Matthew Prince Lowry, a physics teacher at both the high school and college levels, was the moderator of this interesting, four-person panel held on Saturday, 5:30PM, 202 (Hilton).
The first theory addressed was the Grey Goo Theory. The term was first used by molecular nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler in his book, Engines of Creation (1986). In chapter four of Engines Of Abundance, Drexler illustrated both exponential growth and inherent limits by describing nanomachines that can function only if given special raw materials:
Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself…the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined—if the bottle of chemicals hadn’t run dry long before.
Can we combat this technology? Yes and no. Although there is too much motivation to stop nanotechnology, scientists had developed a Green Goo to combat the effects of the Grey Goo.
The next issue addressed was meters and cosmic debris. The Torino Scale is a method for categorizing the impact hazard associated with Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets. It is intended as a communication tool for astronomers and the public to assess the seriousness of collision predictions by combining probability statistics and known kinetic damage potentials into a single threat value. Scientists have determined there is a keyhole of opportunity to adjust the trajectory of debris. If the threat is detected in advance, a potential disaster can be adverted. The best use of technology for this endeavor is more eyes combing the sky with telescopes.
The last major issue dealt with earthquakes. Although there is no way to stop Mother Nature from wreaking havoc, there are ways to lessen the damages. As one of the panel members noted, “earthquakes don’t kill people. Bad engineering codes kill people.” We need to stop building in flood plains and fault lines, and our buildings need to have reinforcements that will circumvent the effects of earthquakes as much as possible.
We have the technology to deal with these issues, but it seems everyone has their own agenda. If we would all come together, the loss of life and destruction would greatly be reduced.