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December 26th, 2004

Molecular Motors

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman of the California Institute of Technology closed his visionary 1959 talk on the potential of nanotechnology, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," by offering a prize to the first person "who makes a motor which can be controlled from the outside and, not counting the lead-in wires, is only a 1/64 th-inch cube." That's half the thickness of a credit card.

What Feynman didn't realize at the time, and couldn't have known, was that he was already in possession of trillions of devices far smaller and more powerful than he imagined. To utter this challenge and to gesticulate as he spoke, Professor Feynman was relying on the molecular motors and machines that worked within almost every cell throughout his body. Some of them are 20,000 times smaller than the device he imagined and far more efficient than anything our species has ever built.

University of Michigan

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