Just started reading Neal Stephenson^WP^’s Diamond Age WP^,^ AM — trembling with excitement. The 500-page, 1995 cyberpunk novel is baroquely immersive in that hip, queer way that only Stephenson can deliver. It has many, many rarefied words too, some of them beautiful («alamodality», «runcible», «velleity1»), some pedantic («cineritious», «hederated», «callypigious»), and some unfathomable (what the hell is «eutactic»?). Of the latter class was «machine-phase»; at first unconsciously ignored (I tend to do that with common-word alloys), it eventually emerged into consciousness and was diligently googled (since unfound on any dictionary I know of) — it is now most definitely a member of the beautiful words class:
It would be a natural goal [of nanotechnology WP] to be able to put every atom in a selected place (where it would serve as part of some active or structural component) with no extra molecules on the loose to jam the works. Such a system would not be a liquid or gas, as no molecules would move randomly, nor would it be a solid, in which molecules are fixed in place. Instead this new machine-phase matter would exhibit the molecular movement seen today only in liquids and gases as well as the mechanical strength typically associated with solids. Its volume would be filled with active machinery.
K. Eric Drexler, Machine-Phase Nanotechnology, Scientific American, September 16, 2001
1 «Velleity: volition at its lowest level.» (American Heritage Dictionary) That’s a definition to remember.