"There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" Feynman, Richard P. (1959)
"There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom"
Richard P. Feynman (1959)
SITE SUMMARY: This transcript of a classic talk presented on December 29, 1959, at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society at Caltech (the California Institute of Technology), was first published in the February 1960 issue of Caltech's Engineering and Science Journal and was described by the editor of the time as "an invitation to enter a new field of physics." In this talk, Feynman, a physicist at Caltech, drew attention to the subject by commenting that in the year 2000 people would look back and wonder why no one "seriously moved in this direction" toward "a staggeringly small world that is below" until the time this article was written, presented, and published. Introducing the subject further, he identified that new field of physics as "the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale," a concept now known as the science of nanotechnology.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
- What did Feynman say people talked about as soon as he mentioned the subject? Describe one of the examples they gave, and tell how he objected. Identify his example and give details.
- Read the sections "Information on a Small Scale" and "How Do We Write Small?" Identify and describe how, according to Feynman, all of the information people have accumulated in all the world's books can be written, and identify instead of which other way. In what thing did he say this can be done? (Hint: Identify shape, size, and composition.) To what common thing you know did he compare this thing? (Hint: It can barely be seen by human eyes.)
- How is Feynman's theory related to biology? Give one of his examples, and one of yours. State some fundamental problems in biology of the time, and identify how, he said, answers to these problems can be found, then tell what is one easy answer to the problem, and two particulars, to this answer. How did he suggest many problems of biology would be made easier to solve? What, did he say, is marvelous about a "biological system"?
- What is important about Feynman's talking of looking at someone's face? How did he involve computers? What else did he think about computers, microfilm, and the electron microscope of the time when he wrote this article?
- What did Albert R. Hibbs suggest to Feynman regarding uses of nanotechnology? Have these suggestions become useful today? Include in your answer information at the Web sites Nanotechnology, and Nanotechnology in the News (with links to articles on Nanotechnology and NASA Applications, Medicine, Recent News, and Prospects). (Urls of the sites noted are cited in the Related Internet Sites section below.)
- As one goes down in size, what problems arise, according to Feynman? Give Feynman's example (hint: Van der Waals), and your own example. Explain your choice; including a connection between it and Feynman's theory.
- "When we have some control of the arrangement of things on a small scale" what, did Feynman claim, will be true? What new opportunities would there be when atoms are dealt with on a small rather than a large scale?
- Why did Feynman mention "If only I could train an ant to do this"? What did he leave to the imagination? Why, according to him, should anyone do any of this? Why and how should high schools get involved?
RELATED INTERNET SITE(S)
Links to Feynman's Theory, Lectures, etc., at Richard Feynman Dedicated Site
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Launchpad/7045 (click Hot Links link)
Scroll to Feynman: Theory, then click on Feynman's Diagrams, and then Theory, at the bottom of the page, to find out about "the fundamental (smallest) building blocks from which all matter is made."
Nanotechnology in the News
Type nanotechnology in the search box at the right, and choose ABC News, then search to find current news articles on the subject, such as "Science of the Very Small," "Smaller Magnets for Bigger Hard Drives," and "Mirror Hair Thin Fibers May Create Novel Cloth." (More information may also be available via a section search by choosing ABC News on TV, Health, or all sections, at the bottom of the search results page.)
Foresight Institute Update 7 (December 15, 1989)
This Web page provides scientists' information on nanotechnology, including "Recent Progress: Steps Toward Nanotechnology," "The National Science Foundation Looks At Nanotechnology," plus a note about it and Star Trek. See also the sitemap link that leads to other updates, and see the nanotechnology link that leads to a page of information for the general reader, FAQs, special topics such as the history of nanotechnology, studying nanotechnology, projected applications of technology, and sources of further information.
Ralph C. Merkle, a former executive editor of Nanotechnology Journal, and 1998 winner of the Feynman Nanotechnology Prize, provides information on core concepts of molecular technology, plus links to recent news, and other information, such as articles on the Web, the sci.nanotech newsgroup, journals (e.g., Nanotechnology), sites with links (e.g., Foresight Institute, NanoLink List, National Federation of Science Nanotechnology Database), related groups (e.g., Center for Nanoscale Science at Rice University, sections of NASA and the National Space Society), FAQs, and unusual images.
Richard P. Feynman—Nobel Lecture, 1965
Access Feynman's lecture "The Development of the Space Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics" in PDF format, and see the link to a biography about him.