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Programmable matter or wellstone is a neologism meaning bulk matter of which the physical or chemical properties reversibly can be changed on demand. As of 2005, several materials exist which classify as programmable matter (for example LCDs) and even more have been proposed.
The word has been introduced by Wired magazine editor Wil McCarthy. The concept is increasingly accepted in real-world physics, with several research groups exclusively focused on programmable matter.
The concept includes the ability to program matter itself - to change it, with the click of a cursor, from hard to soft, from paper to stone, from fluorescent to super-reflective to invisible. Programmable matter would most likely be an artificial atom based substance. The quantum dot is the most common example of artificial atoms.
The terms "Wellstone" and "Programmable Matter" are claimed as trademarks by The Programmable Matter Corporation.
Definition from The Programmable Matter Corporation: "Programmable Matter(TM): smart material is any bulk substance whose physical properties can be adjusted in real time through the application of light, voltage, electric or magnetic fields, etc. Primitive forms may allow only limited adjustment of one or two traits (e.g., the "photodarkening" or "photochromic" materials found in light-sensitive sunglasses), but there are theoretical forms which, using known principles of electronics, should be capable of emulating a broad range of naturally occurring materials, or of exhibiting unnatural properties which cannot be produced by other means".
In the summer of 1998, In a discussion on artificial atoms and programmable matter, Wil McCarthy and Gary E. Snyder of Pioneer Astronautics coined the term "quantum wellstone" (or simply "wellstone") to describe this hypothetical but plausible form of programmable matter. Wil McCarthy has used the term in his fiction.
Programmable matter in applied physics and applied chemistry
The physical properties of several complex fluids can be modified by applying a current or voltage, as is the case with liquid crystals.
Quantum wells can hold one or more electrons. Those electrons behave like an artificial atom, which like real atoms can form covalent bonds. Because of their larger sizes, other properties are widely different.
Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms, Wil McCarthy, Basic Books, 2003 ISBN 0-465-04428-X
- Wired 9.10 Ultimate Alchemy
- Wired definition of Programmable Matter
- FAQ: Quantum Dots and Programmable Matter by Wil McCarthy
- Wil McCarthy's HACKING MATTER
- The Programmable Matter Corporation
- The programmable matter revolution