How much energy can dust-sized computers harvest from sun and motion, and how much work can they do with it?


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/30/how-much-energy-can-dust-sized.html


#2

I had imagined a cloud of dust around a star, even somehow lensing and refracting the light like some diffuse Dyson sphere.

But nano-dust everywhere on earth harvesting energy seems like the absolute end of privacy. Even if the nodes don’t have cameras, surely they could capture positional, vector information?

Anyway, here’s to powering the future, dystopian hell with our own flatulence. :beers:


#3

Vernor Vinge, paging Professor Vinge, you’re needed in the locator laboratory.


#4

That might happen. But, this kind of speculation often hand-waves details that turn out to be pretty fundamental. Like when nineties nano-hype meets 19th-century thermodynamics.

In a similar vein, plans for mesh-networked smart dust tend not to grapple with the fact that it’s inescapably very hard to interact with radio signals whose wavelength is orders of magnitude bigger than you are (for reference, typical wi-fi waves are around 10cm long). And from simple geometry, very loosely speaking, when you make something half as big you make its transmissions one-eighth as powerful, so as you make network nodes smaller and more numerous you will hit a wall in terms of both transmission range and latency.

While dust networks might give the internet more fingers, its load-bearing limbs will probably always be large-scale hardware, even if that means boulders of computronium that assemble themselves out of airborne dust computers. In other words, there’s no danger that it will become the invisible magic field that many sci-fi authors depict: it’s fundamentally a substantial piece of infrastructure, like sewers.


#5

Vernor Vinge has mysteriously disappeared


#6

Careful. tv shows prove that if you’ve got little nanites, then you’ve got big nanite problems.


#7

HRM.

Keyword recognition. Context. Word-crime.


#8

Now, are we sure that building something like Hactar is a good idea?


#9

I remember the days when computers were state machines. Now it seems like they are turning into fairly secure random number generators.


#11

Digital Mycelium?


#12

If dust and flatulence are all it’s going to take, I’m going to be bigger than Google.


#13

Watta coinkydink, I’d just been thinking about that very thing. Yeah, I do think a fungal internet seems more realistic and less disturbing than an airborne internet.


#14

Spore ‘packets’ leveraging air currents for transport. Air current patterns can be derived through tracking received-spore distribution over network nodes. Requires fast RNA/DNA transcription… or some other form of chemical/nano encoding… Large file transport goes down when there’s no wind…

SPORE CANNONS!


#15

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