Monday, January 02, 2006


Wil McCarthy's Hacking Matter

Wil McCarthy is one sharp cookie (even if he does have a soft spot for Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, which is almost unforgiveable), and hell of a science fiction writer, but he's also written some science fact well worth seeking out. Via BoingBoing and Charlie Stross comes news that his Hacking Matter, a work of popular science about programmable matter and quantum dots and such like, is now available as a PDF download (Charlie has been kind enough to mirror the download, since Wil's site is taking a pounding since the BoingBoing article went up yesterday.

From Wil's site (presumably the back cover copy):

Programmable matter is probably not the next technological revolution, nor even perhaps the one after that. But it's coming, and when it does, it will change our lives as much as any invention ever has. Imagine being able to program matter itself--to change it, with the click of a cursor, from hard to soft, from paper to stone, from fluorescent to super-reflective to invisible. Supported by companies ranging from Levi Strauss to IBM and the Defense Department, solid-state physicists in laboratories at MIT, Harvard, Sun Microsystems, and elsewhere are currently creating arrays of microscopic devices called "quantum dots" that are capable of acting like programmable atoms. They can be configured electronically to replicate the properties of any known atom and then can be changed, as fast as an electrical signal can travel, to have the properties of a different atom. Soon it will be possible not only to engineer into solid matter such unnatural properties as variable magnetism, programmable flavors, or exotic chemical bonds, but also to change these properties at will.

I've been meaning to read the full text of the book for the last couple of years, having read only excerpts and articles here and there, and it was on my list of research topics for my current novel project, so this is a nice bit of serendipity. I highly recommend checking it out, as everything I've read from the book has been pretty damned mind expanding.

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