Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Antediluvian NanoBots

    McKay discovers that they are up against a nanovirus — microscopic machines programmed to kill only humans.
Yep, that was the plot of "Stargate Atlantis" last weekend on the SciFi channel. I watched only a bit of it as I was channel surfing. I stayed around long enough to realize why it's taking so long to make a movie version of Michael Crichton's nano-horror novel "Prey." It's very difficult to make a full-fledged nanobot attack look convincing on camera. I had to laugh at the "Stargate Atlantis" cast flailing around at invisible bugs. It looked a bit like the old "Star Trek" camera tilt trick, when the bridge crew is tossed around in unison.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Smalley, Drexler and the Spirit of '96
Would 'Professor Z' get a government grant?
From the Dark Tower of my memory


TallDave said...

As a recently converted SG fan, I have to say this was not their best episode, but you are mistaken in your assessment. They were flailing around at hallucinations brought on by the nanobot attacks on their visual cortex, not at the nanobots themselves.

I do think the SG shows do better-than-average both in scientific theory and plausibility (it's the dialog that really bring it together though, at least for me).

Anonymous said...

The Stagate Atlantis plot premise was that the nanobots were designed to attack the vision centers of the brain in a specific manner which caused the same frightening hallucination in each infected person. The scientist and doctor characters in the show found were amazed that nonaobots were able to crate the same images on many different minds before killing them. The actors weren't flailing away at the nanobots, they were flailing at the hallucinations.

They were also disturbed that such an advanced culture would *want* to horrorify their victims before killing them, and said that they hoped they weren't still around. (My gues is they will appear in a future episode.)

Anonymous said...

A prediction: Not only are the Nanobot creators coming to an episode soon, they are enemies with the Wraith.

The 'bots serve two purposes; one, they remove food from the Wraith food chain by killing it before the life force can be drained; and two, the Adrenalin released as a result of the fear created makes the "meat" taste better for them.

Anonymous said...

I like Crichton quite a bit, but having read Prey, and seen the show of Stargate: Atlantis you described, well, I'm not sure this SG:A wasn't better than Crichton's book.

Neither were all that great, but not too bad either. Grade B material.

Prey had cliche's so bad, they were almost good, and some of its dramatic scenes where life and death hung on the line were almost boring.

SG:A might have reminded you of old Star Trek, but the 'lurching' was a vital clue, and so it was integrated into the story, and thus was not just pure campy-ness.


Howard Lovy said...

Thank you, SG fans for setting me straight on the nature of these nanobots (and, of course, my props to The Pundit.) That's what I get for Stargate tourism. I wasn't mocking the 'bots, by the way -- hallucinatory or not. It's a simple post like this one that today is bringing thousands of people to my site and, I'd like to fool myself into believing, might be learning about real-life nanotech along the way.

Now that SG fans have set me straight about this fictional nanovirus, I'll give the Stargate writers more credit for accuracy. If, as one reader points out, they were "designed to attack the vision centers of the brain in a specific manner," then that sounds like the targeted drug delivery of real-life nanotech. It's not so great a leap from Mother Teresa to Josef Mengele.

TallDave said...

I think it was strongly implied the nanobots were created by the Ancients to disrupt the Wraith food chain-- esp. since the Ancient gene protected humans infected by them.

My only big complaint about the show is that it falls prey to the usual simpleminded politics. Sure, it's a given that being enslaved by an alien race pretending to be gods is bad, but the show tends to gloss over the fact being enslaved by humans is no better. How about putting some emphasis on freedom and democracy as universal human values?

Also, one 2004 episode made an ill-conceived reference to an aprocyphal "reporter jailed during the McCarthy era." As Ann Coulter has pointed out, McCarthyism is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times, and Hollywood is a big reason why.

Glaivester said...

There was also an episode of Crusade where nanobots were attacking people's brains and making them attack each other. They were created by a Technomage. the nannites were eventually able to be used to shield people against the deadly and contagious virus that was attacking Earth (that the whole program was about) so that they could visit people sick with the disease.

Anonymous said...

There's been two or three encounters with nanotechnology on SG-1 and SG:A.

1) The aforementioned terror weapon in the recent episode of SG:A, designed to infect the visual cortex, produce specific halucinations, and kill. This was apparently a specific genocidal device aimed at standard humans, though not at the mysterious "ancients".

2) An accelerated-aging device found on some random planet. Apparently, this was intended to compress the complete human life span into a month or two, for reasons which were somewhat unclear.

3) The replicators. These were originally a macroscopic insectile version of "grey goo", consuming everything in their path, but they seem to have miniaturized over the past few seasons to the point of nanotechnology. They're smart and nasty.

Generally, the Stargate universe revolves around (1) powerful aliens with varied (and often inscrutable) motives and (2) technology the humans don't really understand. Genocidal nanobots are par for the course.

It's actually a pretty enjoyable to watch if you're a fan of either Lovecraft or ancient Egyptian mythology. There's just enough campy paranoia and existensial dread to keep me watching, and the writers don't make intolerably bad scientific bloopers *too* often.

Anonymous said...

While I'm a fan of the shows, I did wince at a number of science bloopers -- I believe they said something about how a nanometer was a billionth of a millimeter, for instance.