Michael Berns and colleagues, at the University of California at Irvine, have manipulated chromosomes within a cell's nucleus.


At present, the world of atomic and ion manipulations is largely one of laboratory experimentation. It is not yet possible to consult a Hewlett-Packard catalog for an atomic clock based on these principles or a gravity meter based on interferometry of ultracold atoms. Still less have such instruments served to make fundamentally new measurements or observations, which would stand as important contributions in their own right. Such an assessment even includes Dehmelt's proposal that the electron has a physical diameter and hence may possess a subquark structure. Though intriguing and potentially of great significance, such a suggestion leaves us with no way to study or examine that structure, for its energies are beyond our reach.

As the pertinent instruments and techniques enter widespread use, however, they indeed may bring forth a solid stream of significant findings. Certainly, there already is a considerable breadth to this field, both in methods and in scope for their applications. Significantly, the pertinent equipment is likely to accommodate well to working scientists with respect to size, price, and ease of use. Rather than finding concentration in some ''National Center for Atomic Manipulation," such apparatus is likely to find space on the laboratory benches of physicists, chemists, and biologists. Amid such convenience and low cost, then, these instruments and methods may cease to dazzle. Instead, they will fold into the workday world of investigators, as these people focus instead on the advances they can pursue.


Binnig, G., and H. Rohrer. 1985. The scanning tunneling microscope. Scientific American 253(Aug.):50–56.

Bollinger, J.J., and D.J. Wineland. 1990. Microplasmas. Scientific American 262(Jan.):124–130.

Chu, S. 1991. Laser manipulation of atoms and particles. Science 253(Aug. 23): 861–866.

Chu, S. 1992. Laser trapping of neutral particles. Scientific American 266(Feb.):70–76.

Dehmelt, H. 1990. Experiments on the structure of an individual elementary particle. Science 247(Feb. 2):539–545.

Feynman, R. 1960. There's plenty of room at the bottom. Engineering and Science 22(Feb.) (Also reprinted in Miniaturization, 1961, H.D. Gilmore, ed., Reinhold Press, New York.)

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