Thompson Forum to examine 'How to Make (Almost) Anything'

· 3 min read

Thompson Forum to examine ‘How to Make (Almost) Anything’

Neil Gershenfeld (courtesy photo)

In recent years, the evolution from analog to digital has improved any number of areas, from communications to personal computing. Yet, today’s most advanced manufacturing remains analog — the designs are digital, but the processes are not.

Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, will introduce emerging research on digitizing fabrication and explore the implications of a future where anyone will be able to make (almost) anything at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St.

The lecture is sponsored by Nebraska Innovation Campus and is the second event in the 2014-15 E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues series. This year’s Thompson Forum theme is “The Creative World,” which explores creativity’s impact on people and societies and examine the question of how creativity can change our culture and planet for the better. A full schedule can be found at

Gershenfeld’s unique laboratory breaks down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from creating molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds.

“There is a surprising need for emergent technologies in many of the least developed places on the planet. While our needs might be fairly well met, there are billions of people on the planet whose needs are not,” Gershenfeld told Discover Magazine. “Their problems don’t need incremental tweaks in current technology, but a revolution.”

He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents and books including “Fab,” “When Things Start to Think,” “The Nature of Mathematical Modeling” and “The Physics of Information Technology.” He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American’s 50 Leaders in Science and Technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic’s 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals.

Shane Farritor, professor of mechanical and materials engineering at UNL, will deliver a pre-talk at 6:30 in the Lied’s Steinhart Room.

The lecture is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Ticket information can be found at

The lecture will be streamed live at and will be available on Lincoln digital cable Channel 80, or Channel 99 on analog cable, UNL campus Channel 8 and UNL’s KRNU radio (90.3 FM).

The E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues is a cooperative project of the Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center and UNL. It was established in 1988 with the purpose of bringing a diversity of viewpoints on international and public policy issues to the university and people of Nebraska to promote understanding and encourage debate.

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