Author of the Month

Nanotech and the Physical Manifestation of a Reality
By Jim Elvidge

Jim Elvidge

Books by Jim Elvidge

The Universe - Solved! (Hardcover)


The Universe - Solved! (Hardcover)

Jim Elvidge holds a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. He has applied his training in the high-tech world as a leader in technology and enterprise management, including many years in executive roles for various companies and entrepreneurial ventures. He also holds 4 patents in digital signal processing and has written articles for publications as diverse as Monitoring Times and the IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. Beyond the high-tech realm, however, Elvidge has years of experience as a musician, writer, and truth seeker. He merged his technology skills with his love of music, developed one of the first PC-based digital music samplers, and co-founded RadioAMP, the first private-label online streaming-radio company. For many years, Elvidge has kept pace with the latest research, theories, and discoveries in the varied fields of subatomic physics, cosmology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and the paranormal. This unique knowledge base has provided the foundation for his first full-length book, "The Universe-Solved!"


In the article "Is Our Reality Just a Big Video Game?", we explored the possibility that we might be living in a computer simulation. In this article, we look instead at the possibility of a physical manifestation of reality under programmed control. In some ways, this is actually a more palatable scenario. For one thing, it avoids the necessity to answer the questions "When did it start?" and "Why don't I remember anything prior to the simulation?" In addition, it tends more to support the possibility that the programmer is non-human, which allows for many more scenarios and motivations.

So how might it be possible to programmatically generate a reality?

Let's start with nanotech, today's convenient answer to pretty much every conundrum, from solving global warming to achieving immortality. Our first scenario is the "Nanobot Swarm". We'll define the nanobot as having the following characteristics:

  1. By definition, nanoscopic, and therefore invisible
  2. Ability to either link together or to exert force
  3. Ability to self-replicate, in order to create larger structures
  4. Ability to generate light of any color in any direction.
  5. Ability to fly
  6. Ability to network, transmit data, and receive instructions

Since there has been some debate about the feasibility of such devices, let's take a look at where we are today from a technology standpoint, and try to extrapolate a bit into the future.

Anything less than 10 microns is pretty much invisible to the naked eye. Since 10 microns is 10,000 times the size of molecules, or the nano-scale, that leaves plenty of room to build in the other features of the nanobot. In early 2008, researchers from Northwestern and Brookhaven National Laboratory equipped gold nano-particles with DNA tentacles, and demonstrated their ability to link with neighbors to create ordered structures.1 Designed crystals of up to a million particles were built using this technology. In addition, scientists from the International Center for Young Scientists have developed a rudimentary nano-scale molecular machine that is capable of generating the logical state machine necessary to direct and control other nano-machines.2 These experiments demonstrate a nascent ability to manipulate, build, and control nano-devices, which are the fundamental premises for nanobot technology. Other than perfecting these techniques, all that remains to achieve our utility nanobot is the generation of light, wireless networking, and the ability to fly.

Jim Elvidge

There are already light-emitting nanodiodes in the 100 nm range, so it does not seem like too big of a challenge to generate multi-directional variable-wavelength arrays of sub-micron light emitting devices. Wireless networking chips were in the 5x5 mm range in 2007, so Moore's Law should bring that size down to 10 microns by 2025. With respect to flying robots, in 2005, Proxflyer announced their "Picoflyer" remote control helocopter, with a rotor diameter of 6 centimeters. This was an improvement of more than a factor of two on their 2003 release with the 12.8 cm rotor diameter. Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory developed a 3 cm 60 milligram robotic fly that had its first successful flight in 2007.3 So, it seems that Moore's law marches on in the world of microbiotics at a doubling of the miniaturization of flying robots every two years. At this rate, we should get to 10 microns by the year 2030. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that black ops military programs are generally considered to be at least 10 years ahead of commercial ventures.

So, it certainly seems that flying nanobots are in our future. This is of significant interest, because it will enable one of the holy grails of nanotech - the Utility Fog. Conceptualized by nanotech pioneer J. Storrs Hall in the 1990s, imagine billions of nanobots, each with the capabilities of flying, linking together, generating electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength (color), and networking to a central host for instructions. Under programmatic control, this nanobot swarm could be instructed to be invisible and then, based upon some logic executed on the controlling machine somewhere, suddenly turn into a wall, a sofa, or an entire room. Some futurists believe that such a concept is inevitable this century. But, why stop at a room? Our old friend, Moore's Law, should make it possible to scale a Utility Fog to a city, or ultimately, an entire reality.

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  1. Farley, Peter, "Programming Advanced Materials," Technology Review, January 31, 2008. [back to text]
  2. Fildes, Jonathan, "Chemical brain controls nanobots," 11 March 2008, [back to text]
  3. [back to text]

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