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  Schism Matrix by Bruce Sterling

Week 35


It's COMPUTER SCIENCE WEEK at Schism Matrix, because I just spent about a week in a rural retreat in northern Virginia with 70 or so of the nation's most distinguished computer scientists.

Our home away from home.

It's not real easy to organize computer scientists. Dr. Anita Jones got to be our Den Mom.

Here's Dr. Anita at the South Pole, an easy chore by comparison.



Prof. Seth Goldstein.  He hankers to link up zillions of microscopic objects — "smart dust," "smart paint."

Here's the pitch on a Goldstein project involving "reconfigurable nanotechnology," i.e., a huge unstable swarm of ubiquitous stuff that just keeps trading data no matter what you do to it.

Of course, this requires some unusual computer architecture.

Check out the weblinks in this course Seth teaches on "electronic nanotechnology."  No more o' that lame sci-fi handwaving nonsense; this is the hard-case stuff here, folks.



Robin Murphy is from Florida's "Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue."

I'd never allege that the learned Dr. Murphy is "a cool chick with a hard-as-nails attitude," but she is certainly the toughest-minded computer scientist I've ever met. She is way on top of her brief, and she has got disaster-stories like you wouldn't believe.

"135 rescuers died in the Mexico City effort, 65 of them when they got trapped in a confined space and the area flooded and they couldn't get out. There's all sorts of other dangers: secondary collapses, like when the nurse at Oklahoma City fell and died, toxic gases, etc. So lots of cheap, expendable robots are a solution." Somebody should pry open that brand-new 9/11 Homeland Defense checkbook and give Dr. Murphy a truckload o' robo-bucks.



Steve White from IBM Research is into massively distributed systems. "Computing will change everything on the planet in our lifetime."

Steve has also got his own blog, called "Plurp."

Among other interesting things, Plurp featured this link to a Lovecraftian form of chess.



When it comes to weird, out-there (but reputable and publishable) computer science, man, nobody beats Jordan Pollack. This guy is the cat's pyjamas.

Check out the videos here and prepare to have your mind blown.


Bruce Sterling is a science fiction writer and 105% vision thing. He also talks. For the text of his talk at the CRA, check out Viridian.

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