james debate
james debate

Thursday 10 July 2008

This is officially the coolest thing ever. It may sound like science fiction when you read it, but this is real, this is being developed, and this is a taste of what the future holds. So anyone with even a vague interest in medical science or cutting edge technologies, or even just really cool things that they might one day be able to experience, please read on, and enjoy.

Anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of nanotechnology, essentially it describes a new branch of technological developments that are currently being researched into (and are currently merely hypothetical). The idea involves being able to build and operate technology on a nano scale, ie measured in nanometres. A nanometre is one billionth of a metre (0.000000001) or less a thousandth the size of a normal blood cell. The technology for this is only in its infancy, but with the capabilities of what we can do in science increasing at an exponential rate (computer chips roughly double in power every year or two, life expectancy has increased by 3 months in the past year) many experts in the field forecast that we can expect to see results within the next 15-20 years.

The potential applications of such technology are near limitless and offer up promises of wonders and miracles that could only be dreamed of a few years ago. In this article I wish to discuss one such application, the respirocyte.

A respirocyte is basically an artificial red blood cell a micron in diameter, a spherical nanorobot consisting of a pressure tank that can be filled with oxygen and carbon dioxide and emulate the functions of a natural haemoglobin containing red blood cell, only with approximately 200 times the efficiency. It only takes someone with a vague background knowledge of biology to imagine what this can do. With such efficient oxygen delivery to tissues, theoretically one could hold one's breath under water for hours, or run at top speed for incredible distances without becoming breathless. Such technology has the potential to expand an ordinary human's abilities considerably beyond normal limits.

So what are the problems? Well as I said the technology is still a good few years away. One has to consider potential issues like power supply, toxicity, computation and communication, not to mention social issues such as cost. But nonetheless, these thoughts of the technological advances that can now be reasonably expected in the near future should excite and interest all the geeks out there. It is an exciting time for science, especially if technology continues to increase at the rate it is currently, and I hope you can all see that. Imagine what the world was like in 1998 compared to now and I think you'll realize that things have changed considerably. In 1998 we were still using 56k dial up modems, I didn't even OWN a mobile phone, and watching your favorite football team on the telly was a luxury as you only had one or two games on one or two channels to choose from. Now the world is wirelessly linked with ultra fast internet and tiny mobile phones that can play music, videogames, use internet, take photos and more. Now we have sky digital with 30 different sports channels and every single game every week on demand. I was stunned by my brother's computer with an amazingly huge 3gb harddrive, now I have 2tb (2000gbs) on mine. The world has and continues to change at an ever greater rate and this will continue into the future, promising great things.

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