3D? Lets go One More! 4D!

3D printing has of late become the hottest discussed news. With this new age printing method we can create guns, replicate handy tools, and even create stem cells to print organs. With 3D printing becoming more accessible and developed further, we of course now have to turn to the world of 4D, a world where things make themselves, without outside intervention!

The world of 4D printing is a world that is yet to be fully realized though research into it has already begun. Exciting new developments in this field will lead to more efficient explorations of the next frontier! Hints of a better lifestyle also  come promised as more is learned about this new self assembly system. This passive self assembly system could be the next step to developing AI and creating a new, always adapting system of thought.

Skylar Tibbits, from MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab says:

Imagine robotics-like behavior without the reliance on complex electro-mechanical devices!

Although it is still being developed, even in early stages, the potential for 4D “printing” is outstanding and very real. Shake a passive cube system and you get a desired structure! As Skylar mentions in the Ted talk:

Bridges, buildings, and structures can self assemble through previously programmed data.

A machine that creates itself based on data could be advantageous in war-like scenarios where a bridge for transports is needed. Set a self assembling robot to work if a base camp needs to be set up quickly while manpower is used more efficiently on scouting and gathering intelligence. It could even lead to the development of this guy…

He could be a bad-ass soldier and all, but why is this important to you and I? With all this advancement hopefully we will get to the point where our conveniences become that much greater with the use of these 4D inventions, that is, as long as our reliance on robotics doesn’t also increase exponentially in the process. As convenient as our lives can become through technology, I remain a firm believer and enthusiast of personal connections and interactions! Less is sometimes more… but until then…

The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us.


Sources for research:

Ted Talk by Skylar Tibbits

3D printing by Wondergressive

ABC 7: Guns and 3D Printing

CNET: Printing Organs

4D Printing

SJET: Self Assembly System

Wondergressive: The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us

Sweden is Running Out of Trash


landfill garbage trash sweden

In Sweden, this trash would be almost as good as gold. http://newenergyandfuel.com

Sweden is now importing trash from surrounding countries in order to sustain its waste-to-energy program. Its recycling program is so successful that only 4% of all trash that the Swedish population produces ends up in landfills.

This is very delightful news and sheds light on a brighter future in environmental conservation as well as a cleaner environment overall. However, this recycling-centered mindset has caused a rather peculiar problem: there is now a shortage of trash to power this waste incineration program.

On average the waste-to-energy program handles two million tons of trash annually and heats 810,000 homes. It began in the earlier half of the 20th century, and has increased in capacity and efficiency throughout the years. The trend goes like this: waste incineration capacity increases, while percent of garbage going in to landfills decreases.

According to Public Radio International, Sweden now imports 800,000 tons of trash on an annual basis. Most of the trash thus far has come from Norway. The deal that Sweden gets is nothing short of spectacular. Norway pays Sweden to export the trash from their landfills. What Sweden gets in return is a FREE energy source to provide thousands of homes with electricity and heat.

The flip-side is that the waste byproduct known as dioxin, which comes from the ashes of trash, is an environmental pollutant. Along with the dioxin there are also heavy metals in the ash. These all get exported back to Norway where it gets put back into the landfills. Norway does not seem to mind this as burning waste seems to be more expensive than exporting it.

(One thing I do not understand is why Norway does not implement the same energy-to-waste program as Sweden, that way an even larger part of the Nordic area could become a waste consuming powerhouse. As Norway’s economy continues to thrive, I don’t think that finding money to fund such a program would be much of an issue.)

Countries like Italy and France could benefit from exporting waste to Sweden as well. Naples, Italy produces more trash per square meter than any other place on the planet. Have you been to Paris recently? If you are traveling from Chicago, you can definitely smell the stench in the air in many areas, especially where trash is left out on the curbs.

How about implementing this kind of system in Africa or Asia? There are numerous countries with waste treatment programs that are not on par with the developed world, posing various health threats.

I hope that one day Sweden will lead the way in other regions of the globe by continuing to handle waste creatively as well as educate individuals and groups on recycling methods.

For more information regarding how trash affects our planet, click here.










3D Printing: The Next Revolution in Creativity

People sometimes mistakenly think that I’m an abject pessimist or even someone who actively finds joy in our oft-decrepit society. This could not be further from the truth. Despite America’s imperial overreach, a stagnant global economy and the encroaching police state (among other things that I indeed detest and fear), there are still myriad wonders all around us that point towards a future society that is more remarkable and liberating than anything the world has ever seen. The latest new technology that has got me all in a tizzy is one with near-boundless potential: 3D printing.

This fantastic development is a relatively new technological process that allows users to design objects that can then be “printed” into tangible, three-dimensional objects. Existing entities can also be scanned into a computer and replicated at will. These printers can make solid objects out of either composite plastic or metal (other mediums are also being explored), but the complexity of the fabrications are limited only by the imagination of the designer. (Size is also obviously a factor but that’s merely a problem of not having a big enough printer, rather than a limitation in the technology itself.)

