Popular Science magazine, which used to be an airport-only treat for me, now comes to my house every month by post. I love to read about new materials, engineering innovations, and all the other stuff that they cover. For me, it’s a workable antidote to the The Great Ennui, the creeping doomview that seems to be my brain default all too often these days.
I’ve been especially interested in 3-dimensional printing, even had a little fun with the idea a few years ago when I made the so-called “Little Men” – the 6 tiny sculptures that I called The Ratmasters. I took them down to Ceramic Showcase and put a fairly preposterous price on them because I really didn’t want to sell them until I could think about them a bit. My forays into non-functional work are so infrequent that when I make something that isn’t strictly practical it sort of astonishes me. Here are the first two that I made, they still live in my studio….
Here’s a teeny story I wrote to propose origins for them – you hardcore sci-fi fans out there may like this….
What is known about the six small objects, SUO 315 01-06, now known as the Ratmaster Commemoratives? Although much uncertainty remains about their origin, it can be confirmed that they were created from data recorded within an object found in an agglomeration of orbital debris near the center of Space Unit 315/396W. Sent for routine recycling, the object now known as the Unit 315 Cone did not correspond to the spectroscopic profile of any terraginous material, and was sent to the International Laboratory for analysis.
The Cone is a deep blue conic form 10.73 centimeters wide at the base, tapering to a point. It is 22.58 centimeters long, and weighs 188 kilograms. It has several unique properties. Not only is it uniquely heavy, it is geotropic and will rebalance itself in a vertical position on its base when not restrained in a horizontal position.
Sector 315 Cone was registered as a Special Security Property, and was extensively studied. Attempts to remove samples from the object by cutting or drilling were eventually abandoned, and all available scanning modalities failed to reveal any internal structure. A translucent box was built for the Cone, and it was placed on display in the foyer of the International Laboratory Visitor Center.
Four years after the Cone was placed on display, an unknown event triggered the release of a data stream from the object. A security guard on routine night patrol observed a luminous beam emanating from the Cone. The beam described a circular pattern around the Cone; moving in a slow, sweeping motion. Scientific staff was summoned, and the Cone was returned to a secure area so that the beam could be studied.
The beam emission was found to consist of pulses of light, which were converted to a binary graphic stream. Data release from the Cone continued for fourteen months, at which time it stopped. At that point, a pronounced change in color of the Cone’s surface was noted.
The data was sent to a secured location, and an extensive server farm was constructed and dedicated to deciphering the data stream.
An international team of decryption experts monitored reports from the computers.
Once the downloading of the Cone data was complete, linguistic analysis and decryption of the contents began. It became apparent that two semantic systems were present in textual portions of the information. Much of the data was in the form of numeric tables, which were in due course recognized to be climatological and hydrologic reports. There were also records of equipment acquisition and maintenance, purchase orders, salary payments, and other transactions. In each instance, there were paired reports, in each of the unfolding languages, describing the same occurrence.
It began to be clear that the information contained in the Cone was a periodic dispatch from the colony of a still-unknown nation or planetary state, identified only as Origin, and was concerned with the most details of elemental every-day governance. The colony was referred to as Srad 3/50 in the correspondence.
On e of the languages began to emerge as that of a diplomatic class, and was called Cone SS-A. The other was determined to be a language different from Cone SS-A, and was recognized to be unlike any ever studied. It was called Cone SS-B. Cone SS-A was found to have properties common to many extant world languages, but was closest in structure to an archaic form of Arabic.
Data from which the Ratmaster commemoratives were derived was one of the last information units to be deciphered. The code was acknowledged to be unique machine language, and was ultimately determined to be of two types – textual and algorithymic.
Many tests were run on the algorithmic data, and at last a pattern appeared. A researcher with avocational CGI experience recognized the code as instructions for three dimensional printing, a modeling modality developed in the first decade of the century. Further decryption confirmed this analysis, although the process for printing and the material specifications from the Cone itself are still under study.
Developers of the original three dimensional printing process were brought into the research project, and work began at once to learn if the code could be used to create image-objects with existing three dimensional printers. Other scientists continued the study of textual materials.
It became apparent that there were six blocks of information of each type, as well as one that was thematically related to the six smaller blocks, yet more extensive. The text blocks were language Cone SS-B.
The large textual block was deciphered first. It consists of prologue, argument, and conclusion. The prologue is an address to a yet-undetermined governing body, with a recapitulation of a temporal period of events. It is formal, yet obsequious. The argument states that the Council of Citizens is making a request on the behalf of six Agency Administrators, asking that they be allowed to remain on Srad 3/50, rather than returning to Origin for decommissioning.
The text notes that retirement documents for six Administrators had been received, and that commemorative portraiture busts were commissioned, but that the Srad 3/50 Citizens Committee had granted these individuals special service recognition by designating them as Citizens on their commemoratives. According to the text, upon learning of this honor, the six Administrators – the term Ratmasters first appears here – requested that the Srad 3/50 citizens committee advocate for their retirement on the planet. Data for creating the image-objects was embedded in the text this point, and was adapted by a team of analysts and these commemoratives were created.
Anyway…. it’s possible to have objects formed by 3-printing without purchasing a 3-printer. Joe, my technology mentor, suggests that I learn to use the software, and send my designs off for fabrication for a while. He gave me the name of an online company to contact. Makes the head spin a bit to think about 3-drawings to send it to them. I think much finer stamps might be possible this way than by whittling on green clay. I am keen to get some of the actual “plastiscus” and see how it stands up to groggy clay.
In high school, a llfetime ago, I learned to make working sheet metal drawings – INK! – in mechanical drawing 2. Gotta get the head back there. If you are interested in this stuff, here’s a link to a recent Popular Science article about 3-d printing.