This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hanging with good friends, railing against the sham that is American politics, planning the next awesome SGU creative project, and discussing nanotechnology.
Among my literary interests, I am a science-fiction author, and out of the SGU family, Bob Novella and I enjoy lengthy discussions on futurism. I’ve posted on the subject before — I don’t count myself as a transhumanist because I don’t find speculation on “Jupiter brains” and “the Singularity” to be very productive in a nation which still finds Darwin to be a controversial dude. Also, some elements of the transhumanist movement are a little… um… off-putting.
Having said that, Bob and I enjoy talking nanotechnology and mind-uploading. And this week, an intriguing news item appeared in the news:
A new technique of observing (and potentially manipulating) nanoscale structures has been pioneered by those clever fellows at the University of California at San Diego. Assistant Professor of Physics Oleg Shpyrko and colleagues have developed a lensless microscope that utilizes X-rays to result in the extraordinary:
The technique, for the first time, also allows scientists to see magnetic structure at the nanoscale level without the aid of a lens. This is important because it enables researchers to more easily manipulate the sample being studied.
The result is a tool that can see patterns (such as those in magnetic material like iron, for example) so fine that it has laid the brickwork for a new revolution in computing. Being able to spot and manipulate such a staggeringly small realm can mean:
* Faster computing power and new methods of increasing memory storage
* Powerful new imaging for those insidious banes of our lives — cancer cells, viruses, harmful bacteria
* The development of nanoscale machine for anything from repairing cells and arteries to monitoring structural integrity in engines, reactors, and aircraft
* The increasingly plausible linkage of biological and mechanical parts — useful for patients with brain damage, spinal cord injuries, blindness, and other ruptures in neurological/cellular networks. We already have the BrainGate Project. It is not fantasy any longer.
It’s more than speculation; the manipulation of the environment has always begun with tools, and the promise of imaging and engineering on such invisible levels requires the ability to view it first.
With bad news forever dominating the media stage, its easy to forget the progress we’re making in other fields. In historical terms, humans invented tools to remake the world. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be remaking ourselves.
Might prove easier than remaking the economy.