Here is one of these amazing machines in action. I chose this vid because it’s short and very easy to see the process in action. As much as I love Yoda, this bust doesn’t begin to demonstrate the true potential of this technology.


Fascinating tech, this is.
Image Credit: http://www.webpronews.com

The complexity of some of the objects people have created is astonishing, as is the originality in their design. One of the more exciting things about these creations is how functional they can be. They can contain multiple moving parts that are printed in a fully completed state, with no assembly required. They can also be made strong enough to function as tools. In this NatGeo clip, a crescent wrench is scanned and recreated in a matter of hours. The pony-tailed host then uses it to tighten a bolt just as you would with a ‘standard’ wrench.



These creations can be as precisely intricate or as simple as the creator desires. This astonishing machine harnesses the wind and can walk along like some futuristic, 12-legged space spider.


sand beast

This thing will blow your mind.
Image Credit: http://www.thisnext.com


The designs can also be exceptionally subdued, such as Cobb’s totem from Inception. As happens naturally when the creative potential of humans is allowed to flourish, experimentation abounds and there truly is something for everyone in this frontier market.


Personally, I am quite drawn to this Möbius strip of the first level of Mario Bros., despite my being raised exclusively on Sega Genesis.

mobius mario


The creative process on display is a perfect example of how individualization and customization enhance our lives. Everywhere around us, our lives are constantly improving due to innovation and free markets. Amazon and Netflix have revolutionized how we consume media. Stem cells and other medical research are prolonging our lives. Smartphones, the ultimate all-in-one device, are constantly becoming cheaper, faster and more intelligent. There is plenty to be optimistic about when looking at these fantastic developments and the future fruits they will yield.

The spoilsport in me focuses on the most illiberal facets of society. The innovation and incredible experimentation in a field like 3D printing helps to illustrate how the worst aspects of our lives are things and institutions devoid of customization and individual control. Public education, health care systems, political and police corruption, military overreach, etc., are all failing institutions that are heavily centralized and largely outside public purview.

These institutions fail precisely because they are antiquated, top-down systems. They simply cannot compete in our largely liberal and diffuse world of information and talent. They only way they can compete with the spontaneous order of markets and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia is through brute force.

This technological movement is expanding into fields the government is fearful of. A chemist named Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow has been able to print ibuprofen and wants to replicate other drugs. A group from Texas called Defense Distributed is attempting to design a printable firearm and has succeeded in producing gun components, most notably high-capacity magazines.

Predictably, the government is wary of such developments that would fundamentally undermine its presumed authority in controlling firearms and illicit substances. Congressman Steve Israel (NY-D) wants to include 3D-printed gun components in the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is up for reauthorization in December 2013. And although it’s fun to imagine the collective brains of Washington imploding from the shock, it’s difficult to fathom how severely the hammer of government retribution would strike if people could get around onerous drug laws with a simple ctrl+p command.

It's pretty much the exact same thing.

It’s pretty much the exact same thing.
Image Credit: http://www.tumblr.com

It is almost impossible to see how 3D printing won’t completely transform human society. Among its other sci-fi credentials, it has legitimate potential to fundamentally change the concept of scarcity, and in the future might eliminate the term entirely. It’s also eminently foreseeable that the government will attempt to control and curtail this technology, which politicians fear will make obsolete the type of authority they’ve grown accustomed to wielding.

The world is better off with individuals free to utilize technology to their benefit. Let’s just hope Washington realizes the detriments and futility of attempting to neuter such an impressive revolution in the way we live our lives. However, if history is any guide, I certainly wouldn’t bet on their quietly acquiescing to such dynamic transformational change.



Sources and Additional Resources:

Youtube: 3D Printing Time Lapse Photography – Yoda

Youtube: National Geographic Known Universe S03E06 Print Tools

Youtube: Super Mario Mobius Strip

CBS: Stanford Researchers Create HIV-Resistant Cells, May Lead To Gene Therapy

BBC: 3D printing: The desktop drugstore

Nature: Integrated 3D-printed reactionware for chemical synthesis and analysis

TED Talk- A 3D printer for molecules: Lee Cronin 

TED Talk- Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney






Soft Robots Grip Things Gently

Researchers at Harvard University have created a robot tentacle that has a soft touch. It can grab objects with delicate care. The robot tentacle allows for flexibility and a myriad of directional possibilities. This particular robot is one in a series of robots being developed at Harvard. It can manage objects as fragile as flowers, and I’m thinking, what lovely lady wouldn’t love her flowers delivered by a nice compliant robot tentacle?

The future is looking pretty lithe if you ask me.