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Sep 4, 2012

Adding Rooms to the Bottom

I previously mentioned Richard Feynman's famous 1959 lecture "Plenty of Room at the Bottom". In the early stored-program computers of the 1950s storage of a few kilobits of data required bulky electronic devices that today make interesting museum pieces. Feynman said, "There is nothing that I can see in the physical laws that says the computer elements cannot be made enormously smaller than they are now."

How far have we come during my lifetime (1959 - 2012)? The first computer I bought (1985) came with 1,000,000 bytes of RAM in the form of microchips. I now use a USB flash drive that has 8,000,000,000 bytes of storage space.

Photolithography now allows the manufacture of microchip elements on the scale of a few tens of nanometers. Covalent bond lengths are typically just a bit less than a nanometer in length. Important biological structures such as the width of a DNA double helix, the width of a cell membrane and the width of a ribosome are in the range of 2 to 20 nanometers.

We can use a ribosome as a model of an artificial chemical nanite, a molecular machine that we might some day design and use for purposes such as repairing cells (medical nanites).

For stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe I often include nanites as plot elements and I can imagine McCoy sending a swarm of nanites into Chekov's brain where they quickly repair a broken blood vessel. I also like to imagine that swarms of nanites can slip into our brains and modify our mental processes. Also, I imagine that humans could be provided with nanite-based prosthetic devices (such as "facial nanites") that would allow for for shapeshifting disguises and voice alterations.

Hierions and Sedrons However, I'm not satisfied to stop with a nanotechnology that allows for the design and production of molecular machines. I imagine that the Huaoshy long ago developed a sophisticated hierion physics that makes possible a form of matter where the linkages between "atoms" are 12 orders of magnitude smaller than the covalent bonds in conventional matter.

Hierions and sedrons make possible zeptoscale devices that are much smaller than ribosomes. How much smaller?

Think about a 20 nanometer ribosome that builds a protein out of amino acids and compare that to a 5 meter paving machine. The ribosome is about 9 orders of magnitude smaller than the paver.

In my exodemic stories, the most technologically advanced humans (Overseers and Interventionists) are just starting to play around with chemical nanites. The Huaoshy make use of hierion-based artificial lifeforms (femtobots) that are as complex as a human being and which can easily slip right inside a ribosome and take control of which amino acids are built into the growing protein chain. A swarm of Huaoshy femtobots could invade your body and reprogram it to become a completely different organism. The Huaoshy femtobots themselves have true shapeshifting abilities and can form human-sized colonies that take on any convenient physical form.

Sedrons. In Exode, the humans, Fru'Wu and Nereids are starting to play around with hierions and use them for faster-than-light communications. Given enough time, a clever species can fully understand hierions and attain the ability to make femtobots. However, the Huaoshy have one more trick up their sleeves that allows them to trump even advanced hierion technology. By engineering the fundamental structure of space-time, the Huaoshy established for themselves a monopoly on the production of sedronic matter. This allows the Huaoshy to control faster-than-light travel through the universe. Further, there are “array sedrons” that can form a third family of stable molecule-like structures. The bond lengths in sedronic matter are only a few orders of magnitude larger than the Planck length, allowing the Huaoshy to produce a form of artificial life that has components (zeptites) about 12 orders of magnitude smaller than femtobots.

The Huaoshy do not share the secrets of sedrondic matter with more primitive lifeforms, allowing the Huaoshy to exercise essentially god-like power over other species even if they have mastered the use of femtobots. In particular, the Huaoshy control all travel through the universe at faster-than light speeds and they can easily take control of any femtobot or lifeform composed of conventional matter. The term "Huaoshy" essentially refers to a form of sedronic matter that constitutes the form of life that the Huasoshy have become. In practice, primitive creatures such as we Earthlings might just as well refer to the Huaoshy as "god".

Rooms have been added to the bottom
In Exode, the Huaoshy sometimes find it useful to provide some sedrons to primitive species so as to make possible faster-than-light travel. When granting such gifts, the Huaoshy are guided by their ethical rules and so they do not allow primitive lifeforms to even be aware of the fact that the Huaoshy hold god-like powers. Pathney and Koch are searching for the Huaoshy, but all that they really know is that they are trying to solve the mystery of human origins....they have no information about the true nature of the Huaoshy.

Meta-genie
Being the first species to explore sedronic physics allowed the Huaoshy to become masters of the universe. Through long experience of interacting with more primitive species, the Huaoshy learned that is is for the best if primitives like we humans are not aware of the fact that the Huaoshy are responsible for the evolution of our species and our development of a technological civilization.

Although the Huaoshy are all around us (the Huaoshy have become a state of matter that is co-existent with our familiar space-time), they prefer that we entertain ourselves by inventing our own ideas about who -or what- is responsible for our existence. This state of affairs assures that when humanity does make contact with space aliens, the other lifeforms that we come into contact with, even if they are vastly more technologically advanced than we are, will also be mystified by their strangely inexplicable origins.

In his story Little Harmonic Labyrinth, Hofstadter wrote about the idea of a meta-genie, a genie who can be called upon by an ordinary genie to grant "meta-wishes". From the perspective of primitive creatures like we humans, other lifeforms who have mastered the use of hierions seem god-like in their powers, and will be mistakenly thought to have been our creators. For example, in Exode, humans learn that the Nereids have been influencing the course of development of human civilization on Earth. However, those technologically-advance Nerieds know that their own abilities arise from their advanced science and technology and that some other even more advanced force was responsible for their own biological origins. The Nereids have to expend significant effort trying to convince humans that they, the Nereids, are not the god-like creators of humanity.

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