the Construction Nanites

Really, we’re just showing off some artwork we’ve just made here. We don’t have a lot to say otherwise at the moment.

Kind of like the Bussard collectors, the Sunspot’s construction nanites are a science fiction trope that in reality will never likely work the way they’re depicted in the stories. Because they are a McGuffin chosen to explain the mechanisms in our stories that resemble the events and powers we have in our dreams at night, we give them a lot of abilities that are miraculous. And we lean, not on the work of physicists for that, but all the science fiction authors that came before us. But, damn, do we wish we could inhabit a nanite exobody in real life, right?

Anyway. Our first conceptualization of them was based on something we read in Discover Magazine in the ’90s regarding Bucky balls. Bucky balls are 60 carbon atom molecules that someone briefly thought, “this could be the shell of a nanorobot!”

But, holy shit, have you read about how Bucky balls interact with things like the human body and sunlight? We just did. Today. It’s not pretty. It’s interesting and potentially useful, but also really dangerous.

They break down into something toxic in sunlight, and they tend to collect in the liver, both of which are bad. But if you have undegraded Bucky balls in an oil solution, they can be used as an anti-oxident.

None of these things strike us, in our amateur eyes, as being terribly useful for our kind of super nanites. Also, they are probably way too small for what we want to cram into them.

So, we went from a Bucky ball based design to something constructed more like a cross between a virus and a bacteria, that’s maybe a bit bigger than your average bacteria (but smaller than a typical human cell). But not until after writing several novels in which they’re described as being graphite colored.

But, carbon can still be involved, probably, just not as Bucky balls. Because carbon is involved in viruses and bacteria, and what if these things were some kind of weird mix of engineered biology and crafted metal technology?

So, anyway, then we thought Icosahedron with tubes with grippy things on the ends of them, because bacteriophages are the shit.

Well, what we ended up creating, though, wasn’t really that, either. The shape ended up being based on the default ICOsphere in Blender, which has two subdivisions, which means 80 sides. But, it looks cool.

The design isn’t groundbreaking, either. It’s very similar to other artist’s conceptions of nanites, but we added our own spin on it with proportions and bacteriophage still feet. See?

So, that initial rendering is “an artist’s conception of what the construction nanites look like”. Basic, baseline Blender mesh and texturing.

Then, we though it would be cool to do something that is supposedly the real thing, and make it look like an electron microscope scan. Which we found someone had already provided a texture for. So we added smooth shading to the little beasties and applied that texture, then saved it in grayscale with a different level of noise.

We also changed the composition and lighting significantly.

We’re pretty damn happy with both images, but we’ll be refining the second one as we have ideas about what kinds of details we want to add. We want it to be kind of ridiculous at some point, and actually look like an EMS image.

We have theories about how these things function and interact with each other, too. But we don’t really have the energy to go into them tonight. That will probably be a future post with the updated EMS simulation image.

But anyway, the first one seemed like a good set of colors for a site banner, and we’ve been wanting to replace the blog post banner for a while now. So, now we have a new one of those based on it.

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