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Hacking Matter

Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, And The Infinite Weirdness Of Programmable Atoms

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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 organizations ranging from Levi Strauss and IBM to the Defense Department, solid-state physicists in renowned laboratories are working to make it a reality. In this dazzling investigation, Wil McCarthy visits the laboratories and talks with the researchers who are developing this extraordinary technology, describes how they are learning to control it, and tells us where all this will lead. The possibilities are truly astonishing.

Publishers Weekly Review

24 February 2003 – In 1962, Arthur C. Clarke offered three laws of technological development, the last of which reads: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Expanding on an article he wrote for Wired, McCarthy uses Clarke's law as a jumping-off point for a grand tour of cutting-edge "quantum dot" research, a field that seems like nothing so much as alchemy, 21st-century style. Quantum dots are tiny pieces of semiconductor that can trap electrons, with a remarkable consequence: "the electrons trapped in a quantum dot will arrange themselves as though they were part of an atom, even through there's no atomic nucleus for them to surround." The result is an artificial atom, maybe 50 times larger than a natural one, that can simulate the properties of any element on the periodic table by catching or releasing additional electrons. McCarthy offers an extensive survey of both the science behind such "programmable matter" and the scientists developing it, reveling in applications as far-ranging as walls that light a room with their own radiant glow, cars that levitate along magnetic streets, and TV screens that "look less like a moving picture and more like a window into a real, three-dimensional space." The author, an engineer as well as a writer, is a part of the story himself, holding a patent for an application of quantum dots that he calls "wellstone" (his patent application is included as an appendix), and he makes an informative but at times technically dense case for the promising, even magical, potential of programmable atoms.
Hacking Matter
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  • 8,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Engineering
  • Published: 14 April 2004
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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