Sunday, December 26, 2004

Feynman's missing pieces

This one comes from my old Detroit News colleague Karl Leif Bates, now a writer for the University of Michigan. Welcome to our little world, Karl.

Molecular Motors
Nature uses tiny nano-machines that could work miracles if we learn how to build them (By Karl Leif Bates, Michigan Today)

    KinesinThe Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman of the California Institute of Technology closed his visionary 1959 talk on the potential of nanotechnology, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," by offering a prize to the first person "who makes a motor which can be controlled from the outside and, not counting the lead-in wires, is only a 1/64 th-inch cube." That's half the thickness of a credit card.

    What Feynman didn't realize at the time, and couldn't have known, was that he was already in possession of trillions of devices far smaller and more powerful than he imagined. To utter this challenge and to gesticulate as he spoke, Professor Feynman was relying on the molecular motors and machines that worked within almost every cell throughout his body. Some of them are 20,000 times smaller than the device he imagined and far more efficient than anything our species has ever built.

    Biology has been using these little machines and motors to operate living cells for millions of years: in bacteria that swim by spinning their hairlike propeller; in the little levers that pull our muscle fibers tight; and in even smaller rotary motors on the surface of mammalian cells that turn in response to a single proton of electrical current. So, before Feynman even thought of it, nature had nanotechnology nailed. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
More pieces of Feynman
Driving under the influence of Feynman
The Amazing Montemagno

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