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Background

Experiencing the world at the microscopic scale has long been a popular topic for movies and written fiction. I think it was talking to my sons that first set me thinking about a book along these lines, but I resolved that if I was going to tackle it, it would be in a different way than by using magical shrinking machines of the kind we've all seen before. Besides it being difficult to find them believable, their effects are never depicted in a way that makes sense. A typical explanation, for example, is that they pack the material parts of atoms closer together. Okay, but that still leaves the same amount of mass present. Objects would still weigh the same. Those kids in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," for instance would have gone down into those floorboards like nails, not be carried out in a trashbag and go riding around on a bumble bee.

So what we ended up with was a direct-neural-coupled technology that connects you sensewise into a miniature robotlike device of insect dimensions. Now you can explore the world in miniature, go small-game hunting after poisonous centipedes, get stuck in problematical situations, and all the things we like to read about, and all on a solid technologically feasible, if not yet possible, foundation (although it's astounding how close some people are getting, I discovered in the course of doing the research).

The other thing I thought I'd try and do is get the physics right. Life at the insect level would not be simply a reproduction of what we know, but with everything taking place at reduced size. Different physical properties scale down at different rates. Volume, for example, and hence its mass, reduces as the cube of size. Halving the dimensions of an object will result in its weighing eight times less; reducing it two-hundredfold (the kind of order we're talking about in going from man-size to bug-size), eight million times less. Ants really don't perform any great feats of prodigious strength. Walking around carrying a grand piano or a pickup truck would be no big deal for a comparably diminutive human (and piano/ pickup truck, of course). For the same reason, tools and weapons that depend for their efficacy on stored kinetic energy, which again depends on mass, wouldn't work. Axes and hammers, spears, missiles of every kind, behave as if made of Styrofoam. Climbing is effortless; enormous falls of no consequence. At this scale gravity ceases to exist as a significant factor in the environment. Surface forces dominate--Coulomb attraction, friction, viscosity. While you might be able to pick up a piano, maybe you can't peel your jacket off.

Such devices could also make very effective remotely-operatable espionage or sabotage devices. Or even asassination weapons, ideally suited for getting in and out to carry out the classical "locked door" murder. It seemed to me an idea whose time had come.

 
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