Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Nano Wood Chip

About twelve years ago I stumbled across a mildly interesting book written by a guy named Eric Drexler back in the mid Eighties.  The book, which is still available through Amazon, was called the Engines of Creation.  Drexler is passionate about the potential for nanotechnology in all of its forms and his book took hold of my attention because much of what he forecast sounded like Science Fiction, and for a fledgling Sci Fi writer that was an interesting thing to read about.

Fromn recollection, although Drexler recognised that most of the potential benefits were many years away, he clearly believed they would be realised in time.  And while some aspects have borne fruit, especially in the realms of computer chips, most of the predictions have stayed unfulfilled (unless they are being developed in secret in a lab somewhere - plausible, I guess).

Among the many potential uses for the technology that stuck in my memory, the ones that come to mind most easily were about self erecting structures, which would be pre-programmed to create emergency accommodation using local materials.  The way Drexler saw it, the people who are rendered homeless after a tragedy such as the Japanese earthquake a couple of years ago, would have temporary shelters created quickly using nano bots.

He also mooted about the potential for nano bots to change the colour of your walls to suit your mood and preference.  A good day for time-poor people, a bad day for Dulux, I guess.  However I'm not aware that any of this has got any closer than a pipe dream formulated in 1986.  I found myself recalling this potential labour saving process today while I laboriously scraped away at wood chip wallpaper used to cover what used to the be ceiling of the built-in, now thoroughly demolished, wardrobe in my master bedroom.

If there ever was a time that I wished technology would hurry up, it was today.  For those who have never tried to remove aged wood chip wallpaper, just think about the strength of the adhesive they developed to keep the heat tiles fixed to the Space Shuttle, then double it.  I hadn't thought that Drexler's ideas were anything more than a pie in the sky concept that might feed itself into a Sci Fi novel before, but the effort needed to remove the old wood chip wallpaper made me want Drexler to be right, right now.

Unfortunately I don't think I'll see nano paint that changes colour in my lifetime, but I'm fairly certain that if I pop into B & Q tomorrow (or Home Depot if I should find myself drifting over the Atlantic overnight) then I'll find wood chip wallpaper for sale, ready to cause an inordinate amount of grief to someone in twenty years' time.  Perhaps we need a compromise - nano engineered wood chip wallpaper that removes itself when the owner of the room it's used in gets some taste and decides to replace it with something a tad more tasteful.

Or perhaps I ought to read up Drexler's book again and use the concept in a Sci Fi novel?

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