Laser-wielding cyborg fairyflies.

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Robin S
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Laser-wielding cyborg fairyflies.

Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:01 pm UTC

So, earlier today as I was considering creating this thread, a number of things occurred to me:

1. Scientists can make cyborg insects and directly control their movements.
2. The size of microchip necessary to control such cyborg insects is decreasing rapidly.
3. Insects called fairyflies exist, which are less than 0.2mm long.
4. Smaller and smaller flying robots are constantly being developed for purposes of, among other things, military reconnaissance.
5. Scientists can make microscopic ultraviolet lasers.
6. Shorter wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation are ionizing, and can therefore break chemical bonds and generally damage stuff.
7. ???
8. Profit!

Obviously this is not practical just yet and of course the whole idea is purely speculative, but I find it's quite fun to imagine microscopic, remote-controlled, laser-wielding deathwasps. For improved swarm coherence, a wireless network could be installed on the fairyflies' back-mounted computers, to facilitate behaviour like this (toward the end of the video).

I don't know, the idea just made me smile.
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Postby bippy » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:15 pm UTC

This is perhaps the most brilliant idea since Adam Carolla's attack crow proposal.

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Postby ArmonSore » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:26 pm UTC

Actually....

The Israelis are already working on tiny wasps that will be "fitted with a C4 explosive warhead for kamikaze attacks on snipers."

Edit: Er, it's the british who have the stuff with C4 explosives. The israelis are working on similar robot bug technologies.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:21 pm UTC

And of course from there it's a short step to gray goo.
Last edited by skeptical scientist on Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:25 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bippy » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:25 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:And of course from there it's a short step to gray goo.[/url]


If the world has to end for technology to progress, so be it. I want my goddamn jet pack.

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Postby ArmonSore » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:10 am UTC

Drexler wrote:in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth


Huh? I didn't know that processing all of the earth's material into nano machines creates more mass than the earth itself. Fascinating.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:24 am UTC

ArmonSore wrote:
Drexler wrote:in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth


Huh? I didn't know that processing all of the earth's material into nano machines creates more mass than the earth itself. Fascinating.

Drexler wrote:...if the bottle of chemicals hadn't run dry long before.
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Postby Mouffles » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:28 am UTC

I had to laugh at this:

Isao Shimoyama wrote:We had an incident last week where we sent a roach into an duct to test for an air leak, when we asked the roach to turn right, it responded by asking for our email addresses and offered to send us viagra in return.
In the spirit of taking things too far - the 5x5x5x5x5 Rubik's Cube.

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Postby ArmonSore » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:30 am UTC

But he seems to imply that this chemical bottle runs out sometime after exceeding the mass of the earth, but before reaching the mass of the sun.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:34 am UTC

ArmonSore wrote:But he seems to imply that this chemical bottle runs out sometime after exceeding the mass of the earth, but before reaching the mass of the sun.

No, that phrase definitely modifies everything before it. Use your common sense!
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Postby thecommabandit » Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:22 am UTC

ArmonSore wrote:But he seems to imply that this chemical bottle runs out sometime after exceeding the mass of the earth, but before reaching the mass of the sun.


Yeah, when he says long, he means loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong

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Postby ArmonSore » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:22 pm UTC

My common sense says that we won't have any sort of problem, as long as we don't make the chemical bottle too big.

The History Channel wrote:In a common practice, billions of nanobots are released to clean up an oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. However, due to a programming error, the nanobots devour all carbon based objects, instead of the hydrocarbons of the oil. The nanobots destroy everything, all the while, replicating themselves. Within days, the planet is turned to dust.


This, on the other hand, is pretty frightening sounding. Even if it also sounds far fetched.
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Postby 4=5 » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:27 am UTC

would they convert it into plastic?

it's rather a large diffrence to enzimes between variose carbon molacules

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Postby zenten » Thu Sep 06, 2007 1:19 pm UTC

ArmonSore wrote:My common sense says that we won't have any sort of problem, as long as we don't make the chemical bottle too big.

The History Channel wrote:In a common practice, billions of nanobots are released to clean up an oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. However, due to a programming error, the nanobots devour all carbon based objects, instead of the hydrocarbons of the oil. The nanobots destroy everything, all the while, replicating themselves. Within days, the planet is turned to dust.


This, on the other hand, is pretty frightening sounding. Even if it also sounds far fetched.


