Adieu, NanoCAD list?

from the roads-not-taken? dept.

NanoCAD represented a significant initiative to promote open development of software for molecular nanotechnology. Will Ware, the maintainer of the NanoCAD list, is now planning to discontinue the list, given the lack of traffic and his need to change ISPs.

This raises the question, is there enough interest to continue initiatives to develop software, and associated standards and licensing, that could be freely and openly shared by those interested in MNT?

Read More on the question of the NanoCAD list and initiatives for open source development of MNT.

Will Ware,

Your note about discontinuing the NanoCAD list raises some important issues. The Nanocad list played a valuable role in sharing ideas about software relevant for nanotech development. A list lives or dies by the interest and initiative of its members, and from that point of view it is quite fair to take the recent lack of traffic as a justification for not continuing the list. However I do think there are questions worth asking about whether there will be any continuing initiatives aimed at promoting either specific software for molecular nanotechnology, or, more generally, open standards and licensing arrangements that encourage collaborative efforts on software for MNT. Since I think these issues deserve discussion, I'm sending this reply to the NanoCAD list, and also posting a note on Nanodot.

A pro-active effort to develop open software and related standards and licensing, that can be freely shared and enhanced by a community of those interested, could help make the development of software (and hardware) for MNT better, faster, safer and more accessible. It could reduce the risk of monopolistic corporate dominance of the technology. It could also help avoid "anticommons" problems of ideas fragmented into too many tiny inaccessible bits of intellectual property. I analyzed some of these issues in the paper I wrote for last year's MNT conference on "Open Sourcing Nanotechnology Research and Development: Issues and Opportunities." The conclusion I came to there, and which still seems valid, is that there are important opportunities that should be pursued for open source development of nanotech. The conference version of the paper has now been published in Nanotechnology Vol 12, issue 3, pages 198-210, (free access to latest issue available by registration at An updated html version of the paper is available at:

There is increasing concern with how intellectual property issues could affect the development of nanotech. The initiative being supported by the Foresight Institute offers a relatively easy and effective way to put ideas into the public domain. Molecular modeling software developed for other purposes is relevant for MNT efforts, and Eugene Lietl's postings on the NanoCAD list have been very useful for pointing out what's happening with such packages. However neither of those does much to promote MNT-specific efforts. There are examples, such as homebrew personal computers and GNU/Linux, of initiatives that have profoundly influenced the development of better, cheaper and more accessible technologies and the same might be possible for MNT.

It seems worth asking whether further development of software relevant to MNT will just be left up to existing separate commercial and academic efforts, or whether there is enough interest to continue initiatives to develop software, and associated standards and licensing, that could be freely and openly shared and developed by a community of those concerned with MNT?

Bryan Bruns
[email protected]

At 6:32 PM -0400 8/29/01, Will Ware wrote:

I am changing ISPs due to reliability problems with I am not planning to maintain the nanocad mailing list, as there has been approximately zero traffic on it in recent memory. Eugene Leitl's notes have been going out on the nsg-d mailing list, which also sometimes carries other interesting stuff, and which I recommend to anybody who feels this will create a profound void in their life.

If anybody is interested in taking over the mailing list and hosting it elsewhere, or if anybody objects to the mailing list being taken over by anybody else, now is the time to speak up.

— Will Ware


22nd century: Esperanto, geodesic | Will Ware
domes, hovercrafts, metric system | [email protected]

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