A violent group targeting nanoscience researchers with mailbombs and claiming inspiration from the Unabomber has Purdue University keeping a watchful eye.
A string of attacks intended for Mexican scientists this year have been claimed by a group calling themselves “Individualities Tending Toward Savagery,” who warn that tiny robots could be developed through nanoscience and have the ability to multiply without human help.
“Nanotechnology is a great example of a field that inspired a rash of science fiction pieces that bear little resemblance to the science and technology that has emerged,” said Tim Sands, Purdue provost and former director of Birck Nanotechnology Center. “Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, in his 1958 lecture, ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,’ combined incredible foresight with some playful science fiction, and some people took the latter literally.”
Nanotechnology is used in many fields of research, including medicine, computing and energy. Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, manipulate and manufacture objects between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. A human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers in diameter.
Earlier this month the group is suspected of mailing the bomb that injured two scientists at a campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Armando Herrera Corral, director of the institute’s technology-transfer center, and another administrator were injured, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
The group’s manifesto indicates that Corral’s center is key to the university’s plan to promote research projects that “are relevant for the progress of nanobioindustry within the country,” according to the Chronicle.
At Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, an awareness for anything out of the ordinary has been heightened.
James Cooper, the center’s interim director, said the mail room is on the lookout for suspicious packages and several hundred faculty and students connected to the center have been notified of the issue.
“This is not something as researchers that we should be facing,” Cooper said. “What we are trying to do is educate students, educate people. I don’t know what is motivating this group. There are a lot of people out there who believe misinformation.”
Purdue officials said West Lafayette campus and U.S. academic facilities are not facing an immediate threat, based on an assessment from state Homeland Security office.
Carol Shelby, campus senior director of environmental health and public safety, said anything suspicious on campus should be reported to police.
If needed, the Purdue Fire Department could detect suspicious packages for chemicals or bomb-making materials, Shelby said.
Multiple websites have posted English translations of the terror group’s Spanish language manifesto and communiqués.