4
$\begingroup$

Let me pitch you a setting: a scientific prodigy with not a lot of common sense decides to release a horde of nanotech dissasemblers into the environment.

These "dissasemblers" can dissasemble ANY organic/inorganic compound into their core components... and yes, This DOES include Humans too

(and any form of organic/inorganic life in general).

Anyway my question is -- what type of material(s) could scientists create that would be immune to the abilities of the dissasemblers?

Note: If it's scientifically IMPOSSIBLE to create a material that's immune to nanotechnological dissasembly that's okay.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If they are programmed to disassemble everything. Would they not disassemble themselves? $\endgroup$ – Ruslan Jan 16 '17 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ This is answered by What would it take to purposefully bring about the end of the world by "gray goo"? - your nanotechnological disassemblers are not at all science-based, so in order to combat handwavium disassemblers you simply need more handwavium. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Jan 16 '17 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ See Wil McCarthy's Bloom. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 16 '17 at 17:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ An indefinitely long single chain polymer. it's already in its core components. Just trap the grey goo inside and prey the plastic never cracks... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Jan 26 '17 at 2:23

11 Answers 11

27
$\begingroup$

Your ruleset has put you in a corner. You state that they can disassemble "ANY organic/nonorganic compound into their core components." The typical definition of "nonorganic" is "any compound which is not organic." By logic, that says your nanomachines can disassemble "ANY compound into its core components."

Thus, by straightforward logic, no material is immune. I don't even need science, just logic.

Now of course, the issue is that you handwaved the disassemblers, giving them capabilities without considering that you might need to limit those capabilities. The best way to make a compound which is immune to the disassemblers is to decide, as an author, that a compound is immune to disassembly by these disassemblers. This can either be a limitation of them, or a design choice.

An amusing variant of this might be to have a material which mimics the signature of a nano disassembler, and have the disassemblers programmed to ignore each other. This is a very reasonable desire for a nano disassembler... it's expensive to have them keep eating each other. If your material fools them into not disassembling it, that's as good as having a material that they can't disassemble!

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Wow. You took this trainwreck of a question of a question and made an AWESOME answer out of it $\endgroup$ – AnAspiringAuthor Jan 16 '17 at 2:53
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ One of my friends penned it best: "When you can't find a solution to the problem at hand, reframe the problem." Quite often we get trapped on the wrong question. It's human nature! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 16 '17 at 2:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ my god. that is an AMAZING quote! would you mind If I used it in a short story? $\endgroup$ – AnAspiringAuthor Jan 16 '17 at 2:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "decide, as an author, that a compound is immune to disassembly by these disassemblers" I did that in one of my stories. I picked vinegar because it was something easy to have around the lab and, if they got loose, you could direct the public to deploy quantities of it. It was just programmed in by the original designer of the disassembler because he's absent minded, not an idiot, and because nothing works on the first try, so he needed a way to clean up his mistakes. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 16 '17 at 3:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JamesTrotter I think a lot of patterns like that are similar. They may even be the same thing, depending on how you choose to draw up the definitions (I have a long rant about named logical fallacies related to this, which I am suppressing). One thing I don't like about the way the X/Y problem is typically worded is that it tends to imply that you have a good understanding of what X is before you substitute Y for it. I think often we don't even know what X is. The concept of "reframing the problem" works well in this case. The X/Y approach can work, or it can fail miserably, depending.. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 16 '17 at 17:04
10
$\begingroup$

Cover the material with a layer of disassemblers programmed to only disassemble disassemblers and nothing else. This will tend to make materials be immune to the fearful depredations of rogue disassemblers.

For human beings and other living creatures they will have to wear garments similarly coated with antidisassembler disassemblers.

Of course, this method can be used to either eliminate or ameliorate the disassembler plague. Simply, unleash large numbers of antidisassembler disassemblers to hunt down all rogue disassemblers.

Sometimes it's the simplest answers, you know. Need more be said? Not really.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And brings up a whole slew of potential story elements around different offensive/defensive nanotechnology/having suitably upgraded defences. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 16 '17 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs You betcha! Any good worldbuilding solution should always open up new story possibilities. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 16 '17 at 11:54
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "Terribly sorry, I've got to cancel our date. I need to upgrade to the LZ Mk III defensive package, or I won't have a face left by the time I reach the restaurant..." $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 16 '17 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs No wonder it's so hard for a girl to get a date. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 16 '17 at 12:35
7
$\begingroup$

My answer is similar to that of a4android's; you should coat stuff, but not with "disassembler-disassemblers". Simply program your regular disassemblers to accept a stop signal and then coat whatever you want to keep from getting eaten with a layer containing this stop signal. It could either be nano sized rfid tags (which sends an actual stop signal) or a custom "nanobot antibody" structure (which physically creates a stop signal). They are to be spread evenly on the protected surface, creating a surface structure1 with the stop signal. Both the rfid and the antigen version could look, be produced, and be spread similarly, but with the following differences:

The nano rfid tag would need some sort of power source (maybe they need a battery, maybe they could convert kinetic energy to power). They would be programmable to send various signals, such as "do not eat before [date]" or "may only be disassembled by [version of disassembler]", and this signal can be changed or turned off by a programmer (and, thus, also a hacker). They would potentially be vulnerable to EMP or other disruptive signals.

