chapter  2
8 Pages

Rommat the Bottom, Plenty of Tyranny at the Top

Richard Feynman is generally regarded as one of the fathers of nanotechnology. In giving his landmark presentation to the American Physical Society on December 29, 1959, at Caltech, his title line was, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” At that time, Feynman extended an invitation for “manipulating and controlling things on a small scale, thereby entering a new field of physics which was bottomless, like low-temperature physics.” He started with the question, can we “write the Lord’s prayer on the head of a pin,” and immediately extended the goal to the entire 24 volumes of the

Encyclopaedia Britannica

. By following the Gedanken Experiment, Feynman showed that there is no physical law against the realization of such goals: if you magnify the head of a pin by 25,000 diameters, its surface area is then equal to that of all the pages in the

Encyclopaedia Britannica

. Feynman’s dreams of writing small have all been fulfilled and even exceeded in the past decades. Since

the advent of scanning tunneling microscopy, as introduced by Binnig and Rohrer, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that single atoms can not only be conveniently represented for the human eye but manipulated as well. Thus, it is conceivable to store all the books in the world (which Feynman estimates to contain 10

bits of information) on the area of a credit card! The encyclopedia, having around 10

bits of information, can be written on about 1/100 the surface area of the head of a pin.