Re: Lamest Definition of Nano - Ever!

From: James Wetterau (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2000 - 12:33:11 MST

Terry Donaghe says:
> Part of Bill Clinton's new technology "initiative:"
> - $475 million for a nanotechnology initiative. This
> could lead, the White House official said, ``to the
> ability to store the contents of the Library of
> Congress in a device the size of a sugar cube.''
> (from a Yahoo! News story)
> Is that not the lamest damned definition of nano
> you've ever seen? More proof that government is

It's only proof that they're out of date. They are just borrowing the
idea from Feynman's famous "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom"
talk. You can find it at:

Here's the relevant section:

   A simpler way might be this (though I am not sure it would
   work): We take light and, through an optical microscope running
   backwards, we focus it onto a very small photoelectric screen. Then
   electrons come away from the screen where the light is shining. These
   electrons are focused down in size by the electron microscope lenses
   to impinge directly upon the surface of the metal. Will such a beam
   etch away the metal if it is run long enough? I don't know. ...
   That's the Encyclopaedia Brittanica on the head of a pin, but let's
   consider all the books in the world. The Library of Congress has
   approximately 9 million volumes; the British Museum Library has 5
   million volumes; there are also 5 million volumes in the National
   Library in France. Undoubtedly there are duplications, so let us say
   that there are some 24 million volumes of interest in the world.
   What would happen if I print all this down at the scale we have been
   discussing? How much space would it take? It would take, of course,
   the area of about a million pinheads because, instead of there being
   just the 24 volumes of the Encyclopaedia, there are 24 million
   volumes. The million pinheads can be put in a square of a thousand
   pins on a side, or an area of about 3 square yards. That is to say,
   the silica replica with the paper-thin backing of plastic, with which
   we have made the copies, with all this information, is on an area of
   approximately the size of 35 pages of the Encyclopaedia. That is about
   half as many pages as there are in this magazine. All of the
   information which all of mankind has every recorded in books can be
   carried around in a pamphlet in your hand---and not written in code,
   but a simple reproduction of the original pictures, engravings, and
   everything else on a small scale without loss of resolution. ...
   Suppose that, instead of trying to reproduce the pictures and all the
   information directly in its present form, we write only the
   information content in a code of dots and dashes, or something like
   that, to represent the various letters. Each letter represents six or
   seven ``bits'' of information; that is, you need only about six or
   seven dots or dashes for each letter. Now, instead of writing
   everything, as I did before, on the surface of the head of a pin, I am
   going to use the interior of the material as well.
   Let us represent a dot by a small spot of one metal, the next dash, by
   an adjacent spot of another metal, and so on. Suppose, to be
   conservative, that a bit of information is going to require a little
   cube of atoms 5 times 5 times 5---that is 125 atoms.
   I have estimated how many letters there are in the Encyclopaedia, and
   I have assumed that each of my 24 million books is as big as an
   Encyclopaedia volume, and have calculated, then, how many bits of
   information there are (10^15). For each bit I allow 100 atoms. And it
   turns out that all of the information that man has carefully
   accumulated in all the books in the world can be written in this form
   in a cube of material one two-hundredth of an inch wide--- which is
   the barest piece of dust that can be made out by the human eye. So
   there is plenty of room at the bottom! Don't tell me about microfilm!

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