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So, turning people into stone. You only have to add reversibility to the mix, and it becomes the BEST paramedical tool available.

But, what does petrification need to accomplish to become just that?

Well, it has to "freeze" (read: prevent its molecules and cells from decaying) the body as it was as fast as possible, starting with the brain, as that's the one thing you can't replace. This will most likely be done by nanomachines, son. It's also pivotal for the frozen body to remain stable for long enough, even in harsher environments.

I wanted to resolve that issue with a "mantle" of utility fog that would condense around the body and give it that stony texture, but I keep that for another question.

Now, I know the criteria, but I don't know one important thing. How would the nanites be able to "freeze" an animal's body?

To be clear, the tissues don't fossilize. As far as the exact method goes, I've no clue, that's why I asked the question. You don't have to take even freeze literally. If there's a method that accomplishes the points in the criteria (preventing the cells from decaying), that's good enough.

Oh look, I found a useful link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixation_(histology)

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify? -- Do you actually mean "turn into stone" (that's what "stonify" implies); or do you actually mean "therapeutic hypothermia" (a cooling, but not utterly immobile); or do you actually mean "so frozen the subatomics don't even jiggle about any more"? $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 7 '20 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ Petrification (or petrifaction, both forms are in use). And if the molecules don't move (much), then that is freezing quite literally. With the associated side effects, such as water expanding it's volume etc. The workaround is to mix something into the water so that it remains liquid at low temperatures, but unfortunately, first, you must bring that anti-freeze from somewhere (hence, not something which can be done by nanobots all by themselves), and, second, most such substances are very poisonous. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 7 '20 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ So basically, you want to replicate Dr. Stone? $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Apr 7 '20 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Xavon_Wrentaile That's what I had in mind, yes. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 8 '20 at 0:46
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It doesn't work without magic

There's a concept in biology calling homeostasis, which roughly translates to 'the body constantly needs to self-regulate everything or die'. That being the case, any method of 'preserving' a human being will interfere with homeostasis (read: because you've stopped in completely) and thus the target human will be dead. Not to mention that most methods of preserving humans won't work.

Flash freezing is out right off the bat - it causes blood to crystallize and causes irreversible damage that way. If you want to get a little more science fiction, you can turn the subject's carbon to diamond and petrify him that way - obviously we're using soft science here - but that will also cause irreversible damage. If you decide that you've somehow created a tractor beam that can stop every single motion in the human body at room temperature, then that's fine-ish, except if you want to restart the homeostasis process. This would be somewhat difficult, considering that by stopping everything you've deprived the target of all the kinetic energy everywhere and if you aren't careful about how you put that kinetic energy back in, the patient will likely die. (And if you can somehow build a device which can map out and control all the vectors of all the molecules in a human body at will, then that same device can be used for more or less everything. Not to mention that it's game-breakingly powerful)

The only true way to freeze a person without causing them any harm is to send them hurtling through space at insane speeds. That is, the faster you go, the slower time goes for you. Thus, accelerating someone to ludicrous percentages of c will 'freeze' them from the perspective of someone not at that speed and preserve them until they can get medical help. Unfortunately, I can't see a way of having nanites have the ability to do this to someone, and even if they could, given that this isn't the vacuum of space but a planet with things like atmosphere on it, the results would be ... slightly problematic.

Unfortunately, Clarke's Third Law isn't universal. There's not a way to make every magic and myth perfectly replicable by science. Humans are very complex and biology doesn't take kindly to being screwed up without serious repercussions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I updated the question, can you take a look at the link? I'm not sure which method would be the most usable, if at all. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 8 '20 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ The link is how to preserve biological tissue by 'terminating ongoing biological reactions'. In other words, killing the subject. None of those would be usable. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Apr 8 '20 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't you just restart those processes later? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 8 '20 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ No. To clarify, those processes are akin to smashing a watch to preserve the time it held, except what you've also done is melted the inside to a single mass so it can't move, and it's on a microscopic scale. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Apr 8 '20 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ Flash freezing works as long your nanites can prevent crystal formation, there are real life animals that freeze solid by containing proteins that prevent crystal formation, in effect they freeze into ice glass like instead of normal ice. the nanites would also take care of the reverse problem, warming the body evenly instead of from the outside in. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 8 '20 at 20:23
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If we don't want to freeze a person, but want a similar effect to a super-powered medically induced coma, we'll still want to stop enzymes in the body cold (pardon pun). Without enzymatic action, energy utilization drops to near zero, proteins stop being broken down, food isn't broken down, etc. It won't be as good as very low temps, but nanites could be tailor-made to block enzyme activity. There would have to be a way to reverse the effects easily and jump-start the body. Various physical problems (undigested food, fluid settling, bacterial attack) would each need a solution. Nanites might be able to chill the body anyway like tiny refrigerators, and this would also slow residual metabolism down (giving a cold, stone-like feel to the body...) One issue would be protecting the skin from damage, and here the nanites could construct a sort of shell around the person to block mechanical damage and facilitate non-destructive movement (ie stonification!). If you had nanites that could do all that, you probably either wouldn't have biology like we understand (major biochemical functions would be entirely nanomolecular) or else they could repair damage to someone so quickly they wouldn't need preservation. But for the right kind of damage, this is how I would go.

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