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  1. This article had made the rounds earlier on the Sturgeon's House Teamspeak and elsewhere, and was roundly and soundly mocked. Weaponsman had some fun with it as well. The authors have, bless their hearts, stuck to their guns and kept the article up, albeit edited for "greater technical clarity." The mistake the authors are making; a mistake obvious to anyone with a high school understanding of physics, is that re-arranging subatomic particles is quite qualitatively different than re-arranging atoms and molecules. The authors cite, with breathless anxiety, the fact that 3D printers are able to manipulate smaller and smaller chunks of matter. Surely the ability to arbitrarily re-arrange matter is just around the corner! Back in the real world, we know that "atoms" are well-named. While they are not exactly un-cuttable, as the Greek etymology of the word suggests, the forces that bind the nucleons of an atom together are several orders of magnitude greater than the forces that bind the electron shells of atoms together to make molecules and metals. Any mucking around with the arrangement of the nuclei of atoms is going to either take or produce an enormous amount of energy. This is what makes nuclear weapons so scary in the first place. So, any civilization that could casually re-arrange matter on the subatomic level would regard our fission weapons with approximately the same consternation as they would a sharpened flake of obsidian. They would be capable of much scarier things than silly little toys like nukes. The writers go on, incoherently, to point out that 3D printing could conceivably be used with fissile materials. This is technically true, I suppose, although fissile materials have somewhat tricky physical properties such as multiple phase changes, and pyrophoricity. Also, bomb cores need to be manufactured to such extreme tolerances that it's unclear what 3D printing would gain you. And all of this of course begs the question of where said fissile material would come from in the first place. Which the article never answers. Because its authors know nothing about nuclear physics. Because they are poly sci majors, and poly sci doesn't teach you anything useful about anything. Sorry poly sci majors; you just wasted years and untold kilobucks on a completely useless education. Better luck next time, and don't burn yourself on the deep fryer racks; that smarts like a motherfucker. This isn't even getting into the fact that the 3D printing revolution is not just around the corner; it's already here. Additive manufacturing techniques are already used in the manufacture of important things like turbine blades and aerospace fasteners. Typically, hand-wringing about some great advance in technology that has social implications works better when the great advance is still in the future. That way you can make wild and absurd predictions and they're basically unfalsifiable if you word them correctly. But that's enough making fun of the poor, dumb bastards who wrote this thoroughly idiotic article. They're just victims of the education system. Nobody seriously believes that the technology to manipulate smaller and smaller amounts of electrical bonded matter presages the ability to manipulate subatomic matter arbitrarily, right? Sadly, wrong. There is an entire field of study devoted to misunderstanding the implications of micro-manufacture. It's called nanotechnology. The entire field is, so far as I can discern, either outlandish claims based on bad analogies, or mundane discussion of what is already routine. Scott Locklin provides an excellent general fisking here, while specific problems with some of claims made by nanotechnology proponents are tackled at LessWrong here. The derp is everywhere. Sometimes it will appear wearing the uniform of someone knowledgeable. Trust... but verify.
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