Top story of the year, reckons Science magazine, is nanotechnology. And one of the nattiest bits I've seen is the Nanowalker from MIT -- see the paper at http://biorobotics.mit.edu/fpga/NanoWalker.pdf. It's a novel configuration, with three piezoelectric legs in a pyramid shape; it's easy to control, stable and can lift up to 80 times its own weight. And it's tiny -- designed to work in teams, it coordinates via commands "received from a central computer through a fast infrared wireless communication scheme. Based on our actual design, soon these robots will be fully assembled and will walk at a rate of at least 4,000 steps per second. Every second, each robot will execute 48 million operations or instructions, performs 200,000 accurate measurements at the atomic scale while transmitting or receiving 4 million bits of information."
The paper goes on to say how it all might work, including how to make robots that make themselves. It's all frighteningly plausible, imaginative and practical. I prepare for these last days before Christmas with dreams of three-legged elves wrapping presents containing other elves wrapping presents containing... Perhaps I shouldn't have had that last small sherry at the party.
See you all next year!
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