"Me 'n' Joe and Those Crazy Little Cubes"

Forrest Bishop (forrestb@ix.netcom.com)
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 17:25:42 -0500 (CDT)

This little essay isn't finished yet, but some on these lists
may find it entertaining anyway.


Me 'n' Joe and Those Crazy Little Cubes
Copyright (c) 1997, Forrest Bishop, All Rights Reserved

It is often the case with inventions that two or more people come
up with the
same thing at the same time. This particular instance involves cubes
that run
around with each other.

In 1991 or so, I hit upon the idea of a nanoscale device made up of
cubes or
other kinds of space-filling polyhedra that are able to move with
respect to one
another. The initial design was a cube, one thousand atoms on a side. I
thought up
some of the devices and "Modes of Motion" these cells could execute at
that time.
In 1992, when *Nanosystems* came out, I immediately snapped up a
copy and
did a preliminary skim. On page 416, Eric Drexler speaks of assembling
objects out of building blocks, noting that "Blocks of sufficient size
complexity (e.g. containing a computer, motor, and actuators) could be
made self-
assembling, although at a substantial penalty in properties such as
density ratio." On the facing page (page 417), Figure 14.3 illustrates
of a eutatic environment....using sliding blocks..."
"So", I said to myself, "it appears this idea is already being
pursued (as is the
case with more than 90% of the stuff I come up with), and I need not
waste my
time with it.", and went on to other things. I try not to 'get married'
to my ideas.
The years passed, I conceived of other things nanotech, and in
November, 1995
decided to attend the Fourth Foresight Conference, specifically to
which of these projects were dead issues, and which might be pursued
further. I
hadn't heard anything more about cubes or such in those years.
In the parking lot at the conference, I met and spoke with Jeff
Soreff, and
mentioned the little cubes. He told me he had recently heard of
something similar,
and promised to email a pointer, which he did. This put me in touch
with Tihamer
Toth-Fejel, editor of *The Assembler*, whom had published an article
"Shape-Changing Robotic Cubes", by Joseph Michael [new website]. After
very encourging email exchanges with 'Tee', I decided that my ideas
were still
relevant, and significantly different from Michael's. I wrote up "The
and Utilization Space-Filling Polyhedra for Active Mesostructures" (Dec
7, 1995),
and posted it at my new website,
Some central differences between the proposals involved the scale of
the cubes,
or "Active Cells", which I proposed be mesoscopic, atomically precise
vs. Michael's macroscopic cubes, that they slide without detaching
(Patent Pending), that the exterior surfaces have few or no moving
parts, and that
the faces be complimentary, rather than identical.
I was now in a polyhedral frame of mind again, and also came up
with a
possible "Universal Assembler" based on the "Active Cell" concept in
1996, and a type of interstellar space probe.



Forrest Bishop
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering, Seattle, Washington, USA