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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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nanotechnology

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Wil McCarthy on his programmable matter career -- an ApolloCon 2009 Guest of Honor speech

P1050961 Wil McCarthy at ApolloCon 2009 demonstrates a programmable glass that grows reflective under heat

Wil McCarthy, a scientist and science fiction author, was the Guest of Honor at ApolloCon 2009. He gave a talk on the work he's been doing in programmable matter. He started off by showing the audience a piece of clear glass. Then he heated the glass with a hair dryer. An irregularly shaped reflective blob grew on the glass -- the heat turned the glass reflective. This was McCarthy's demonstration of materials he's working on in his startup.

Definitions and discussion of programmable matter can be found elsewhere on the web, and McCarthy did not dwell on the theory, but talked about his work in this area. His practical work in programmable matter developed from his nonfiction book "Hacking Matter", which it turn was born from his fiction. He talked about the events that lead to writing of "Hacking Matter", and how it attracted investors' interest, leading to creation of programmable matter startup. McCarthy talked about his company's journey to discovery of viable commercial applications for these materials, and why he avoids the word "nanotechnology" for marketing this technology to investors. He briefly discussed weapon potential and security issues of programmable matter with the audience. Finally, he talked about balancing his science and writing careers, or rather, impossibility thereof.

Pictures from ApolloCon 2009 are available in my photo gallery.

Read more about ApolloCon 2009 in my blog

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Cyberpunk after 9/11: ArmadilloCon 2004 panel

Chris Nakashima-Brown and Lawrence Person

Synopsis from ArmadilloCon program book: Why have the cyberpunks abandoned the future? Do William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" and Bruce Sterling's "The Zenith Angle" evidence a trend? (And don't forget the pre-2001 "Cryptonomicon" of Neal Stephenson and "Zeitgeist" of Sterling) Are they science fiction? What makes them different from more mainstream techno-thrillers? What does it mean for the future of SF?

Panelists: Chris Nakashima-Brown (moderator), Lawrence Person, Kurt Baty

Miscellaneous ArmadilloCon 2003 panels

Some memorable or amusing moments from panels where I didn't take enough notes to yield an article of its own:

Ideas Somebody Should Write a Book About

Looking for an idea? Watch our panelists brainstorm.

Frontiers in Weird Research

What's the latest strange discovery? Our panel talks about the most recent results and odd topics they've seen.

Inventing the Next Frontier

Looking for new ground in speculative fiction, art and science.

The Future of Computers in Fiction and Reality: ArmadilloCon 2003 panel

Participants: Kurt Baty, Tom Becker (Moderator), Alexis Glynn Latner, Bruce Sterling, Vernor Vinge

Topic, according to the convention program: We just thought it would be cool to have this group discuss future possibilities.

What was said on the panel: Vernor Vinge found irony in the panel's "weaselly" title; are there technical errors in Vernor Vinge's works? When fans find excuses for the writer's technical errors; what are some of the most interesting recent computer-themed SF books? theological value of ubiquitous computing.

Images from ArmadilloCon 2003 can be found in my photo gallery.