Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 06/09/2001But perhaps I'm wrong! Carbon-based life forms, your attention please.

Thursday 06/09/2001

But perhaps I'm wrong! Carbon-based life forms, your attention please. Science fiction writers and futurologists have long predicted the ascendancy of silicon as the element of choice for a new generation of thinking beings, but it looks like they're wrong. Meet the new fundamental building block of life, same as the old fundamental building block of life -- your friend and mine, carbon!

Only this time, it ain't natural. It's carbon in the form of fullerenes -- otherwise known as buckminster fullerene, buckyballs, and other cute names beginning with nano -- where the atoms form into a geometric grid that can be flat, round, curly or what have you. Over the past few days, we've seen announcements from IBM that they're making small, swift logic gates out of nanotubes; from NEC that nanohorns make fantastic electrodes for fuel cells that could replace batteries; we have superconductors and quantum computers, and a whole host of practical manufacturing ideas.

In short, there's a brand new technology being born right now. That's exciting to witness; doubly so to report. Things might feel a bit dull and dusty in information technology at the moment, but as always there are glittering prizes hiding just beneath the surface. Which makes the whole thing worthwhile.