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File under: Life Imitates Art

Posted by Joshua Glenn  October 2, 2012 07:13 PM

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The technosphere — which is currently in love with 3D printing (see the cover of the new issue of WIRED) — was abuzz, earlier this week, with the news that a 3D printer company had seized its leased unit from the home of a man planning to print out a pistol. Cody Wilson, director of an online project called the Wiki Weapon movement, is a second-year law student at the University of Texas at Austin, who raised $20,000 online for the specific purpose of leasing a 3D printer, using it to design and produce a 3D-printed pistol capable of getting off a single shot, and sharing the schematics online. Stratasys, the company that had leased Wilson the 3D printer, got wind of the project and — citing US firearms laws — repossessed the printer. (Full story here.)

As the design blog Core77 pointed out today, we've heard about a plastic one-shot gun before, somewhere... Where? In the 1993 movie In the Line of Fire, that's where. In it, John Malkovich plays an ex-CIA assassin hiding out — this detail tickled the folks at Core77 — as a design professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He cobbles together a plastic gun, which he smuggles through a metal detector in an attempt to kill the president of the United States. The movie devotes a montage sequence of considerable length to the plastic-gun molding process; thanks to the 3D printing revolution, however, one of these days all we'll have to do — should we want a plastic one-shot pistol — is upload a diagram and press a button.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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