People recently discovered an amazing technological - medical procedure, that allows them to shrink a living creature proportionally by a factor of 18.
Lets call it small-sizing. It shrinks all organs proportionally in all dimensions. The alteration is permanent. No one has succeeded at small-sizing a creature twice yet.

So a 6ft human weighting 200 lbs (90 kg) becomes 4 inches (10 cm) tall 0.54 ounces (15 g) by square cube law.

Would people be able to survive in this new state? How would it change how modern militaries fight, would they use small-sized soldiers?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The shrinking part reminds me of the movie Downsizing. Can your small people also downsize the technology they use? this has historically been a huge barrier to computing and modern equipment. Otherwise, my giant people 18X your size and available in the same numbers are going to be much more effective. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Oct 15 '19 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ We already got a couple question about the scientific plausibility of tiny humans, like this one, for example (tl;dr: It requires a lot of handwaving and magic). I would recommend to edit the question to focus only on the military aspects. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Oct 15 '19 at 8:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not possible, unless you plan to somehow also shrink atoms and molecules. Red blood cells at 18X linear shrink would end up only about 150nm thick around the outside, maybe 60nm thick in the middle. That's not even enough room to hold one chromosome at anaphase, to say nothing of having enough room for metaphase and division. $\endgroup$ – J... Oct 15 '19 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ You could arrive at a nice round 10 centimeters of height if you used the international standard units. Just saying, maybe it's an incentive… ;) $\endgroup$ – Fabian Röling Oct 15 '19 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ The mass balance always gets me in these size change fantasies, Will the mass evaporate or the density increase? What sort of matter will they eat, what do you do with super dense poo? $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Oct 16 '19 at 6:21

People would not be able to survive in such state or be intelligent without magic.

If we handwave surviving, those "small people" would be perfect pilots (less cockpit weight, higher G-tolerance) and tank crew (smaller crew space = thiker armor). Those mashines would be like very smart drones. Reconnaissance is also perfectly suited for small people.

As for infantry - they would be bad soldiers and not-so-good special forces, due to small weight and size of equipment they can handle (yes, they could be poison-assassins, but would have troubles with capturing and interrogating enemy commanders, or delivering enough HE, or taking out personel from a distance, but cutting wires - that would be their best).

But you will need "small guards" against such an infiltrators. Full-size humans may have troubles with spoting and hunting them in some urban areas.

UPD: The best use for those minipeople would be space exploration. They would easily establish Moon and even Mars minicolonies - roket to send them to space would be hundred times lighter (and cheaper) than we use to send normal people

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ The small guard problem is largely solved. A bunch of terriers would do, I'd say. They'd be goddamn terrifying. Very fast, good sense of smell, they can jump, dig, swim... they wouldn't be frightened of you, and you'd have a job hurting them with mini antitank weapons. They'd be like hairy terminators, only more alarming. Birds of prey have already been trained to hunt quadcopters, if you thought flying will save you. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 15 '19 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime, what your terriers would do against minishotguns in a face? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_gun can kill a human, not saying a dog or bird. And thanks to that square cube law that minsoldiers would be able to manipulate weights equal and exceeding there own with ease. So, yes, terriers are must have in such a world, but regular basements, sewer and ventilation patrols are also requied. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Oct 15 '19 at 11:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nothing to stop you training your dogs to carry armour. Don't need very much, after all. As an alternative, you could use weasels instead... mustelids are notoriously nasty, being largely fearless and requiring considerable force to put down for good. I wouldn't want to rely on a minirifle in that situation , quite frankly. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 15 '19 at 11:18

They won't be able to survive.

Assuming they are spherical, the surface to volume ratio for the normal one will be 0.03, while the same ratio for the thiny one will be 0.56.

This means they will lose heat 20 times faster than normal, or alternatively that to keep the same body temperature they would need a metabolic rate 20 times faster.

That might be sustainable for a short time, but not for long.

Dead soldiers have no use on the battlefield, and these ones, being also small, would not even serve as emergency-but-ethically-questionable barricade or repair building material.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ We've actually got some quite good insulation technology these days. People have survived outdoors in an antarctic winter, after all. Miniaturised vehicles would certainly solve the issue. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 15 '19 at 8:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If they've become spherical I think they've got problems even before dying $\endgroup$ – Josh Oct 15 '19 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Josh, even assuming they are cylinders the ratio scales about a factor 20. Sphere makes calculation easier. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 15 '19 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ While this shows that just a size change is not enough, the vast majority of creatures live just fine in that size range or even smaller. It is megafauna like us who are unusual. Though there are consequences - for mammals, life span appears to be inversely proportional to metabolic rate, $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Oct 15 '19 at 16:56

Modern military strategy is based on using 'the right tool for the right job'. So are there any jobs (ie scenarios) where a 10cm-tall biped with human intelligence is the right tool?

Imagine scaling up by a factor of 18 everything you might find on the battlefield, and weight proportionally. Most obstacles then become significantly more challenging to overcome, not less. Your downsized humans would move much more slowly and be blocked by obstacles as mundane as kerbstones, drains and tyre ruts. Infantry soldiers they will not make.

However, there are some obstacles that become less obstructive at scale, not more. Barbed wire and chainlink fences are trivial, ordinary drainpipes are navigable, meaning that the sort of building infiltrations you see in Mission Impossible (who actually builds buildings with aircon ducting that large?!) become completely viable.

Your downsized humans won't be soldiers. They'll be infiltrators.

Whether special forces, secretive government agency or high-level crime, your tiny people are best suited to entering non-battlefield environments, where there aren't insurmountable piles of rubble or dangerous obstacles like puddles or fallen branches. Once in place they could easily infiltrate server rooms (where they can get inside server cabinets if required), photograph secret plans (the smallest modern cameras would be similar in equivalent size to video cameras from the '90s) or conduct cyber-espionage or cyber-warfare (deploying a payload on a USB stick the size of a rucksack which they have to hammer into the slot). There are also plenty of poisons of which a downsized human can carry a lethal dose, for occasional assassinations.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.