The promise of the nanoworld seems like the stuff of science fiction-a supercomputer to hold in the palm of your hand, surgical tools 1000 times thinner than a human hair, mechanical switches no bigger than a molecule. How will we build these micromachines? When will the world have access to them? The answers lie in the nitty gritty work of scientists, where theory, experiment, and engineering converge to address this millennium's biggest challenge.

Photo illustration by Robert Couto and Marilee Bailey.

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