Um, the earth is not largely composed of carbon. It would suck for everything *living* on the earth though.

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Postby miles01110 » Thu Sep 06, 2007 1:20 pm UTC

If anyone is a fan of NBC's "The Office" then this is the government created killer nanorobot infection that Pam is suffering from.

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Postby skeptical scientist » Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:03 pm UTC

ArmonSore wrote:My common sense says that we won't have any sort of problem, as long as we don't make the chemical bottle too big.

The History Channel wrote:In a common practice, billions of nanobots are released to clean up an oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. However, due to a programming error, the nanobots devour all carbon based objects, instead of the hydrocarbons of the oil. The nanobots destroy everything, all the while, replicating themselves. Within days, the planet is turned to dust.


This, on the other hand, is pretty frightening sounding. Even if it also sounds far fetched.


I generally assume that if nanobots that can devour carbon-based lifeforms that quickly and efficiently were possible, they would have evolved a long time ago. After all, bacteria, viruses, and so forth are essentially just nanomachines, any self-replicating nanomachines humans can design are likely to be simple enough that biological equivalents could have evolved, and if they could reproduce that efficiently they would have been extremely successful and taken over the planet by now.
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Postby ArmonSore » Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:14 pm UTC

Agreed.
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Postby po2141 » Mon Sep 10, 2007 10:37 am UTC

Has anyone considered where a tiny nanorobot would get its energy from? Alittle battery? A tiny nuclear reactor? The "gray goo" we seem to be discussing would require energy to think, move and break chemical bonds, and may be able to scavenge enegy from forming new bonds when building new copies of itself, but these could in no way be 100% efficient. Even if they could have a tiny little power source sufficient for their needs, the energy wasted as heat would quickly build up to levels that would start to destroy the majority of the machines, limiting their population size.

To do all we would want it to, the machines that make up "gray goo" would need to be of such complexity that they would approach microscopic scales, meaning that you couldnt get enough of them into a small enough area to make the raw material/new goo interconvesion terribly fast.This would however, go some way to alleviate the waste heat problem.

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Postby Robin S » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:16 pm UTC

I have always pictured nanorobots as being co-ordinated by larger robots, on at least a microscopic scale. The living world has given us a pretty good idea of what nanorobots can do: catalyse reactions in a confined space (enzymes); carry signals around a purpose-built network or across very short distances (hormones and neurotransmitters); move other things around in a confined space or network (transport proteins); store and convert energy (lipids, carbohydrates, ATP, photosynthetic and respiratory proteins) and chain or group together to form larger structures (muscles, membranes etc). They can also self-replicate and act as templates for each other, as nucleic acids testify, but even if they were able to do things like compute they would still need the protective machinery of a cell in order to survive in the long-term - to ensure they remained supplied with energy, undamaged by the environment etc. As far as I can tell, the closest man could come to producing a dangerous nanomachine would be a genetically-engineered virus to which humans (or some other organism on which we depend) had no resistsance.
Last edited by Robin S on Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:28 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby zenten » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:28 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:I have always pictured nanorobots as being co-ordinated by larger robots, on at least a microscopic scale. The living world has given us a pretty good idea of what nanorobots can do: catalyse reactions in a confined space (enzymes); carry signals around a purpose-built network or across very short distances (hormones and neurotransmitters); move other things around in a confined space or network (transport proteins); store and convert energy (lipids, carbohydrates, ATP and respiratory proteins) and chain or group together to form larger structures (muscles, membranes etc). They can also self-replicate and act as templates for each other, as nucleic acids testify, but even if they were able to do things like compute they would still need the protective machinery of a cell to ensure they remain supplied with energy, undamaged by the environment etc. in order to survive in the long-term. As far as I can tell, the closest man could come to producing a dangerous nanomachine would be a genetically-engineered virus to which humans (or some other organism on which we depend) had no resistsance.


I think that we might be able to eventually build something that acts kind of like a bacterium, but is immune to most of the defense mechanisms lifeforms have, and have it specifically target and try to kill most living things. But even that would probably have some species evolving a defense.

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Postby Robin S » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:30 pm UTC

And, as po2141 was saying, it wouldn't really qualify as a nanorobot anymore.

To do all we would want it to, the machines that make up "gray goo" would need to be of such complexity that they would approach microscopic scales, meaning that you couldnt get enough of them into a small enough area to make the raw material/new goo interconvesion terribly fast.


