The NanoWorld of Buckminster Fuller
by Bonnie Goldstein DeVarco
VII. Ephemeral Computing - The Architecture of Information
Computer Information Storage and Closest Packing of Atoms
The application of fullerenes to computer technology is not only a significant new direction, but it also emphasizes the physical intersection of carbon and silicon in unique and surprising ways. Fuller himself began to theoretically apply synergetics to computers because of its suitability for design on a microlevel. In 1969 when most computers were the size of rooms and even complex calculators were the size of refrigerators, Fuller laid the groundwork for a patent on computer information storage using his concepts of closest packing on the atomic scale. He suggested taking advantage of the high conductivity of convex surfaces by closest packing atomic-sized spherical glass beads that are gold plated, silver plated and copper plated. He suggested that the critical configuration of these spheres in a nonlinear closest packed arrangement of 12 around one would cause energy to be transmitted along their convex arcs following the great circles. Because of the different conductivity of each metal plating, a nonlinear hierarchy for energy coding would allow various "frequencies" of information to be conveyed throughout the system at the same time.56
It would seem logical enough to attempt to extend this concept of closest packing of atoms to the notion of closest packing of buckyballs using the configurations Fuller suggested in his proposed patent of 1969. But a nanosize abacus with buckyball beads, even with its linear structure may not be so far away from such a concept. Last year, scientists at the I.B.M. Zurich Research Laboratory in Switzerland invented an ultraminiature abacus in which they used the sphere-shaped buckyballs as "counting beads" which slide along microscopic copper grooves to perform arithmetic calculations. This type of micro abacus could dramatically enhance the speed and utility of computers. Interestingly the nanotubes with buckyball tips are used as microscopic probes to scoot the balls along the grooves.
Another surprising application of fullerenes to computer design was reported in the March 1997 issue of New Scientist. Scientists now see that buckyballs can act as tiny electronic components which will help to usher in a new generation of mini-computers.
Almost weekly more examples of fullerene applications appear, charting new trends in the ephemeralization of technology. The architectures of nanotechnology, modeled someday with aesthetic precision on the seamlessly symmetric/asymmetric spontaneous self-assemblies of fullerene and buckyball carbon molecules have already been proven relevant beyond all expectation. Nanoscale architecture has opened up avenues for computer language-building devices to mirror more accurately the atomic level of our own cellular makeup, making silicon-based life not so different than carbon-based life. With these new developments our personal relationship to that future "machine" will soon become far less cumbersome and separate.
Quantum Computing, Quantum Consciousness and the Ultra Micro Computer
Today's new architectures for nanoscale computer probes and information coding systems build excitement around what might be possible in a world that does more and more with less and less. Yet it represents only an entrance to the next level of computer organization. Quantum computers are now at least theoretically possible, someday replacing digital computers -- that is, computer information coding using instead of a binary code, a code containing all the probabilities. We have just stepped up to the point of entry into quantum realities, when the confusing "many worlds" concept of quantum physics begins to make tangible sense in the physical world of the medio scale.
New computation methods going well beyond parallel processing are now possible by using a phenomenon called "quantum superposition." In an article in the New York Times Science Section in March, 1997, scientists announced that this long postulated concept has been proven at least theoretically feasible. In the quantum world, since an electron is continually in motion and in limbo, never occupying a single definite position, the only way to understand their ephemeral "placement" is through "a superposition that consists of every possible location that it could conceivably occupy." When the electron is measured or affected by the outside world it is frozen in space and time and becomes fixed. Photons, particles of light, also obey quantum rules. They follow all conceivable paths, some which reinforce each other and many which cancel each other out. Eventually, only one trajectory of the photon can be observed. The quantum computer would work in a similar way.
Fuller's theorized the possibility of building "ultra micro computer" in the 1970s. He suggested that this "nuclear computer" could operate with a microscale matrix of "lights" in the configuration of his isotropic vector lattice. To design this type of application on the nanoscale, Fuller employed closest packing of spheres, the dense octet truss lattice in a Vector Equilibrium configuration and the great circle energy circuits of spinning polyhedra. He uses them to describe building components of a micromachine that can exhibit the same properties as the quantum superposition concept applied to computers. In Fuller's theoretical "nuclear computer," all information circuits could be actuated and accessed at the same time in an invisible matrix of light nodes, thus compressing a great deal of information into a tiny piece of almost ephemeral machinery.
At the end of his description, Fuller suggested that this ultra micro computer (UMC) "employs step-up, step-down, transforming visible controls between the invisible circuitry of the atomic computer complex pinhead-size programmer and the popular outdoor, high-in-the-sky, "billboard" size, human readability."61 Is such a thing possible? Many scientists seem to think so. But the design of these new quantum computers is still to be determined. Perhaps some clues can be taken from Fuller. In his Applied Synergetics Home Page, Richard J. Bono has called for a more serious consideration of the merits of synergetics to such quantum computational methodology in his online research paper, "Applied Computational Cosmography."
Physicist and mathematician, Roger Penrose, has championed the idea of quantum consciousness in his two most recent works, The Emporer's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind. Penrose suggests that there is something going on in the brain that is beyond what we now know in physics, something of a noncomputational character. He proposes that through a type of quantum superposition, the microtubules, long tubes only a few nanometers in diameter which inhabit the neurons of the brain, actually process information in non-linear ways that are well beyond what a digital computer could ever duplicate. In other words, computers could never mimic the brain's neurostructure.
Dr. Penrose, Dr. Stuart Hameroff and others are now exploring the behaviors of microtubules to better understand their role in consciousness. Penrose and Hameroff maintain that we cannot understand the dynamics of the brain with classical physics. They argue that quantum-level activities are present in the neurostructure of the brain and their location is in the microtubules where the noncomputational influence along the tubules themselves cause a "quantum oscillation" to occur in the synapses traveling through them. In order to prove their theory, fullerene "probes" or "tweezers" and buckytubes may make it possible for them to carry out this atomic scale investigation. In a recent conversation documented in the Quantum-d Archive on the World Wide Web, these possibilities were discussed between various participants and Hameroff:
[recent update: Physicist Tony Smith documents recent work published in the July 6 2001 issue of New Scientist which lays a foundation for potentially combining both buckytubes with microtubules because of their shared properties].
copyright 1997, Bonnie DeVarco