2012 saw some incredible advances in 3D printing, including stunning price reduction in the ôconsumerö and ôpersonalö model price points. We also saw 3D printers construct items as small as a 285-micron Indy car model, and as big as an entire house. But the most fascinating and controversial 3D printing story of the year has got to be the Wiki Weapon project, whose goal is to release the design of a working gun free on the internet. The project was started by law school student Cody Wilson, and will force an examination of whether or not publishing such designs breaks existing gun control laws. In the meantime, a Wiki Weapon assault rifle recently fell apart during a test firing after only six shots. So while the project is experiencing difficulty, the technology exists, and itÆs only a matter of time.
In the low-priced computing department, we love the rise of the Raspberry Pi -- the thirty-five dollar credit-card-sized computer with a 700 MHz ARM processor and Linux operating system. And our favorite story of the year comes from Professor Simon Cox from the University of Southhampton in Britain, who built ôIridis-Piö, a four thousand dollar supercomputer built from sixty-four Raspberry Pis. The professorÆs six year old son James provided mechanical support using Legos. Really, kid, if you want to put electronics together for a living, do what the other kids do -- get a job at Foxconn!
Of course, the big, big news in physics this year was the invention of the worldÆs fastest truly random number generator from the Australian National University, which was heralded as revolutionary to random number connoisseurs everywhere... IÆm kidding. We found the Higgs boson. Yes, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN discovered a new boson particle, the heaviest ever discovered, which is most likely the famed Higgs boson, the last particle of the standard model to be discovered and the reason, so the theory goes, that objects have mass. The discovery caused a veritable tsunami of youtube videos trying to explain the Higgs field, and also caused all physics professors to check their tickets to see if they had the winning 125 giga electron volts in the physics professor betting pool.
USA Science and Engineering Festival
In April, Dan and I joined former This Week in Engineering host Todd Sierer on a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the second USA Science and Engineering Festival. We interviewed celebrities like the Mythbusters, Mayim Bialik, Homer Hickam, Richard Garriott, Elon Musk, Bill Nye the Science guy and more. And we also saw thousands and thousands of kids who were thrilled with learning about science and engineering. Catch ToddÆs interview of Elon Musk where he asks about the future of commercial space travel, or any of our other interviews on the Learning Series Channel at Engineering.com.
And speaking of space exploration, this year saw a commercial SpaceX Dragon capsule docking with and delivering supplies to the international space station. But that story was of course overshadowed by our favorite Space Exploration story of the year -- the Mars Curiosity Rover landing on the red planet after the aptly-named Seven Minutes of Terror. While not broadcast live on any major US networks -- really? they must have something more important to show at 1:30 am eastern -- it was shown live in Times Square, on the Las Vegas strip, and streamed to about 3.2 million people online. Since landing, the rover has found highly-fractionated alkaline igneous rock, and evidence of what used to be a stream flowing at about three feet per second.
Kids In Science
And from the ôKids in Scienceö department, our favorite story of the year comes from 14-year-olds Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela, from