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I have the idea of using a material that's used in producing blueprints for replicators, due to their high data storage for the properties of the object (such as the formation and state of its molecules and atoms, where parts go, how they're pieced and work together, etc). With the material in question coming from special sources and breaking down after a certain amount of uses due to an unknown method.

However, I'm uncertain of the storage needed for such blueprints of materials and objects, along with wither a civilization can make a material/storage device that would act as a substitute and make this material useless.

Which leads to my question, how much data storage is needed for a blueprint used by a replicator?

Also, here are some examples as a reference for what I need.

The ISS.

Gold.

A-10 warthog.

Carbon-nanotubes.

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean "replicator?" Asked the "Stargate: SG1" fan. Because most things I can think of being called a replicator would not store a blueprint. They'd store a set of instructions for producing a given object. Say it's a super-nifty 3D printer. It would be a lot of move-the-print-head-here and then extrude-this-much-of-material-twelve and this-much-fix-agent-eight and so on. $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Nov 7 '19 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Store them in crystals. 1 crystal per item. Avoid trying to answer how much storage a crystal is capable of. The answer is always 1 item. $\endgroup$
    – Trevor
    Nov 7 '19 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @puppetsock Sorry, my mistake. I'm referring to replicators like the ones in Startrek. $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '19 at 19:54
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Depends on whether your replicator is taking "shortcuts".

If you faithfully reproduce every atom, then, as @Trevor stated in his answer, you'd need to document every atom. To put this into perspective, Avogadro constant (a number of atoms/molecules in 1 mol of substance) is 6.02214076×1023, so you need a similar number of bytes to fully describe pocket-size items. This is close to a Yottabyte (1024 bytes or one trillion terabytes) and exceeds all amount of data stored in the world as of today (2019). If you want to recreate larger items (like ISS), you'd need proportionally more data, in the range of 1000s of yottabytes (a prefix larger than yotta- is not commonly adopted yet).

However, data storage can be optimized. If you don't need the exact, but just an approximate copy of an item, required data can be shrunk dramatically. For example, if you want faithfully reproduce a gold bar, you'd need yottabytes worth of information. But if you take advantage of the fact that your object is nearly pure gold, you'd need just record its imperfections, which should bring down the required information to a range of gigabytes and maybe megabytes.

Similarly, for ISS you may want to record that this part of the object is "aluminum" and ignore all specific atom information. Overall, this can be well handled by a modern computer with 1 terabyte data storage or even less.

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  • $\begingroup$ What if you were to build an object with existing materials? Like say, instead of making the materials for a plane and then making the plane, you're just making the plane? What would be the data amount? $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '19 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Caveknight32 those would be known as traditional blueprints and it strongly depends on what materials we are starting with. For a plane, we can start with prefabricated parts, or with bulk duralumin, or with raw ores. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 7 '19 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ How about raw ores? $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '19 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Caveknight32 in that case the blueprints should include blueprints for alumina ore refinery and aluminum smelters, among other things. Given the fact that those plants are constructed using concrete, steel and various machinery, we need to include pretty much all of the human technical knowledge into this blueprint. If you still asking "how much data?", I'd guess "terabytes", if concise, and "petabytes", if detailed. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 7 '19 at 22:04
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If your replicator needs a literal bitmap for every atom possible in an object. You would need to store 7 bits (maybe future proof it with 8 bits in case we find a lot more elements) for every atom in the object.

Then it's simple multiplication to calculate atoms * 8 bits

Then we need to store the location in 3D Space of each atom. The actual unit of measurement is whatever you want. Then pick a number of bits to hold that number, and multiply again.

I can't help you more than this though unless you can say how many atoms are in an A-10 Warthog and their groupings by element.

And for the gradual decay, just say the spatial measurements aren't exact enough, so eventually it falls apart.


But, if your blueprints are calculated on the fly, then the storage space is very very small by comparison.

Taking your gold bar for example. The computer needs to know how to make a single atom of gold. Then it needs to know how many of them to string together for length, width and height. And done, easy. Calculate the position of every atom based on the desired length, width and height. (This is basically how a PNG image file is compressed)

Scale this up for a more complicated object.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's all well and good until he wants make a bar of uranium. You'd need a lot more bits per atom to account for possible or even reasonable isotopes. Similarly, any radiometric dating technique would be impossible on replicated items $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '19 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Punintended Each bit just says which atom it is. It doesn't describe it. But your right, if you want to describe the atom perfectly, you would need a lot more data. $\endgroup$
    – Trevor
    Nov 7 '19 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Trevor the "atom" part refers more to the materials that make-up the A-10 than the A-10 itself, and the molecule part refers to the material's shape and how it interacts with other materials. $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '19 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ This is serious overkill. Current day manufacturing doesn't store things at the atom scale and the examples given by OP are all things that were produced using much less information than you're talking about. $\endgroup$
    – Muuski
    Nov 7 '19 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Caveknight32 What does "some examples as a reference for what I need" mean then if it's not actually something you need? $\endgroup$
    – Muuski
    Nov 7 '19 at 21:11

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