Most of the article deal with the threat of nanotechnological weapons. I’m personally not terribly concerned about them… in theory they’re nightmares, but in practicality the chances of a mechanism the size of a bacteria functioning for very long in the wild is low. “Nano-scale” metal is extremely fine dust… dust that will oxidize almost instantly in an oxygen environment. Dust that has such a vast surface area to volume ratio that thermal control would be virtually impossible.
I suspect it’d be possible to design nanites that will function in specific environments. But The “gray goo” threat seems to me unlikely.
The headline contains a reference to something else that interests me more than nanites: “mini nukes.” But here again, the description seems more sci-fi than practical:
Nanotechnology opens up the possibility to manufacture mini-nuke components so small that they are difficult to screen and detect. Furthermore, the weapon (capable of an explosion equivalent to about 100 tons of TNT) could be compact enough to fit into a pocket or purse and weigh about 5 pounds and destroy large buildings or be combined to do greater damage to an area.
“When we talk about making conventional nuclear weapons, they are difficult to make,” he said. “Making a mini-nuke would be difficult but in some respects not as difficult as a full-blown nuclear weapon.”
Del Monte explained that the mini-nuke weapon is activated when the nanoscale laser triggers a small thermonuclear fusion bomb using a tritium-deuterium fuel. Their size makes them difficult to screen, detect and also there’s “essentially no fallout” associated with them.
The description seems to be a miniaturized version of an inertial confinement fusion system… lasers causing a pellet of fusion fuel to implode. So far in order to get a pellet the size of a grain of sand to fuse has required a laser system the size of a warehouse; compressing all that down to the size of a briefcase seems… optimistic.
Still, *IF* that compression becomes possible, then these mini-nukes need to be put into production *now.* Not just for the military potential… but more importantly because they would finally make Orion propulsion clean and reasonably cheap.
What causes fear among the author and subjects of this article would cause great joy among people able to envision a wider view.