Editor’s Preface-This speech, delivered in 1983, is a sequel tothe famous 1960 speech “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”(reprinted in
pp.60-66, 1992). It is remarkable in many ways. Feynman anticipatesthe sacr$cial-layer method of making silicon micromotors, the useof electrostatic actuation, and the importance of friction and con-tact sticking in such devices. He explores the persistent problem ofjinding meaningFcl applications for these tiny machines, touchinga range
topics along the way. And he looks at the future of com-putation using a register made of atoms, and quantum-mechanicaltransitions or computation operations.The speech was presented to a large audience of scientists andengineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Following a briefintroduction by A1 Hibbs, Feynman used slides, hand gestures, andsketches
a blackboard to supplement his pithy language. Thestyle was quite informal. Many of the remarks were intended toevoke laughter, and did
were directed speci3cally at theJPL audience (such as the reference to enhancement of pictures).Working from a video recording of the speech,
had the benejit ofseeing the slides, the gestures, and the blackboard sketches. Theeditor’s task, in such a case, is tojind a way to capture the essenceof Feynman
message and spirit with minimal perturbation of hisactual words, making changes only where the lack of visual aids,or the normal fits and starts of oral presentation require
was greatly aided in this task by a transcript of thespoken text prepared and orally smoothed by Nora Odendahl.Where necessary,
have added italicized comments to clarify termsor images being described, but have tried to keep these to a mini-mum.
have also added topic headings to identify major sections,and have moved some text around to improve readability. As yougo through this speech, imagine yourselfa part of the audience-
you are moved to laughter in spots, that is appropriate; and
you are moved to think anew about the problems discussed, thatindeed was Feynman’s goal.Stephen
SenturiaIntroduction of Richard Feynman by A1 Hibbs- Welcome to theFeynman lecture on “Injinitesimal Machinery.
have the plea-sure of introducing Richard, an old friend and past associate. Hewas educated at MIT and at Princeton, where he received a Ph.
the War he was at
Alamos, where he learned howto pick combination locks-an activity at which he is still quiteskillful. He next went to Cornell,where he experimented withswinging hoops. Then, both before and during his time at Caltech,he became an expert in drumming, specializing in complex rhythms,
This manuscript is based on a talk given by Richard Feynman on Feb-ruary 23, 1983, at the
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena CA.
is re-printed with the permission
his estate, Carl Feynman executor.The author, deceased, was with the Califomia Institute
Log Number 9210135.
particularly those of South America and recently those of the SouthPaci3c. At Caltech, he learned to decode Mayan hieroglyphs andtook up art, becoming quite an accomplished draftsman-special-izing in nude women. And he also does jogging.Richard received the Nobel prize, but
believe it was for physicsand not for any of these other accomplishments. He thinks thathappened in 1965, although he doesn’t remember the exact year.
have never known him to suffer from false modesty,
believehe really has forgotten which year he got the Nobel prize.
Dick Davies asked me to talk, he didn’t tell
e the occasion was going to be
elaborate, withTV cameras and everything-he told me I’d be amongfriends. I didn’t realize I had
many friends. I wouldfeel much less uncomfortable if I had more to say. I don’thave very much to say-but of course, 1’11 take a longtime to say it.
years ago, I gave a talk called“There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” in which I de-scribed the coming technology for making small things. Ipointed out what everybody knew: that numbers, infor-mation, and computing didn’t require any particular size.You could write numbers very small, down to atomic size.(Of course you can’t write something much smaller thanthe size of a single atom.) Therefore, we could store
lotof information in small spaces, and in a little while we’dbe able to do
easily. And of course, that’s what hap-pened.I’ve been asked a number of times to reconsider all thethings that I talked about
years ago, and to see howthe situation has changed.
my talk today could be called“There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, Revisited.”As I mentioned in the
talk, you could represent adigit by saying it is made of a few atoms. Actually, you’donly have to have to use one atom for each digit, but let’ssay you make a bit from
bunch of gold atoms, and an-other bit from a bunch of silver atoms. The gold atomsrepresent a one, and the silver atoms a zero. Suppose youmake the bits into little cubes with a hundred atoms
aside. When you stack the cubes all together, you can writea lot of stuff in a small space. It turns out that all the booksin all the world’s libraries could have all their informa-tion-including pictures using dots down to the resolutionof the human eye-stored in a cube
inch on a side.