Structure of knowledge

The five kinds of nanotechnology

April 4, 2014

Why understanding seems stuck: I count five kinds of nanotechnology, of which only three are called by that name. Of the three, one is a revolutionary prospect, one is a fantasy, and the third is mostly materials science. As for the other two kinds, one is the heart of today’s greatest technological revolution, while the […]

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It’s official: “Nano” now means materials

November 11, 2013

From “About this journal”: Nano Research…focuses on all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology…ranging from…materials to…materials.”[edited for maximal snark] Here’s the full paragraph: Nano Research is a peer-reviewed, international and interdisciplinary research journal that focuses on all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Submissions are solicited in all topical areas, ranging from basic aspects of the science […]

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What Aristotle can teach us
about nanotechnology

November 7, 2013

What is “nanotechnology”? There has been enormous confusion, and Aristotle can help to cut through the tangle: …[a] distinction must be drawn; the instruments commonly so called are instruments of production, whilst a possession is an instrument of action. [In weaving, for example,] the shuttle…is not only of use; but something else is made by […]

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Software, trust, and proof

August 22, 2013

A recently developed high-performance OS microkernel supports the capability security model and comes with a formal specification and machine-checked proof: it’s called seL4. This is very, very, important. As the NICTA project notes: …software systems are increasingly trusted with critical operations. Yet, the traditional ways in which they are engineered provide limited or no assurance […]

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Robin Hanson critiques Radical Abundance

July 5, 2013

My friend Robin Hanson, who eventually ran off and become a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently critiqued my new book, Radical Abundance. Since Robin has a notorious love of controversy, I offer the following open letter: Hi Robin, While criticism is great, I was surprised by the specifics of your recent critique […]

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Doug Engelbart

July 4, 2013

Doug Engelbart (January 30, 1925 – July 2, 2013) helped to make the 21st century. He is widely remembered for inventing the mouse, but he also video teleconferencing, collaborative editing, the window-based graphical interface, and hypertext (which is to say, the linked text that makes the Web). He dreamed of changing change itself, the ways […]

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Must-read papers for anyone
who practices, manages, or thinks
about systems engineering

June 6, 2013

Larger pipes, smaller motors, surprising improvements While in Baku, I met with Amory Lovins, a remarkable physicist / engineer / policy analyst who has changed the world’s understanding of energy systems, how they work, and how they can be radically improved. Amory’s decades of experience and thought have led to deep insights regarding not only […]

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Mining the seabed
for resources that won’t be scarce

May 21, 2013

The BBC describes an unprecedented surge of interest from state-owned and private mining companies in scraping the Pacific seabed to recover manganese nodules, mineral-rich lumps that grow at rates on the order of 1 cm per million years: Millions of years in the making The chemical composition of nodules varies… Those of greatest economic interest […]

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Daniel Kahneman makes us smarter (again)

March 10, 2013

Edge asks: What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit? Daniel Kahneman offers the first answer: Daniel Kahneman Recipient, Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002; Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology; Author, Thinking Fast and Slow Focusing Illusion “Nothing In Life Is As Important As You Think It Is, While You Are Thinking About It” Education is […]

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Beilstein Symposium 2012:
Molecular Engineering and Control

May 23, 2012

Last week I gave the opening talk at the 10th Beilstein Symposium in Prien, Germany, a meeting focused on molecular engineering and control. This is a small, invitational meeting series — the kind where about half the participants are also speakers. What makes the Beilstein Symposiums unusual is their cross-disciplinary orientation. At this year’s meeting, […]

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Video of my Oxford nanotechnology lecture

December 7, 2011

I recently gave the Inaugural Lecture for the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology at the Oxford Martin School, and the lecture video is now available.* The talk describes the application of physical law and exploratory engineering to studies of the future potential of nanotechnology. Summary here: News & Research Highlights. * With thanks […]

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I’ve moved to Oxford

October 22, 2011

Rosa and I now work at Oxford’s Martin School in the new Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. (My Oxford Martin School bio here; Rosa’s here.) We plan to be at Oxford while I finish work on my new book, Radical Abundance, to be published by PublicAffairs. On November 10th I will deliver the […]

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