The nanobot antibody would have a fixed signal as it would be difficult to change the structure once it's been deployed. Would work as a real antibody: when a disassembler get close to the antibody, it would have an antigen which fits the antibody and, upon a match, the disassembler would leave the structure alone. These too would be possible to have in various shapes so that they can send various messages to the disassemblers. It would be more difficult to tamper with them and they would not require any power sources.

In either way, it's safer than a "disassembler-disassembler" as you do not risk that they go rogue. However, their effectiveness of course depends on if the disassembler actually respect the stop signal. If a terrorist organization want to spread destruction, they would of course try to make a version which ignores the stop signal. Whether the stop signal can be enforced or not would depend on how easy it is to produce the disassemblers, maybe only a select few companies are capable of producing them, as well as how the global standard of assembler tech looks like, although I would guess that with such technology global legislation would be that they have to be produced so that they can be stopped so you don't risk getting a grey goo scenario


1: I used the computer generated image of a lotus leaf as it was the first image I found in the public domain which looked like I wanted to show; the surface bumps would represent the protective coating while the water droplets would represent the disassemblers. This type of structure can already today be engineered and sprayed onto surfaces.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Pleasantly surprised that your answer riffs off mine. Stop signals are what sensible people install in potentially dangerous technology. The OP's scientific prodigy who released the disassemblers doesn't like that sort of person. Perhaps these are prototype disassemblers, before they added the safety features. Anyway I like sensible answers. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 16 '17 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Best answer is always an iteration of a rip-off; great minds think alike, and all that. ;) It is true, though, that the lack of common sense of OP's character might pose a big enough threat to security as, as you say, he might not think about stop signals before releasing them. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Jan 16 '17 at 13:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How could anyone disagree with such a cogent argument. It occurred to me after your answer that antidisassemblers might do a better job if they reprogrammed rogue disassemblers to becoming antidisassemblers with a stop signal. Great ideas are often nothing more than lots of good ideas put together in the right way. Your ideas gave me other ideas, and I'm sure other people will improve on those too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 17 '17 at 0:07
4
$\begingroup$

One possibility would be some sort of active material that reacts to the presence of disassemblers by destroying them.

For example, by their nature many nanomachines are highly sensitive to electrical pulses. So design the material so that it releases an electric or microwave pulse if it gets deformed at an atomic scale in the way the disassemblers would deform it when trying to consume it.

Another type of active material that could work would be a material composed of special-purpose disassemblers designed specifically to disassemble the disassemblers before they can disassemble the disassembler disassemblers (sorry, couldn't resist). This material could even incorporate the material from the disassemblers to grow.

Yet another sort of active material is one that injects a virus that reprograms the disassemblers. This could then re-purpose them to help infect or destroy other disassemblers.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

If any material can be disassembled, it seems like your only defense would be some sort of electromagnetic containment.

In industry, we have computer chips that if exposed to light automatically toast themselves... this allows the development of chips built with sensitive patent information to be shipped out and not reverse engineered by competition. You probably don't want the disassemblers to be subject to just UV, but maybe a specific wavelength or pulsed IR with a specific pulse pattern.

On the magnetic containment side, you might be able to isolate a lab or building or something -- there's a lot of weird stuff you can do with magnets, like hold a fusion reaction without any physical supports. Under this category, there's lots of hard-science options all the way over to "it's an EM force field, just like Star Trek!"

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

A common sense approach seems to be to create nanotech assemblers that assemble the disassembled pieces as fast as the disassemblers can disassemble them.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Either

  1. We all wall around with nano-bots of our own which attack the offending bots.
  2. We carry devices which emit and EMP field around us and our things that is strong enough to fry them. Lucky being so small, the EMP field shouldn't have to be very strong.
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

What do you mean by 'core components'? If you gave them water do they give you Hydrogen and Oxygen.

If they break things down to an elemental level, can they be drawn to something made of a single element but coated in whatever they are designed target by preference?

i.e. lure them onto an insulated sheet of copper for an electric shock or whatever is more realistic/appropriate.

I am assuming these things were made for a purpose beyond consuming an entire planet.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

ICE

Rather than hand waving a random material to be immune (like platinum tanks in 007 Everything or Nothing) temperature could be a reasonable alternative. Make the nanobots unable to operate below (or above...) a given temperature, so anything cold enough is safe. This is what they did in Agent Cody Banks.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Building on @JohnLow's answer, of building nano-assemblers to undo the disassembler damage, your young world killer ends up condemned to an eternal hell of his own creation.

As the world melts into goo around him, the assemblers which he consumed before starting nanogeddon, feverishly reassemble him over and over again. Throughout the end of the world and for a universe-age afterwards, the disassemblers shred his nerves while the assemblers put them back together. This leaves him in unending agony without any hope of escape. Even death cannot save him since the assemblers repair all damage to his body whether it is caused by the disassemblers or not.

This doesn't really answer the OP's question, but it will probably give me nightmares for a quite while.

Pleasant Dreams!

$\endgroup$
-1
$\begingroup$

Genetic manipulation.

Everything is made of an organic material that has a super high regeneration rate. It regenerates faster than it can be disassembled.

This ability can then be used in an altered illness to spread the manipulation to all living tissue.

Through cell manipulation different building materials can be developed to excel at different types of situations, some cells that are incredibly heat resistant or durable.

You could add to the story that if the inhabitants get off the planet they can become immortal or even spread the disassemblers to other planets.

$\endgroup$

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.