


Foresight Update 10 - Table of Contents

 

Gift Subscriptions

Foresight Update and many of our other publications (e.g. Backgrounds, new Briefings) are not sold as subscriptions per se, but are sent to all who make a minimum donation to the organization. Currently the minimum donation we request is $25 per year.

The holiday season is approaching fast. This is the last issue of Update to be published before then, so we'll take this opportunity to invite you to give Foresight for your holiday gifts. A donation of $25 will bring Foresight publications to your gift recipient for twelve months, along with a note identifying you as the giver.

[Editor's Note: The current membership contribution is $35. See our section on getting involved with Foresight.]


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From Foresight Update 10, originally published 30 October 1990.


Foresight thanks Dave Kilbridge for converting Update 10 to html for this web page.



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