I’ve moved to Oxford

by Eric Drexler on 2011/10/22

Rosa and I now work at Oxford’s Martin School in the new Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. (My Oxford Martin School bio here; Rosa’s here.) We plan to be at Oxford while I finish work on my new book, Radical Abundance, to be published by PublicAffairs.

On November 10th I will deliver the inaugural lecture for the Programme, “Exploring a timeless landscape: Physical law and the future of nanotechnology”.

About the talk

Subject: What physics tells us about the potential of advanced nanotechnologies, and why this points to an unexpected future.

A methodology grounded in physics and engineering can answer a limited yet illuminating range of questions about the potential of physical technology. This line of inquiry leads to a crucial question: What can physics tell us about the potential of advanced nanotechnologies? Well-established physical principles show that this potential embraces productive nanotechnologies that have the potential to transform the material basis of civilization. This prospect calls for re-evaluating both research opportunities and broader choices with consequences for the human future.

If you are in the area and want to schedule an appointment, please contact Rosa at GeographicEngine dot com.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

t.Theodorus Ibrahim October 23, 2011 at 9:21 am UTC

Welcome to England sir

Gus K. December 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm UTC

Hi Eric:

I am a big enthusiast for your work. I have found only one non-trivial objection to your ideas regarding atomically precise manufacturing. The objection is from Richard Jones (http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/).
Jones believes that the covalent bonds of small diamond gears and rods will spontaneously reconfigure into other shapes and into graphite. This is especially true due to the stress that curvature puts on the bonds. He says that this is empirically observed on surfaces; and diamond objects so small would effectively be surfaces.
Jones also suggests that molecular modeling software does not take spontaneous reconfiguring bonds into effect in showing these objects as stable.
Have you ever addressed these concerns? If so, could you direct me.
Again, I appreciate all of your work.

Hi, Gus — Many surfaces reconstruct, and many don’t. The ones to use are, of course, the ones that are stable. If a particular choice didn’t work well enough, then one would choose another — that’s why it’s a mistake to regard this sort of observation as amounting to a serious criticism of system-level architectures.

In fact, the mechanical components that you’ll find in the serious literature are almost all either based on graphene or have passivated surfaces. These structures aren’t prone to reconstruction. Note that typical molecules are, in effect, entirely surface and many are extraordinarily stable. Scan the literature on adamantanes and nanodiamonds to see examples of small, extremely stable, diamond-like structures.

That said, I haven’t seen the discussion that you refer to on Richard’s site. Can you provide a link? It would be nice for people to get the facts right, and the chemical stability questions are quite elementary.

— Eric

Ragna Shollenberger January 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm UTC

Hi Eric,
My sis, who lives in Norway, and I where talking about nanotechnology today and she was saying that a Norwegian came up with the concept of nanotechnology. He has received many awards and is, at this point, residing in the US.
Can you shed some light on this man and if this is the case.
Thank you, Ragna Shollenberger, Canby, OR, USA

Probably a different concept. “Nanotechnology” now has so many different meanings that there’s not much meaning left in it — fine-grained metals, thin fibers, nanoscale transistors, and nanomechanical systems have about as much in common as ordinary metals, pieces of string, vacuum tubes, and a mechanical watch. There’s lots of progress in every area, but in mostly in different directions.

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