Nanotechnology coming of age (finally)?


For more than two decades, nonscientists and engineers have made molecular-scale motor, switches, propellers, ratchets, and even the "nanocar" above that rolls when its metal "road" is heated. But what can we actually do with these things? The journal Nature looks at today's efforts to develop useful applications for molecular machines, from drug delivery systems inside the body to a new kind of high-density molecular memory for computers. Read the rest

5 tips for writing science fiction to engage people who don't read it


Back in 2006, I had an epiphany. Stories are empathy engines, regardless of the medium. And for humans, they always have been. We’ve been primed to imagine other’s lives since we sat in a cave, telling the stories of our tribe and making sense of the world around us. I published an academic paper on this in 2008 and have given talks about storytelling and empathy ever since. I’m thrilled that there are now hundreds of researchers around the world searching for the neurological mechanisms that link “theory of mind networks” to empathy and narratives. PJ Manney's (R)evolution is available from Amazon.

In addition, I’ve been a futureholic throughout my life. Whether through science fact or fiction, I’ve wanted to know what was coming and how it might change everything we know. The future is very heady, complex stuff, and difficult to communicate to those who aren’t on your metaphorical wavelength, since change is inherently hard to understand or accept. With my novel, (R)evolution, I felt it was important to share research on nanotechnology and cognitive technologies like brain-computer interfaces, nanomedicine and more with an audience that might not read SF or know what is coming.

My parents are my sample audience. My father is a huge SF fan and the reason I am, too. Future-shorthand is easy with him. But my mother is so ignorant of SF, when we visited Industrial Light and Magic in 1980, she hadn’t seen Star Wars (and still hasn’t) and didn’t recognize the Yoda puppet! Read the rest

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Nanoscale 3D printer that runs 100x faster than current models

A German startup called Nanoscribe says it will ship a nanoscale 3D printer in the second quarter of 2013, and that its device will run 100 times faster than similar devices currently in the market:

The technology behind most 3-D microprinters is called two-photon polymerization. It involves focusing tiny, ultrashort pulses from a near-infrared laser on a light-sensitive material. The material polymerizes and solidifies at the focused spots. As the laser beam moves in three dimensions, it creates a 3-D object.

Today’s printers, including Nanoscribe’s present system, keep the laser beam fixed and move the light-sensitive material along three axes using mechanical stages, which slows down printing. To speed up the process, Nanoscribe’s new tool uses a tiny moving mirror to reflect the laser beam at different angles. Thiel says generating multiple light beams with a microlens array could make the process even faster.

The smallest features that can be created using the Nanoscribe printer measure about 30 nanometers, says Julia Greer, professor of materials science at the California Institute of Technology.

Micro 3-D Printer Creates Tiny Structures in Seconds [Prachi Patel/MIT Technology Review]

(via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Anarchist group targets scientists in terrorist attacks

Last year, I told you about Individuals Tending Towards Savagery, a terrorist group that has mailed bombs to nanotechnology researchers in Mexico, Chile, France, and Spain. Their stated goal: Stop technological innovation. And they aren't alone.

At Nature News Leigh Phillips reports on a group called the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation, which is dedicated to the suppression of science in general and technological innovation in particular. The group is behind several bombings and shootings, mostly targeting nuclear scientists and nuclear energy advocacy groups. Now, the Olga Cell says that it's joining forces with other anti-science terrorist groups around the world. This group is apparently communicating with Individuals Tending Towards Savagery, though it's not clear how close the collaboration is.

On 11 May, the cell sent a four-page letter to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claiming responsibility for the shooting of Roberto Adinolfi, the chief executive of Ansaldo Nucleare, the nuclear-engineering subsidiary of aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica. Believed by authorities to be genuine, the letter is riddled with anti-science rhetoric. The group targeted Adinolfi because he is a “sorcerer of the atom”, it wrote. “Adinolfi knows well that it is only a matter of time before a European Fukushima kills on our continent.”

“Science in centuries past promised us a golden age, but it is pushing us towards self-destruction and total slavery,” the letter continues. “With this action of ours, we return to you a tiny part of the suffering that you, man of science, are pouring into this world.” The group also threatened to carry out further attacks.

Read the rest

Big news in small things: new nanotechnology findings found by IBM researchers

Markoff in the New York Times: "Researchers at I.B.M. have stored and retrieved digital 1s and 0s from an array of just 12 atoms, pushing the boundaries of the magnetic storage of information to the edge of what is possible." And, what is possible has big implications on the future of computing. Read the rest