Always up for discussion!

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There are a lot of different lenses you can use to look at nanotechnology.  I personally prefer to use the tightest possible one, to look at machines that are built on a molecular scale (rather than just run of the mill itty bitty machines).

When you get that small, everything becomes chemistry and physics.  The standard model of how to assemble objects, or how to get parts to interact with one another, must be set aside because you are no longer dealing with things can be assembled with a hot-glue-gun and rivets, but things that have to WANT to come together.  You are attaching pieces to other pieces through chemical bonds, rather than just physical attachments.

So I am always delighted when I run across something new in this space.  The article referenced above is looking at ways to assemble nano-molecular machines not by chemistry alone, but rather by the physical shapes and attributes of the proteins that make up different parts.  It’s almost like a very fancy 3d puzzle.

Mind the Gap

I am always looking for clever ways to hack stuff.  Most of what I write falls into the science fiction genre with an eye towards future tech, but one of the things I find, over and over again in my day job as a game developer is that you can’t ever ignore your legacy.  Every system, no matter how sophisticated, went through a development process.  It started out based on the preconceptions and experiences of the original designers and unless that system was burned to the ground and started from scratch at some point, those legacies are going to be there, informing everything from the color choices down to the arrangement of microprocessors on a board.  As the staff at a company turns over and the original engineers move onto new things, the reasons for those legacies are often forgotten.  People know the system handles things one way, but over time, they *why* is left behind.

Ken Liu brought the above article to my attention (via a FB post) and I think this is a great example of a legacy hack that goes deeper than a system’s initial design.  You’re hacking one of the fundamental characteristics of a computing system itself, the heat that plagues everyone who has ever held a laptop on their lap for too long, or who has tried to play Minecraft in a sweltering 100 degree apartment.  What was a vexing problem before now has become a potential security risk.


Big Fat Patents

So here it is, the force field we have all been waiting for.  Well, the patent for it, at any rate.  As far as I can tell (after consult with a couple scientists with fancier degrees than mine), the science is sound.  In theory this might just work as advertised, but there are a heap of roadblocks to overcome on the way to finally being able to repel photon torpedoes.

Anybody remember the foam-cannon?  Back in the late 80’s the military developed a weapon that could immobilize a person by covering them with a quick-hardening foam.  If used properly, it could allow enemy combatants to be incapacitated reasonably harmlessly (thereby giving you the chance to make sure they weren’t civilians) and could be used in softer situations (protests running out of control, for example) where the numbers game meant a high likely-hood of civilian casualties.

But there was a chance that a target could get foam in their face, over the head and thereby suffocate.  This, of course, meant they were just as potentially lethal as any physics-based lead-slinger.  So when they finally got deployed, they were relegated to building insta-barricades (which apparently could be torn down with relative ease).  They couldn’t be deployed where there was even a risk of someone getting foamed in the face and so, a really great idea got relegated to obscurity.

The key to this particular patent (as I see it) is that they are targeting the blastwave.  Rather than trying to stop shrapnel, they are focusing on the invisible killer.  The motion of force through the air that can simply kill you out of hand, no pointy bits needed.  So one could argue that any civilians close enough to be affected by the shockwave are dead no matter what you do, so any damage they might incur by getting hit by a laser is going to be irrelevant.

But, my money is still on this technology getting back-burnered until absolute safety can be proven which (as anyone who has walked down a sidewalk can tell you) is a nigh-impossible thing to prove.

Available resources

We’re going to have a Moon-base some day.  At the rate things are going, maybe towards the end of my lifetime, but I think it has become an inevitability, especially now that the taboo of private companies making space-launches has been broken.

We are going to the Moon.  It’s not as sexxy as Mars, so it doesn’t make the papers.  It’s been done before, so it doesn’t make the papers.  There are no aliens, so it doesn’t make the papers.  But that doesn’t mean that great minds and financial resources aren’t looking in that direction.

The paper above is taking a look at the moon from a more structural point of view.  We’ve had experiments done to figure out how to use lunar surface materials in 3d printing machines to make structural components, combine that technology with structurally sound existing geology and we might just be able to build a base sooner than you think.

We don’t *have* to build up, you see.  People have inhabited caves, built structures into the walls of cliffs and into ravines for thousands of years.  We can build down, we can take advantage of what’s already there to build more swiftly, to build more efficiently.  Up can come later.


The ultimate in brute-force attacks…


This here.  This is a bit of out-of-the-box thinking that I admire.  Just a little bit.

The way this attack works is via a hardware hack, see, in this particular class of DIMMS the chips are very close together.  So close together that accessing one repeatedly in just the right place can jump the gap to the next and make a change over there.

It’s the bit-level equivalent of using a double-boiler.  You heat the water on the outside and the transference affects the chocolate on the inside.  (Okay, clumsy metaphor but mmmmmmmm…. chocolate).

At this current stage, it’s probably best used for simply f*cking up the other person’s computer (rather than a full-blown hack), but still, as a thought process, it’s very old-school, using the properties of the hardware itself, rather than trying to get in through the software.