selenite0: (mad science)
[personal profile] selenite0
The Washington Post has announced:
You can print your own guns at home. Next it will be nuclear weapons. Really.

No. Not really.

A 3D printer can make a gun. So far the ones produced have been oversized single-shot pistols but we can expect that to improve.

The article is fearing nanotechnology. Instead of using a specific kind of plastic or metal to make its products like current 3D printers, a nanotech assembler can mix and match atoms to make whatever design it's been handed. That could include weapons of mass destruction. There are biological experimenters who could make a lethal plague without using nanotech. With nanotech chemical weapons, explosives, and gnat-sized killer robots become possible.

But not nuclear weapons.

3D printers and nanotech assemblers are just building things from the inputs they're given. They can't break or combine atoms to make new ones. Carbon in, carbon out. Creating your own atoms would be picotechnology, and nobody's forecasting that yet.

An A-bomb needs fissile material. Uranium and plutonium are preferred. You're not going to find that at the local hardware store when you buy feedstock for your 3D printer. You can't even settle for any uranium or plutonium atoms--it has to be the right isotope. There are people with the full time job of noticing when someone goes looking for that stuff.

H-bombs also need an A-bomb as their trigger. On top of that they need deuterium and tritium. Sure, you could try extracting that out of your own water supply, but it'd take a long time and be noticable.

So don't be afraid of the neighborhood hacker making nukes. He can make lots of other WMDs, but not nukes. So be afraid of him for that. Be afraid of political science professors who don't know enough to realize when they're making public fools of themselves. And be afraid of editors who don't know how to fact-check technology articles. Politicians listen to them.

Date: 2015-09-09 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm afraid that idiots will get 3D printer tech banned for some dumbass reason like this and then America will watch uncomprehendingly as the rest of the world enters a new phase of the Industrial Revolution while we rock helplessly in their wake.

Date: 2015-09-09 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Even if you had picotechnology, to make a nuclear weapon you would have to apply nuclear binding energies to attach nucleons to a number of atoms sufficient to form a critical mass of a fissile isotope. If you have enough power and enough control over that power to make kilograms of fissile materials out of subatomic particles, why would you waste your time making a nuclear weapon, which could only release a fraction of the energy you expended making it? It would be like using high explosives, carefully placed, to blow up a tree, so that you could go to war armed with a club. I mean, points for styles, sure . . .

Date: 2015-09-09 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well . . . if you can only convert stuff at a slow rate the uranium would let you save it up for a big instant release . . . or you could be planning on framing some lower-tech patsy as the actual city-bomber . . .

But, yeah, picotechnology will probably let you cook up much nastier stuff than nukes.

Date: 2015-10-17 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've noted before that monetary transactions are a form of speech, so that you can't do things like regulate and limit what people use as currency (bitcoin and the like) without censoring their speech and obtaining total control of their communications infrastructure.

There's something here that feels analogous: The ability to wield efficacious tools includes as a necessary subset the ability to produce weapons. This goes for 3d printers. The same thing would go for a bridgeport/lathe for metalworking. Will the peasants be permitted to own tools? The Washington Post apparently says no.

At some level, all of these battles today (Disallowing 3d printers, disallowing purchase of chemicals and laboratory glassware, the fight over whether your computer should be a monitored locked down dumb terminal or a device that you own and control, making the mere possession of *anything* a crime) are about whether or not personal power (and the tools which enable it) will be tolerated. A lot of these rights we used to take for granted seem to be running together as part of a unified whole.

(Nuclear weapons are a bit tricky - as noted, you can't print a material you don't have.)
Edited Date: 2015-10-17 01:52 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-10-18 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The question will be if they can be successfully banned. Or if 3D printers wind up in the same category as marijuana: common, accessible, but occasionally someone gets caught and his life is ruined.


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