The 3D Printer: Friend or Foe?

3D printing can be used to create all kinds of objects – from the mundane to the potentially dangerous3D printing, or ‘additive manufacturing’, has been around for several decades, but in recent months there has been a huge surge of interest in its capabilities. This is mainly because of its use in the production of the world’s first working ‘homemade’ plastic gun, showing that although this technology can achieve amazing things, it also has a darker side.

So what exactly is 3D printing, and how does it work? Although additive manufacturing in plastic is the focus of most people’s attention, in fact a range of different 3D printing technologies exists, using a variety of materials from wood to ceramic. Regardless of the material, the basic principle for all the technologies is the same. The process uses digital models created by computer aided design (CAD) software as printing guidelines to create solid 3D objects. As the name additive manufacturing suggests, this works by laying down successive layers of materials in different shapes on a platform of some kind. 

by Hazel Davies

The Gamer’s Choice: Play or Quit!

The video game industry giant Blizzard is able to organize its own expo. Photo: Joi ito on fotopedia.Sometime in Spring 2010, the following conversation took place in an American university, somewhere on the North-eastern seaboard. The class discussion was about U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Student A: “The number of insurgents we killed are more than the number of our casualties.”

Student B: “Dude, this is not HALO!”

HALO is a bestselling video game, developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Studios. How do video games and their portrayal of military culture affect or reflect discourse in universities and in politics?

by Ali Acikgoz

Forecasting in Politics – why statistics is more useful than gut feeling

The crystal ball of Nate Silver? Photo: Wikia.comHardly anyone can have missed the now famous statistician and New York Times blogger Nate Silver. By accurately predicting the outcome in 49 states in the 2008 American presidential election and in all 50 states in 2012, he is now considered a forecasting virtuoso with almost wizard-like status. He has outperformed all major traditional pundits despite only having done political predictions since late 2007. So how does he do it? What is his crystal ball made of, and what does he see when gazing into it?

by Hampus Ljungberg

E-voting – a threat to democracy?

A Diebold Direct-recording Electronic (DRE) with a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Printer (VVPAT) to the right. Photo: Joebeone, Wikimedia CommonsElections are an integral part of the democratic process. They are an opportunity to evaluate the policies of political parties or individuals and punish those that have failed in the eyes of the public. Therefore, securing the integrity and the ballot secrecy of the election process has long been a priority. The technological breakthroughs of the last decades have enabled the introduction of voting equipment that aims to provide the provide the above, as well as speeding up the delivery of election results. Direct-recording Electronic (DRE) is one of the most widespread forms of election equipment in the USA today and it is the sole electronic voting system used in Brazil. But is your vote really counted as it was cast and what are the threats of the electronic voting?

By Yana Brovdiy

Dr Ahmadinejad, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (Iranian) Bomb?

In his now-infamous speech at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu stated that he believed that deterrence would not work against a nuclear-armed Iran due to Islamist fanaticism. This is perhaps an over-simplistic view of international relations. Photo: Dokeyhotey, FlickrWhile intelligence agencies and politicians in the West have been talking about Iran’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons since 1995, it’s rather slipped under the radar of public debate until now. So far economic sanctions, computer viruses and (alleged) Mossad/CIA death squads don’t appear to have yielded any results and the prospect of any direct US and/or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities seems to have been left on the shelf for the moment. So assuming that Iran does get its hands on a functioning nuclear weapon, what are the consequences really going to be for international security in general and the Middle East in particular

by Colm Delaney

E-Government – Towards a Digital Single Market

Government by ICT – e-government is becoming increasingly popular around the world. Photo: alexis.mons on flickrThe whole world is undergoing a recession which is making us rethink our social, economic and political strategies in order to adapt to the new situation. The crisis made us realize how interconnected our world is, reaching all levels of societies. Our society is a knowledge-based one, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is the base of this knowledge-based world. It allows us to instantly receive and share ideas, services, and technologies wherever they are located in the world. But its use does not have to be limited to private or business use; it can also be extended to the public sector. E-government is a new concept, developed in the early 2000s, that tries to make a connection between a government and its citizens. Now, more than ever, governments must foster this idea in order to take globalization to the next level.

By Christina Håkansson

Will DESERTEC Sand Up?

Northern Sahara, near the coast of Morocco. Photo: Amru_essam on flickrThe deserts of the world receive more energy from the sun within six hours of one day than humankind consumes within a year. Imagine there was a way to collect, store and transmit all this energy – would both conflicts over limited fossil fuels and excessive emissions of carbon dioxide  soon be things of the past? In 2009, a consortium of twelve European businesses has, together with the DESERTEC Foundation, taken on this vision and has presented an ambitious concept which is supposed to provide sustainable energy for North Africa and Europe.

By Anna Scholz