"The point sticks in your head: physics rules. Virtue does not triumph unless the physics allows it."
- Larry Niven
||Sub-microscopic Medical Robots
||Tiny robots travel the bloodstream, killing bacteria.
|"No, I'm wide awake, another aspect of the disease, one gets very little sleep."
"Very well, Judith, let's begin." He held up a photograph, "You will remember this—a picture of Hartman's virus taken with the then-existing techniques." He paused and produced another photograph. "The same virus taken by new methods." He drew a deep breath and hurried on, conscious that his voice was quavering slightly. "I'll tell you how it was done. I constructed a micro-robotic and programed it to build another micro-robotic ten times smaller than the original. The second micro-robotic was equipped with a tele-camera. I photographed the virus, beamed the picture back to the first one which in turn beamed it back to existing equipment—follow me?"
She nodded. "I wish I'd had equipment like that."
"Never mind that now." He was almost brusque and his hands were shaking so much that he was compelled to signal an orderly to bring the remaining equipment to the table. He cleared his throat quickly.
"This black box here, believe it or not, is a micro-robotic auto-factory designed to mass produce parts, program tapes for the monitors and micro-robotic workers which, in turn, produced this." He pointed to small object exactly similar. "As you see, it has been reduced to the size of the ancient match box." He paused and cleared his throat nervously again. "This second auto-factory produces micro-biotics of a special nature." He paused again and said, almost calmly: "I must digress here to pay proper tribute to the experts both in plastic and in nuclear physics whose work made the construction of these sub-microscopic robots possible. It was they alone who came up with durable substances capable of being molded to these conditions."
He turned again to the objects on the table and pointed to the smallest black box. "This auto-factory has one task-mass-producing _these_." The far wall of the room lit suddenly and the viewers saw a curious gray pear-shaped object with a tube at the thicker end. "This object, strictly speaking, is a constructed micro-organism about the size of Hartman's virus. It is molded from special plastics, the molecules of which have been atomically arranged for durability in these conditions."
He paused and almost managed a smile. "It is also a warrior robot." Again he paused and drew a deep audible breath. "Impressed on the recognition tapes of this robot is a picture of the _Metricitus spirochaeta!_" He walked over to the picture and pointed. "This pointed tube at the front of the robot is a contact device. It is designed to release on contact with the spirochaeta a lethal charge of electricity electronically restricted to a nervous system, or it you prefer it, the substance of the hostile microorganism." He turned to Judith and said, gently, "Have you followed me?"
"Yes, I've followed you." She looked puzzled.
"Judith, this auto-factory has produced sub-microscopic robots in hundred of millions. I propose injecting a few million into your blood stream in a special solution and letting them seek out and destroy the spirochaeta which are causing your illness. This method has been tested and proved in an infected culture but never in a living organism — do you fully understand me?"
|From These Savage Futurians,
by Philip E. High.
Published by Ace Double in 1967
Additional resources -
High got some of his ideas from Raymond Z. Gallun; see Ultra-microrobot from Gallun's 1937 story A Menace in Miniature.
Thanks to Winchell Chung for contributing this item.
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