I’m reading Diamond Age again — it’s probably in my top twenty favorite books — and something keeps bugging me. It’s not even really about the book, exactly, it’s just something that keeps nagging at my brain.
They have these Matter Compilers, machines that take individual atoms, and build whatever you need. Or whatever you ask for, rather. Anything from a bed to roller skates to sushi, to whatever. They apparently don’t do food well, and everything’s really hollow and lightweight, but it can produce a fully-functional facsimile of almost anything.
And it got me thinking. Which is never a good thing. The basic “building blocks of life” are primarily from the upper right corner of the periodic table, and looking at these pieces, we have… Oxygen, which smells like ozone, like the air just before a thunderstorm. Carbon, which smells like ashes. Copper, which tastes like a mouthful of pennies. Iron, which smells like rusty old cars. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs (or hell). Nitrogen smells like ammonia.
But everything’s made up of atoms. So how to you combine ozone, ashes, and rust, and get something that tastes like a strawberry? Or smells like a banana?
I’m not looking for an answer, really. I know it’s just a fluke, like poisonous sodium and poisonous chlorine combining to form something you use to garnish a margarita. It’s just poking my curiosity. And now you can share my pain. You’re welcome.