Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Scientists Overpromising the Future Again

Speaking of breathless reporting, scientists in England have found a way to layer polymers in such a way that the resulting material is intricate, beautiful, and difficult to counterfeit.  

By using highly ordered polymer layers, the researchers were able to create any color in the rainbow from two non-colored materials. The color also changes depending on the viewing angle.
The complexity of the chemistry involved in making the polymer means they are very difficult for counterfeiters to copy, they said, making them ideally suited for use on passports or banknotes.
While this is impressive, and if adopted, would make counterfeiting printed materials harder in the short term, I think these guys are forgetting a couple of things:

  1. Anything we can do or make, hostile nation states such as North Korea can either copy outright or make a facsimile of that's close enough to pass all but the closest scrutiny.
  2. Anything that requires a university or industrial lab now will be done in a high school lab in 10 years, and at a kitchen table in 20.
All my life, I've heard how some new technological wonder was the breakthrough that would eradicate some problem.  This holds especially true in the IT world.  Each new discovery or method was going to change everything from the way we work at our jobs to the way that we educate our kids.  But after 30 years of massive technological advance, I still work in an office the same way people did in the 1950's, and my kids still go to schools the same way I did.  We may use more technology to do our jobs, but the description of what we do isn't that different from what Ward and the Beaver did.

Scientists need to tone down the promises of a brave new world a bit.  Just come out and say that you've found a really neat new way to weave materials that will make it harder to counterfeit stuff for a while and leave it at that.

1 comment:

bluesun said...

They oughta just say "we give up; go and print your own damn money on your ink jet at home--it's not like the fiat bills we use now mean anything at the rate they're bring printed."

...or maybe I've been paying attention to current events too much again.

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