For all of technology’s efforts to improve upon nature, sometimes the most challenging feat is simply matching it, or even coming close. Take, for example, the endlessly versatile muscle, or the light and load-bearing bone. Imitating the latter poses a unique problem for surgeons repairing damaged, aging or diseased bones in humans, leaving us with metal or ceramic replacement parts that are imperfect or intolerable to a patient’s system, often needing to be replaced with painful and debilitating surgery. A solution to that mismatch may be on the horizon, as researchers in Italy have turned right back to nature, albeit a different kingdom, to find what may sound like an archaic bone replacement—wood. Rattan, to be specific, a flexible palm wood used in furniture and baskets.
In William Gibson’s Zero History, a novel laced with technology just barely within reach, one unlucky daredevil is the beneficiary of such a rattan bone replacement after a base-jumping stunt gone awry. Read More
Rhenium is the last stable element to be discovered, found in 1925, before all of the nuke-y ones. It’s extremely rare, and one of the densest of elements. It’s used in alloy form, primarily in high-tech purposes like combustion chambers, turbine blades, and exhaust nozzles of jet engines.
And darts. Read More
How do you camouflage an inflatable mylar drone in the shape of a penguin? You really can’t, but for the climax of Zero History, one character opts for a disruptive paint job known as “dazzle” as a way to break up its gestalt.
“The result wouldn’t conceal the penguin against any background at all, particularly the sky, but broke it up visually, made it difficult to read as an object.”
Dazzle, or “razzle dazzle” is a form of camouflage invented in World War I by British artist and naval officer Norman Wilkinson. The Royal Navy, unable to conceal its ships, went for something altogether different by painting them with loud, irregular black-and-white patterns. The result was a floating Picasso, certainly visible, but hard to make out its size, shape and speed. German submarines needed to know all three to successfully calculate a hit with a torpedo, so turning British ships into a series of discordant shapes did a far better job of protecting them than trying to make them blend into their surroundings. Read More