The point is, it might be dangerous, but it wouldn't necessarily be so fast as to be unstoppable and it wouldn't consume the entire planet or even (probably) its entire supply of carbon - what would happen when other organisms ran out?
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Postby nilkemorya » Mon Sep 10, 2007 6:52 pm UTC

That is possibly the best thing I've ever heard. Pixies with lasers...mmmm :shock:

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Postby po2141 » Tue Sep 11, 2007 8:31 am UTC

you know, you would probably be able to just wash them away with some strong peroxide or bleach...

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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 11, 2007 2:48 pm UTC

Not if they're everywhere. They're small enough to be extremely cheap to produce individually, and to evade most means of detection. Thousands of them could land on you and you wouldn't even notice.

Also, you could give them a thin layer of chemical-resistant body armour made of platinum or something similar.
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Postby zenten » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:00 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Not if they're everywhere. They're small enough to be extremely cheap to produce individually, and to evade most means of detection. Thousands of them could land on you and you wouldn't even notice.

Also, you could give them a thin layer of chemical-resistant body armour made of platinum or something similar.


Where would you get all the platinum from?

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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:50 pm UTC

Mote importantly, where would THEY get all the platinum from? They're supposed to be self-replicating, remember? They won't be very good self-replicators if every time they do they need a source of platinum.
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:28 pm UTC

The actual quantity wouldn't be that great. I personally never implied that they should be self-replicating (the insects are self-replicating, but they don't have to be produced ready-fitted with lasers, microchips, wireless networking and body armour). Even if only 1kg of platinum (worth ~$40k) was available annually, you could probably produce enough armour for at least a few billion insects.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:43 pm UTC

Oh, my mistake. I thought we were still talking about nanobots and not cyborg fairies.
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:30 pm UTC

I don't think anyone here is suggesting that unaided nanobots (i.e. not supported by microbots of some sort) are a realistic prospect outside of contained systems - such as the circulatory system for medical purposes.
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Postby Yakk » Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:42 pm UTC

Just because life didn't figure it out, doesn't mean it can't be done.

Note that the greatest danger from grey goo would be from a two-stage goo: in stage 1, it would slowly move around the world, and would make up a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of 1% of the earth's biomass.

In stage 2, it would kick off exponential replication.

This deals with the mobility problem of grey goo: the atmosphere friction goes up quite fast as a being scales down. Large critters move faster than small critters, and grey goo are really really small.

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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 11, 2007 9:07 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:I don't think anyone here is suggesting that unaided nanobots (i.e. not supported by microbots of some sort) are a realistic prospect outside of contained systems - such as the circulatory system for medical purposes.

I don't know why you say that. Viruses are essentially unaided nanobots that perform a specific task and function in a variety of environments: air, water, and surfaces enabling transmission between organisms, circulatory systems of living organisms, and inside cells of organisms where they carry out their primary function (conscripting the cell machinery to make more viruses). Even some bacteria could be considered nanobots by the wikipedia definition:
A nanorobot would have characteristic dimensions at or below 1 micrometer, or manipulate components on the 1 to 1000 nm size range. A microrobot would have characteristic dimensions less than 1 millimeter.


Yakk wrote:Just because life didn't figure it out, doesn't mean it can't be done.

Not necessarily, but it's the kind of thing that living replicators would be really good at making. I suppose an argument could be made that proto-gray-goos killed themselves off, however, which would explain why they never evolved into true gray goo.
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 11, 2007 9:10 pm UTC

Viruses are essentially unaided nanobots that perform a specific task and function in a variety of environments: air, water, and surfaces enabling transmission between organisms, circulatory systems of living organisms, and inside cells of organisms where they carry out their primary function (conscripting the cell machinery to make more viruses). Even some bacteria could be considered nanobots by the wikipedia definition
Ok, but viruses require a host cell in order to actually do anything, and bacteria may be technically smaller than a micrometre but the point is that they're significantly larger than most viruses.
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Postby cephalopod9 » Wed Sep 12, 2007 5:59 am UTC

Why fairyflies?
I say go for butterflies. No one ever suspects butterflies.
"Sir, all of our tanks have been dessimated by a swarm of butterflies".

Precisely manouvering 0.2mm airborne seems really difficult. Wouldn't they just need some circulating aircurrents to keep out your lazer fairyflies?
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