Foresight Update 4
A publication of the Foresight Institute
The Foresight Institute receives hundreds of letters
requesting information and sending ideas. Herewith some excerpts:
One of the things that would be most helpful to me right now is a
micro-hypertext system that could be used for organizing my
personal and professional work. If you're going to be developing
hypertext, why not plan from the beginning for a PC version to
which it could interface but which could be marketed separately.
An interesting question for proponents of nanotechnology: The
prototype products could well cost trillions in research and
development. Producers are faced with bringing very expensive
products to market, while new competitors, privy to many of the
same memes, could bring very similar products to market literally
dirt cheap. Where is the incentive for pioneering efforts?
Robert J. Hurt
I am interested in doing molecular graphics on my own
computer. However, it's not a Macintosh, but rather an IBM-PC XT
clone. Do you know of any (reasonably priced) molecular graphics
programs for IBM compatibles? I've been working on writing my
own, but I'm a better programmer than chemist.
I believe that the time is ripe for a low end molecular CAD
[computer-aided design] program. The hardware is adequate, if you
don't require real time animation. The interest is there. It
would really aid this field if a standard data format could be
established, to avoid the incompatibilities found between rival
mechanical CAD programs. The more people we can get hacking away
at new molecular devices, and the better they can communicate,
the sooner we will get assembler technology. I would just as soon
have the breakthrough made by private industry or individuals
[rather than governments].
Brett P. Bellmore
Computer modeling of molecules, and eventually of molecular
machines, is a key part of the path to nanotechnology. Jerry Fass
has brought to our attention a shareware program called MoleculeM
for building and displaying 3D models of molecular structures. It
is said to have built-in bonding and ionization rules and full
rotation abilities. The companion program Chemview
is said to make animated 3D rotation models with each atom a
different color. For a free catalog call Public Brand Software at
However, much more sophisticated programs will be required to
do the modeling we need. There's a commercial opportunity
A computer graphics researcher at the Research Institute of
Scripps Clinic (Department of Molecular Biology) would like to
collaborate with others sharing his interest in computer-aided
design tools leading toward nanotechnology. Interested readers
with skills useful to such a project should send a letter to FI
for forwarding to Scripps.
Biostasis research at the Alcor
Life Extension Foundation has been disrupted by a
grandstanding local official who, presumably in an effort to
generate media coverage to help his re-election, has been
harassing Alcor. This intimidation has ranged from confiscation
of equipment and records to threats of criminal charges. To our
knowledge Alcor has done nothing to merit this treatment, but
this fact doesn't lessen the legal bills they are accumulating as
a result of defending against these bogus charges.
Those who are interested in ensuring the continuation of
state-of-the-art biostasis research and services should send
their contributions to Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 12327
Doherty St., Riverside, CA 92503, phone 714-736-1703.
See their Web page
for current contact information for Alcor Life Extension
Many libraries do not have Engines
of Creation indexed under the subject
"nanotechnology." Readers are asked to check their
favorite libraries, especially those at universities, and if
necessary ask the librarian to correct this omission.
Coverage of nanotechnology in the media continues with
articles appearing recently or expected soon in: InfoWorld
(in George Morrow's column), the Swedish paper Dagens
Nyheter, the magazine-style insert USA Weekend
carried in various Sunday papers nationwide, and a piece in LA
Weekly by M.J. Wilcove. Interest has also been expressed
by two British TV networks, the BBC and Channel 4. Readers
spotting coverage of nanotechnology in the paper media are asked
to forward us a copy; please don't assume we've seen it! We'd
appreciate hearing of coverage in other media as well.--Editor
Many of today's researchers were first confirmed in their
vocation when they participated in an NSF-sponsored summer
program for high school students. Now a guide to these programs
is available: the 1988 Directory of Student Science
Training Programs for High Ability Precollege Students.
The Directory lists institutions in the U.S. that will be
conducting student science training programs in the academic year
The 507 programs listed are of three general types: courses,
research, and combinations of courses and research. Residential
and commuter programs are offered; some charge for participaion,
some do not. Scholarships are often available. Programs are
provided in science, engineering, and mathematics. For each copy
send a $1 check made out to "Science Service Directory"
to 1988 SSTP Directory, 1719 N St., NW, Washington, DC 20036.
Domestic orders only accepted; those outside the US should send
$4 to the Foresight Institute and we will order a copy and send
it to you by airmail.
information about National Science Foundation
Student and Education programs.
As usual there are too many people who deserve thanks for all
to be listed here, but the following is a representative group:
Michael Whitelock, John Alden, and Ray Alden for budget help;
Gayle Pergamit, Brian Quig, and Dennis Gentry for help in our
Executive Director search; Jeff Soreff for technical work; Marvin
Minsky for encouragement; Gerald Feinberg for talking to the
press; Stewart Brand and Nils Nilsson for spreading the word;
Blair Newman for making valuable contacts; Ed Niehaus for
marketing advice; James Dinkelacker for strategic advice; Steve
Hyde for setting up the Colorado Springs talk; Jerry Fass (and
many others) for sending information; Pat Wagner and Leif Smith
for book recommendations.
Kantrowitz has joined Gerald Feinberg, Stewart Brand, and
Marvin Minsky on FI's Board of Advisors.
Now a professor of engineering at Dartmouth, Dr. Kantrowitz is
the founder and former CEO of the Avco Everett Research
Laboratory. His technical interests have ranged from space
transportation to power generation to artificial hearts, but FI
readers may know him better as the originator of the Science
Adversary Procedure, popularly known as the Science Court. Dr.
Kantrowitz is also active in the space development movement and
served for years as Chairman of the L5 Society.
We plan in future issues to give profiles of all four Advisors.
See Update 5 for "Meet the
Advisors: Stewart Brand".
See Update 7 for "Profile:
See Update 9 for "Feinberg
Anxious for Policy Discussions".
See Update 10 for "Kantrowitz:
Solutions, not Sacrifice".
FI's standard arrangement with our writers is as follows: we
copyright the material and may use it in the future, including in
other forms such as recordings, videos, and electronic
publications. The writer also is welcome to use the material; we
ask that the credits indicate where it was first published.
Writers desiring different arrangements can be accommodated;
please consult the editor. We urge those who write for commercial
publications to retain electronic publishing rights for your own
use on future hypertext publishing systems.
For those with access to computers on the USENET, there is now
a Netnews group, sci.nanotech, for the discussion of
nanotechnology. (The USENET newsgroups form a large, distributed,
hierarchical electronic bulletin board.) If your site receives
some Netnews groups but not sci.nanotech, tell your system
administrator that it is a "moderated, technical,
low-volume" group. The moderator is J. Storrs Hall
(rutgers!klaatu.rutgers.edu!josh or firstname.lastname@example.org), who
can answer specific questions about the group by electronic mail.
[Note: JoSH's current email address
is email@example.com. He maintains an archive of nanotechnology
papers and related material at http://nanotech.rutgers.edu/nanotech/
There is also a newly formed biostasis mailing list, run by Kevin
Q. Brown. Send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Note: Ralph Merkle maintains a
page with links to
more current information on biostasis and cryonics.]
From Foresight Update 4, originally
published 15 October 1988.
Foresight thanks Dave Kilbridge for converting Update 4 to
html for this web page.