Reminder: For the next several Fridays, we are going to provide a writing prompt based on a technology we think is ripe for a coordinated research program. In the comments, we want you to create a piece of flash fiction that includes the prompt technology in some way! At the end of the eight weeks, we’ll pick a first, second, and third place winner through a combination of likes on posts and program manager discretion. These people will receive one of Spectech’s “core books” that we send to people who join.
Today’s technology: protein-silicon interfaces
Proteins are one of the few ways we know to design nanoscale structures with atomic precision. Silicon lithography enables us to interface between nanoscale (though not-quite atomically precise) structures and our entire technology stack (through digital and analog electronics). It should be possible to combine these two normally separate technological paradigms by embedding proteins in lithographic silicon features which could enable everything from novel sensors to adaptive materials to applications we can’t yet think of.”
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In a far-away, dimly-lit warehouse, tucked away among the storage of forbidden artifacts, rests a remarkable piece of furniture: the Chamelonium Table.
It was a biodesigner’s dream— integrating chemical bonding, electrostatic interactions, and perfectly executed spatial arrangement. Crafted with intricate precision, its original purpose was to detect spills and instantly clean them, or, if stained, seamlessly alter its color to conceal any traces of human carelessness. A marvelous fusion of protein and silicon brought forth by a world where scientific advancements danced hand-in-hand with boundless imagination, this octagonal marvel possessed the extraordinary ability to harvest ambient energy and self-regulate its temperature, boasting an infinite number of hues thanks to the embedded layer of Chamelonium coating on its surface. Yet for years it lay unused and tucked away….
The beginning of its end unfurled when the head scientist assigned to the creation of this table lost his ID–– he had an unfortunate knack for losing things. Water bottles, keychains, reciepts, but never his ID! Laptops, his phone, most lovers, but never his ID! To him, it held paramount value, for it opened the doors to the Institute of Future Technologies—the key to his life's work. Losing it, in the grand scheme, would not prove catastrophic (scientists were a forgetful notoriously forgetful bunch), a simple request for a replicate would resolve the issue in a mere two days. And yet, the conundrum perplexed him. The ID resided within a small pocket, safely nestled against his phone case. He held his phone in his hands. It could not be lost. So where, in the name of all things logical, was his damn identification card?
The whereabouts of the scientist's lost possessions bear minimal relevance to the unfolding narrative.
Far more captivating was the moment when, consumed by his frustration, he found solace in tinkering with the Chamelonium Table. To his astonishment, as he grumbled and pondered, the table gradually cooled and transformed its hue–– from a bright blue to a creamy egg-white, reminiscent of the object fixated the tinkerer’s mind. This unexpected phenomenon puzzled the scientist, for the exact variables that triggered the table's response remained largely unexplored. A familiar sinking sensation tugged at his heartstrings, akin to similar moments of scientific revelation that had defined his career.
Without delay, he documented his findings, submitting them to the institute’s Technological Awareness and Adaptation Department (TAAD). Further examination by the experts yielded a classification of 1—an acknowledgement of the table's nascent sentience. Regrettably, this classification marked the premature conclusion of the Chamelonium Table project. The scientists working on the project were divided up and reallocated, their collective expertise dispersed across a vast sea of research.
The table, on the other hand, receives the utmost care till this day. It resides in a controlled environment, flanked by two companion Chamelonium Tables, forming a triad of miniature sentient companions. Encased within a transparent container, the tables are showered with solar light by a lightbulb that mimics the sun's spectral signature. A tiny speaker nestles in the corner of the room filling the air with a delightful medley of classical melodies and catchy pop tunes, pumping the surroundings with harvestable kinetic energy that pulses through the atmosphere.
Its surface remains an ever-present tableau of vibrant hues, whispering tales of a dormant consciousness stirring within. This story ends happily–– the Chamelonium Table perhaps possessing every single possible desire that if it possessed sentience, a table might harbor.
The Cat Who Walks (a Teeny Bit) Through Walls
Potato, a good kitty, was thoughtlessly declawed at a young age, so long ago she couldn’t even remember having the ability to scratch, climb trees, or eat small fuzzies with ease. Potato’s owner, an average materials scientist, knew Potato wanted more. Potato’s owner wanted Potato to be HARDCORE.
The owner attended WikiUniversity all night long, learning the ways of electrochemistry, biometalo-superconductivity, self-healing materials, and about a War of 1812 Canadian battle song. This shouldn’t be too hard, the owner thought while beaming bright. But where might I find a tattoo parlor at this time of night?
With finesse and a robust grip, the artist used the owner’s multi-step ink. The precision magnetic field was aligned and looking great, so the hypodermis was activated and inductive p-n silano hollow-core piezo-peltier-microrods were imprinted in an orthogonal state. Without allowing Potato any licks, it was time for the intercalating supercapacitive ferro-seleno fluid to mix.
Once home, Potato groaned, but knew she was ok. The owner wiped their sweat, and tuna-snack from her mane. Tomorrow she would see! Tomorrow, she would be: the most badass cat who could produce regenerative pressure-induced frozen blood-needles into her prey!