Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Aaron's Journal: The Power of Nanites


During my freshman year at MIT, most of the guys in my dorm would stay up insanely late trying to think up an idea that would change the world. Unfortunately, this pursuit usually just turned into betting someone to do something stupid. Case in point, I remember one night I bet my friend Gary 50 bucks that he couldn't down three flaming vodka shots in under a minute. He gladly accepted the challenge and we set them ablaze. However, as we were stupid college freshmen, we didn't know that you have to blow out the flame before drinking and sadly, Gary didn't realize this until it was too late. Terrified, he spit the vodka out - momentarily resembling a screaming dragon - and lit the common room ping-pong table on fire. Luckily, someone else grabbed a fire extinguisher while I hid in the corner laughing, fairly certain I had just witnessed the best fire story of my life.

I was wrong. Yesterday, I saw two men spontaneously combust in front of me. Apparently the nanites that are constantly absorbing the flow of electricity are also able to expel it on command, turning our would-be rapists into Kentucky-fried Militia. Sorry, Gary. Dr. Warren wins. But what has really boggled my mind since witnessing this event is - the Blackout is potentially the LEAST amazing thing these little machines can do.

I mean if these things are everywhere - and I mean EVERYWHERE - the possibilities are limitless. Medically, we could wipe out sickness and disease. Ischemic heart disease? Nanites could clear your arteries in a day. HIV? Who needs white blood cells when you've got little robots fighting infection for you? And cancer? Well, it wouldn't stand a chance against machines that eat tumors for breakfast.

As a weapon - I have a feeling Private Burns and Private Ash were just the tip of the iceberg. My friends are back east, wandering the countryside, searching for a nuclear weapon - and I've found something that makes it look like a blowgun. Warheads are useless when you have the potential to neutralize irradiated uranium anywhere on the planet.

But even with all the ungodly scary ideas bouncing through my head at the moment, there's a potential for miracles. In agriculture, we could purify contaminated water, replenish dead soil and breakdown waste - almost instantly. By changing things at the atomic level, we could literally turn charcoal into diamonds - or make better, brand new materials. Hell, if we want to get crazy, we could give ourselves new abilities. Imagine nanites oxygenating your blood, practically allowing you to breathe underwater. We could reinforce our skin to live in more aggressive climates. We could change our eyes to see at night. And... I'm just getting started.

Since the Blackout, I've dreamed of a day when the lights would come back on. But if these things are what I think they are, this quest isn't just about putting things back the way they were - it's about finding a way to make the world better than it ever was before.