May 10, 2007

Ultimately, we can do chemical synthesis. A chemist comes to us and says, “Look, I want a molecule that has the atoms arranged thus and so; make me that molecule.” The chemist does a mysterious thing when he wants to make a molecule. He sees that it has got that ring, so he mixes this and that, and he shakes it, and he fiddles around. And, at the end of a difficult process, he usually does succeed in synthesizing what he wants. By the time I get my devices working, so that we can do it by physics, he will have figured out how to synthesize absolutely anything, so that this will really be useless.

But it is interesting that it would be, in principle, possible (I think) for a physicist to synthesize any chemical substance that the chemist writes down. Give the orders and the physicist synthesizes it. How? Put the atoms down where the chemist says, and so you make the substance. The problems of chemistry and biology can be greatly helped if our ability to see what we are doing, and to do things on an atomic level, is ultimately developed — a development which I think cannot be avoided.

~ From There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom by Richard Feynman

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One Response to “”

  1. Ed A. said

    Yep. Atomic synthesis would rock.

    But the problem (as I always see it is)… in order to build something of size A, you need to have a machine whose parts are as small as B, and B

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