Thursday, November 20, 2008

Droubble: Power of Two

Power of Two

The device doesn’t look like much at first glance – just a flimsy-looking construction of different-sized tubes, dull-grey in color, larger tubes branching into smaller and smaller tubes. Yet your eye can’t quite focus on its extremeties.

“It’s almost perfectly fractal,” says the scientist. “Each branch splits into two equal branches, and so forth down to the atomic scale. Now watch this.”

He turns a switch, and a purplish light bathes the chamber. “The device is powered on ultraviolet light – sunlight would do.” As you watch, the branches begin moving. It’s hard to observe the progress, like watching the hour hand of a clock, but sure enough, the chamber wall seems to be corroded where the thing sits, and a copy of the device is taking form.

The scientist turns the switch again, and the light goes off.

“I don’t exactly see how this is so dangerous. Yes, it replicates, but so slowly. It must take at least half an hour to make a full copy.”

“Do you know how many times a hundred-gram device needs to double to consume the mass of the earth?”

“How many?”

“Shy of eighty-six.”


“Two days, sir.”

“I see.”

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