Nanotechnology Provides the "McGuffin" for Summer Movie Blockbuster

Reduced to a meaningless plot device, nanotechnology still seems to be a threat rather than a benefit in popular culture

1 min read

To those of you not familiar with the term “McGuffin,” according to Alfred Hitchcock, the term comes from the story of two men traveling on a train.

One man asks the other what is that you’re carrying in your luggage. The other man responds by saying it’s a McGuffin. When the first man asks what a McGuffin is, the other says it’s a gun for hunting lions in the Scottish highlands. The first man, nonplussed, responds that there are no lions in the Scottish highlands to which the other man quickly replies than that is no McGuffin.

In other words, a McGuffin is an empty an almost entirely meaningless plot device.

It seems that nanotechnology is becoming the new McGuffin for silly Hollywood action movies with the release of this summer’s blockbuster “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.”

In this case, the McGuffin are little nanobots that are put into a warhead and then launched at a target where they begin to devour the target until they are turned off by remote control. In the trailers you can see the green swarm of nanobugs devouring the Eiffel Tower.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/MaNs64k_2xw&hl=en&fs=1& expand=1]

I am afraid nanotechnology is not fairing too well in popular culture it always seems to be a threat whether it be Michael Crichton’s “Prey” or the television program “Eleventh Hour”.

I guess it’s hard to make cleaner drinking water, cheaper alternative energy or better anti-cancer drug treatments into an exciting and compelling plot element.

The Conversation (0)

Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

Keep Reading ↓Show less