Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book Review: Hacking Matter Multimedia Edition

Wil McCarthy has published an updated version of his seminal work Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms as a multimedia Adobe PDF file. First published in 2003, the updated material is displayed as small yellow “sticky notes” at various points in the margins of the text. This allows the reader to take in the original text as McCarthy first penned it and then view the updated information at the reader’s discretion.

Hacking Matter is a collection of essays, interviews and speculations that McCarthy has written on Quantum Dots and their possible uses and programmable matter. Quantum dots are collections of electrons contained within specialized silicon semiconductor structures. The programmable matter comes in because electrons so contained organize themselves as if they were in an atom even though there is no atomic nucleus present in the quantum dot. Since the properties of matter are influenced almost exclusively by the electrons in an atom, quantum dots represent the potential ability create and change this pseudo-matter programmatically to do things current technologies cannot.

McCarthy is a science fiction writer and as such the speculative portions of the book were the most enjoyable for me. The interviews McCarthy conducts are first rate and even the technical chapters describing quantum dots, quantum wells and their ilk are not so overwhelming as the subject matter might suggest.

Hacking Matter Multimedia Edition has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license and is freely available as a download. Downloaders are encouraged to donate a small sum of money to help offset bandwidth costs.

I don't live on the grid, and I don't live off it. I live with it. - Warren Ellis

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