May 6, 2012

Programmable Matter

The Browser is a wonderful source of interesting articles on just about everything. One that caught my eye was Is Origami the Future of Tech?, by Drake Bennett. My son was very good at creating origami figures, so I was curious to see where the author was headed. Turns out art imitates nature, and now science would like to leverage that into some amazing new technologies.
"We have a paradigm where we want to build things by having a solid block and then etching away at the block until you get whatever shape that you want,” says William Shih, a Harvard University biochemistry professor. Think of Michelangelo chiseling his forms from boulders of marble, or a milling machine carving an engine part out of a hunk of steel. “The way that nature does things is different,” Shih says. “It uses a folding algorithm, and it’s something that seems to be very efficient. We can look to nature for inspiration.” Shih himself has designed devices at the nanoscale that assemble themselves out of DNA strands, a process known as DNA origami."
As if that wasn't enough deep thinking for one day, I came across a reference in the article to something called programmable matter, substances that can alter their properties. A little research quickly leads to claytronics, creating shapes using artificial atoms called catoms.

Okay, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty dumb at this point. There are people out there dreaming of and dreaming up new worlds that I suspect few of us are even aware of, much less understand. Well, thank goodness for YouTube, where you can find pictures worth a thousand words on just about any topic, including programmable matter.

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