Monday, July 02, 2007

The Impossible Machine

Author: Jim Henderson

There are a lot of complicated machines in the world today. Some are marvels of design and engineering. Only a few years ago, they would have seemed the stuff of science-fiction. Nothing invented today will be like the machine that I'm going to build.

I'm going to build a machine. It will be extremely complex, more than a television, or a VCR, or even a computer. This machine will be so complex that it will contain volumes of complicated information locked in a special code. Oh, and it operates itself, that's right! It doesn't need someone to "run" it.

What if I told you that it that it will be so smart that it can even repair and replace itself so it will never wear out? Even complicated machines wear out and have to be fixed. Even these machines don't operate themselves. But mine will! Wouldn't you like to have a car like that? Did I mention that it will even reproduce and replace itself. I mean it will create exact functional replicas of itself.

Sounds extremely difficult, doesn't it? Maybe impossible is a better word. I'm still not finished telling you about my machine. This machine can "fuel" itself so it won't need gasoline or batteries. It doesn't run on nuclear power either.

It will be in some ways like a small city complete with it's own transportation, manufacturing, even it own power plant. And laboratory, since it operates by complex chemical reactions, much too complex to even begin to describe here. With all this activity it will have to a waste disposal system too -- it cleans itself.

A amchine that could do all this would have to huge...wouldn't it? So with all this, how big will it be? What if I said my machine will be miniature? So small, in fact, that it will be invisible...almost. Unless of course, you use a microscope, a very powerful one.

Impressed? You should be! By now you know that I can't even begin to make this machine, even with all the technology today or in the next thousand years. So I'll confess right now that I can't make it, even if I wanted to. So it would be no way that it could just happen by accident? And I don't feel bad that I can't build it because neither can anyone else. Not even a team of scientists, engineers, and inventors.

Now let me say that I am not talking about science-fiction, I am talking about something that is very real. And it's been around for thousands of years, too. It's not really a machine, though because no machine will ever be able to be so complex and do so many things by itself. A machine, by comparison, is a crude and stupid device. But this is real. It's called a "cell". Your body is made up of literally billions of them, each functioning on it's own without any instruction from you. They all work together with every other cell in the body to maintain and support life. They never go to class but you will have to if you want to begin to understand what little we actually know about them.

Maybe you were not aware that a cell was so much more wonderful than any machine made by man could ever be. And more complicated, too. More than any machine that could be built.

Which brings me to the question...Who did?

About the author: Jim Henderson is currently employed in the field of environmental regulatory compliance. He enjoys writing as a past time and has had several articles published in various on-line publications.

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