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« Solving Spam | Main | C-R-Newsletter #59 »

November 30, 2007


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John B

Oh, good breakdown. While you seem to me to be missing a couple of critical additional aspects to such devices (primarily the detection & decision making efforts which may eventually be offloaded to non-human systems, sophont or otherwise) it seems on initial thought to be a pretty tight representation of the weapon-space.

More after I've had a bit longer to digest. Thanks for the interesting brain chow as always, Mike.


John B

Re: Signatures. This blurs the line between payload and delivery systems, which have some strong commonalities as well as distinct differences - these need to be addressed both together and seperately, IMO.

Payload *efficiency* is likely to increase with nanotechnology, IMO, but is the total weight that can be carried at high speed going to be really different between, say, an ICBM and a nano-made whatchamawhoozits? If so, it'll be a true engineering feat to accomplish the efficiency ('elegance', I'm tempted to write) of using the Earth's own gravity to help aim the missile.

As such, the raw mass & volume of a payload plus delivery system (at least in the high-performance ballistic role) probably won't change. Where nanotech makes advances here is in the efficiency of that whole system - the delivery system volume & mass may be reduced, making for more space and mass for the payload, which in turn will be more efficient.

MAYBE. Fusion devices are pretty efficient devices and I don't know of any nanotech that proposes to improve fusion bomb efficiency. I don't think I would want to know about such, come to think of it - the current monsters are more'n bad enough.

As such, *if* both payload and delivery systems are more efficient in mass and volume, you're right that the signature will drop due to there being less to notice, even barring the possibility of nanoscience-enhancement 'stealth' technologies.

Now, if you go with slower vehicles, the capabilities nano offers may be improved rather more dramatically. One example may be generating something along the lines of a flying bomb which has swarm-like intelligence across multiple units to replace the bombs in the rack of a bomber. Disperse the bomber's critical capabilities (navigation, fuel/engines/control surfaces, communications) across the bombs and have them fly in a disperse formation (rather than as a single discrete relatively-large point for the bomber), and your signature COULD drop dramatically.

I'm not sure how much more efficient nanotech can make chemical bombs, but one alternative that MIGHT be more efficient would be electrical devices, where nanotech-derived "superbatteries" or "ultracapacitors" or the like store impressive amounts of charge which is released through an appropriate resistor at time of detonation. Note that one simple way to improve capacitors is to set them up to better resist the deformations that large charges incur - perhaps wrapping in buckytube to better compress the material to withstand the pressures generated.

If you choose to forecast insect-sized or smaller devices, I would postulate that they're rather LESS useful than commonly feared, especially once the surprise/novelty value wears off. Small systems don't have the mass to shield themselves from environmental problems. A strong EM field or area generator (sphere or cone, most likely) or sonics could potentially cause small devices MAJOR problems quickly.

I note you skip over the targetting bit. Fair enough. As an aside, I'd point out my bullheadedness above, as those two areas could easily be made to fit into this section, but such is the nature of first impressions. *grin*

I sort of agree with your closing point that nanofacs will change things radically. Mature nanotech certainly will, I agree. The problem is more a question of how long it'll take to reach that mature state. We've discussed this in the past and I am not a believer in your aggressive schedule, I fear, which affects my predictions of the process.

Regarding weapons/systems of mass disruption, that can be the case, but I would also put destruction in there as well. While the effects on survivors are great, so are the effects on the victims. There are times when destruction may be called for and others where disruption may be the preferred method. *shrug* I don't think that cutting the one out is a wise choice at this point.

All in all a very useful set of distinctions, folks. Thanks.

-John B

Tom Craver

Death camps and genocides are not about influencing the survivors.

Jihads and Crusades are not so much about influencing the survivors, as making their wishes irrelevant.

Ultimately, war is about who gets to define reality - even if only for a while.

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