Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Progress: Diamond Age

Photonics Progress

I am a fan of Neal Stephenson, author amongst other novels, of the brilliant historic fiction The Baroque Cycle 

In this three volume epic, Neal Stephenson sets out how the capitalist economic system of the Western world was created essentially in the 17th and 18th centuries and has persisted essentially unchanged since. The global crisis may have given this thesis a knock perhaps. Time will tell if that will be seen as a blip or the collapse of capitalism. As a Chinese leader answered when asked if the French Revolution was a success, "It's too soon to say." The Baroque Cycle is history with science fiction and perhaps even mystical elements, an explosive alchemy .

This leads me to his earlier novel, the Diamond Age. This is more conventional science fiction,

set in a near future dystropia. Some would say much in the novel has passed into fact already. One aspect of the wide-ranging plot is the army of nano-technology 'bots' that construct complex diamond architectures that is amazingly fine and strong. This came to my mind in reading an article in Scientific American that describes a new diamond-like compound being synthesised that is stronger and can cut diamond, cubic boron nitride . Scaling up may be an issue, but the march to produce stronger and more light materials is well under way. 

Nanobots shortly will be on the march, I will add.

Finally consider signing the petition to save the Royal Institution, that was founded in London in 1799, which brings me back to the story of the Baroque Cycle.

Photonic Progress (Chemistry)