More Than 25,000 Americans Want the Death Star Built

 

A Petition entitled Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016 that may have begun as a “lark” by John D of Longmont, CO on November 14, 2012 on Thursday reached the required 25,000-plus signature threshold necessary for the United States Government to provide a formal response.  The petition states:

Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

The petition demands that the Obamma Administration build a Death Star much like the one that was featured in the 1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

What is even more fascinating than reaching the required threshold so quickly is the attention that is being demonstrated around the globe.  I am writing this article from Eastern Europe.  More specifically, Balti in the Republic of Moldova.  The petition was brought to my attention by several Java programmers working inside of the Alec Russo University. Apparently many of the students in the University are familiar with this petition so I can only assume that the Internet is spreading the news like wildfire.

In case you are wondering what the project would cost, a February 21, 2012 Forbes article written by Carol Pinchefsky entitled: How Much Would It Cost to Build the Death Star from Star Wars? had the following to say:

Even if you can imagine quite a bit, Centives, the economics blog of students of Lehigh University, says it would cost “$852,000,000,000,000,000. Or roughly 13,000 times the world’s GDP” to build the Death Star…and that’s just the cost of steel production.

 If only our government could be as organized and work as quickly as the construction in the video below:

 

Are Intellectual Property Laws Ready for 3D Printing?

In September the Brooklyn, N.Y. firm Makerbot started selling the $2,200 Replicator 2, its latest and most polished 3-D printer.  The machine is a very sleek piece of machinery that extrudes ultrafine strands of heated plastic in layers to turn software models into detailed, solid objects. The above product release video features Makerbot founder Bre Pettis and is worth watching.  Mr. Pettis provides an overview on all of the enhancements that have been incorporated into the Replicator 2 and his closing words provide the basis for our blog posting:

“We can’t wait to see what you make with it”!

A recent Forbes article written by Andy Greenberg entitled:  Inside Thingiverse, The Radically Open Website Powering The 3D Printing Movement provides some further insight into the possibilities.

Anyone who buys a Makerbot can immediately download and print any of Thingiverse’s 25,000 designs. Those with the software skills to create new designs and upload them to the site are rewarded with hacker fame and remixes from others in the digital DIY community. And every new blueprint on the site boosts the utility of the machines sold so far.

Pettis says that openness has been part of the site’s philosophy since 2008–a year before Makerbot was even founded–when he and fellow Thingiverse creator Zach Smith built the site in an hour one Saturday afternoon. “We keep it open because it feels right,” says Pettis. “There’s no downside to sharing it. All the competitors are going to make stuff and share on Thingiverse, too, and that just benefits our community.”

But Pettis’ and Thingiverse’s dream of pure openness may be just that. A quick browse through the site turns up plenty of potentially trademarked or copyrighted designs, like an Iron Man helmet or figurines from Star Wars and the videogame Doom. The site has already had to remove several designs after receiving takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And the first rumblings of a rights-management system for controlling the sharing of physical things are appearing: The IP-hoarding firm Intellectual Ventures received a patent in October for a 3-D printer feature that blocks the creation of verboten objects.

Thingiverse has yet to face an intellectual property lawsuit over the infringing content its users upload, like the $1 billion tort that Viacom threw at Google’s YouTube service in 2007. The lawsuit, which is still ongoing, has cost Google millions in legal bills and pushed it to adopt its own proactive copyright protections. The intellectual property laws around software designs for physical things have yet to be hammered out, but Makerbot remains determined to avoid censoring content unless it’s absolutely required to. “For now, it’s an exciting time,” says Pettis. “Things aren’t ruled by copyright.”

So let’s get back to Pattis’s final quote in the product video: “We can’t wait to see what you make with it”!  Despite a clause in Thingiverse’s terms of use that bans uploading any design that “contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials, or is otherwise objectionable,” the site hosts a slew of blueprints for edgy objects that toe that line or cross it: secret keys to high-security handcuffs, realistic toy guns or, scarier still, restricted gun components that can be combined with mail-order parts to create a working AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. One group calling itself Defense Distributed hopes to create a file for a gun capable of shooting a .22 caliber bullet and may upload its final design to Thingiverse.

Pettis has treated the appearance of those objects on the site as inevitable–almost out of his control. “The cat is out of the bag,” Pettis wrote in a blog post to the Thingiverse community last year, addressing the presence of weapon components on the site. “And that cat can be armed with guns made with printed parts.”

For further information, please refer to the Forbes article and watch the video below:

We find this a fascinating area and one that deserves a follow up article. Stay tuned!