The other day, in the context of human memory and how malleable it can be, the concepts of "memory plastic" and "memory metal" came to consciousness. These are real substances --- materials which can be molded into one shape, cooled, bent into another shape, and then when reheated revert to the "remembered" configuration. Nothing magical about them, just chemical bonds and solid-state physics, of which I know next to nothing.
But skipping along from that, I suddenly recalled a science-fiction story of the 1960's. It was a tale that involved some products of materials science as plot devices: a cliché-evil Earth government versus cliché-nice libertarian asteroid miners who were armed with strange and powerful artifacts, including supertough threads that could cut through metal like a wire cheeseslicer through cheddar. I reckoned that I had read it in an Analog anthology some time around 1967-69, based on a mental timestamp from associations that the memory had with an outside corner of my old public high school building, J. H. Reagan in northeast Austin Texas. I could almost see the cover of the book that I was carrying as I walked toward the school door....
Zwowza! After that decades-old subterranean vision blasted through the surface of my brain like a volcanic eruption, I simply had to check it out. A quick web search provided solid confirmation: Randall Garrett, writing under the pseudonym "Jonathan Blake McKensie" (or Mackenzie? --- Internet sources vary) published "Thin Edge" in Analog, December 1963, well before I began to read the 'zine. I must have seen it in the collection Analog 3 which came out in 1965 and reached my teenage hands a few years thereafter.
So even though I can't remember to take out the garbage some mornings, there are still a few functional neurons hiding out in the old ^z cranial crevasses!
(But don't ask me to comment on the first issue of Playboy magazine that I ever saw --- May 1966, in my Uncle Lloyd's living-room magazine rack. Nowadays it would be rated a mild "PG = Parental Guidance Suggested"; back then, it was eye-opening. The centerfold's name was Dolly Read; she wore an electric purple sweater, pulled up a bit too high for comfort, and ... but I digress. Apparently certain images are etched rather deeply into an adolescent's mental substrate. Don't tell me it was silicone ...)
Tuesday, July 10, 2001 at 06:04:07 (EDT) = Datetag20010710