Science Fiction and Conservation

7 12 2007

Every once in a while I come across an article that sends me into my own little sci-fi world where I have all the world and time to tinker with new technologies- along with a miraculously improved understanding of chemistry and physics. I daydream about various ways nanotech can change our work (the way we do it and the things we will have to work on). There’s the fantasy of setting loose a bunch of nanobots to eat stubborn adhesive. I’m not really a trekkie, but I do like the idea of using the Replicator to make a whole new version of whatever burnt, crispy document I might have on hand. And what are we going to do, exactly, about bio-lumenescent art, e-inks, and all the new forms of paper, drawing and writing implements that will be coming our way?

The Tate, of course, does an inspiring job of confronting conservation of time-based and other strangely-behaved media. That’s a whole other conversation.

What I really want to talk about is this:

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1332

Imagine my happiness to find a website devoted to science fiction made real!

The article cited above discusses implantation of “fluorescent polymer microbeads ” to create a diagnostic tattoo in human skin. It also mentions RFID ink, to be used for tagging animals. Why can we not use these things? Invisible RFID ink has its’ obvious applications for marking and retrieving things, so I’m not going to go very far discussing it because I’m sure someone, somewhere, is on it. If it can be used to find a soldier wandering in the desert, surely it can be used to find a book in a library, right?

But microbead implants? Tattoos for paper! What could we detect in paper? Could they be inserted into paper and then withdrawn as needed? If yes, then maybe they could indicate the presence or absence of all kinds of stuff when we treat, or contemplate treating, paper. Lignin, pH, solvents, stain reduction agents? Changes in pigment due to treatment? What would it do to paper over time? Nothing? Horrible unforeseen consequences?

Oh, if I only had a lab. And a bigger brain.

Ironically enough, looking at the original Texas A&M article, I noted this:

“This invention is protected under U.S. Patent No. 6,485,703 issued November 26, 2002. The A&M System Technology Licensing Office is currently seeking one or more industrial partners to facilitate commercialization of the procedure. For more information about licensing this technology, please contact Page Heller at p-heller@tamu.edu or 979-847-8682. Please reference TAMUS Project #1240.”

The contact person’s last name is Heller. Mine too. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo…

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2 responses

27 07 2008
Susan Knoer

A late comment, but the problem is the same as tagging explosives. Good on paper (pun intended), but after explosives have been used, the tags are everywhere, carried miles by the wind.

For paper, after a sheet has been recycled, all the following generations will be tagged, too.

Entropy works.

4 02 2010
Beth Heller on Sci-Fi & Conservation « Dan Cull Weblog

[…] Science Fiction and Conservation * Writing Implements of the Future * Boggles the […]

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