A 3D printed laser cutter, aerosol solar cells, and reversing neural networks.

3D printers are great for making things, including more of themselves. The first really accessible 3D printer, the RepRap was designed to be buildable from locally sourceable components - metal rods, bolds, screws, and wires, and the rest can be run off on another 3D printer. There is even a variant called the JunkStrap which, as the name implies, involves repurposing electromechanical junk for basic components. There are other useful shop tools which don't necessarily have open source equivalents, though, like laser cutters for precisely cutting, carving, and etching solid materials. Lasers are finicky beasts - they require lots of power, they …

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Practical matter compilation one step closer: Custom pharmaceuticals.

For many years, the development of pharmaceutical drugs has been kind of hit or miss. New and interesting bioactive compounds are discovered and tested in different laboratory animals until someone figures out what a particular compound might be good for. It isn't terribly common that a pharmaceutical company comes up with an idea for an effect and then works backward until they find a compound that will do what they hope to accomplish.

That shows signs of changing.

A company called Parabon Nanolabs in Reston, Virginia has announced the development of a new drug which is effective in treating one …

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Programmable nanoprocessors and neural prosthetics?

A dream many of us over the years had involve having head computers of one kind or another implanted. Augmentations of our existing capabilities, replacements for damaged sectors, direct neural interface with other computers, encrypted partitions for carrying data, brand new functionality - you name it, chances are there's a geek out there who'd love to beta test it. One of the problems at the moment, however, is a distinct lack of space inside the cranium. When you get right down to it there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room inside your skull. Layering circuitry on the surface of the …

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Unlocked achievement: macroscale buckytube fabrication.

The year 1985 was known for many strange and wonderful things: Misfits of Science was on prime time television, William Gibson was working on the novel Count Zero, and a scientific discovery flew beneath the radar of just about everyone except people working in the field of materials science. Three scientists in two countries working together discovered a brand new allotrope of carbon, a molecule comprised of sixty carbon atoms arranged in a spherical shape. The molecule was named buckminsterfullerene after the visionary architect R. Buckminster Fuller, due to the molecule's resemblance to a geodesic dome. Buckyballs, as they came …

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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

When I discovered that Spyglass Pictures was bringing G.I. Joe to the big screen a while ago I was nonplussed until I discovered that Christopher Eccleston, who happens to be one of my favorite actors, was playing the arms dealer Destro, or James McCullen the fourteenth, head of MARS.

Chris, Chris, Chris.. what were you thinking?


I want to like this movie, I really do. It’s just that there are so many things about it that piss me off in one way or another. When I go to see a science fiction movie, I implicitly agree to suspend …

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Self-assembling three-dimensional crystals of DNA.

Scientists working in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology at Brookhaven National Laboratory have announced another breakthrough in molecular technology: They figured out how to use DNA to guide the construction of crystals on the molecular scale. It goes a little something like this: Because the nucleotides that link together to create DNA (adenine, thiamine, guanine, and cytosine) have regions with different patterns of electrical charges, individual molecules are attracted to one another and can stick together, rather like complimentary pieces of velcro. Moreover, each nucleotide has more than one region which can create a bond - this is how other parts …

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Clockwork automata on the micro-scale.

An article in the New Journal of Physics this month postulates a novel use for the not-yet-extant technology of nanotechnology: Building clockwork computers on a microscopic scale. The idea is that electronic circuitry isn't suitable for some environments but difference engines constructed on a microscopic scale might be because they would be far more precisely engineered and constructed with more durable materials. Sure, they'd be slower than conventional integrated circuits, but for some applications (like monitoring engine timings) you don't need a processor that can play Doom 3.

I hate to break it to them, but this isn't a new …

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