Credit: Y. Nazé (Univ. Liège), Y.-H. Chu (Univ. Illinois), ESA, NASA
-------------------------------Mechanical Universe extra goodie for the day----------------------
In the 1800s, astronomers were told they couldn't tell what atoms were on stars and the sun, only for spectroscopists to find the fingerprint of the atoms. The spectroscope was essentially started by Isaac Newton but needed some microscope to really see the spectral lines.
Later of course, philosophers thought that atoms weren't real or nobody could learn about them if they were true. Then came the electron.
This Mechanical Universe video shows how theory kind of dictated what should be there; if Millikan couldn't find the right numbers, he realized he needed to do the experiment better; the data simply wasn't good enough.
As the electron and the atom was becoming discovered, they never thought, "Oh, we could make nanomanufacturing with them." It took generations and Richard Feynman to first think of it; and he was just joking around. Anyways, I've gotten some recent progress that I'm not too sure they want said out loud; i won't tell you who, or where this work was done; but, I'll give a picture, and tell you what it is.
This is a single atom and electron transistor made by a scanning tunneling microscope lithografic process. Word out is this is just some of what's been done. They've made precise atomic structures to make precise quantum computing. Another thing said is that it would be nice if they could make microscopic stms; that's a little disappointing; i've been waiting for some news that they've done so. Still, the above and apparently other nanotechnologies were made by an automated ability to make arbitrary precise atomic structures.