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Nanotech adventures

February 01 2024

Can some new technology help our reporter solve the seemingly impossible puzzle of time? A riveting blend of ‘Anarcho-nonsense’ and dedicated field reportage, by Chris Sampson


The paper that you’re reading this magazine on is of course made of atoms, arranged in a particular molecular structure. It is a carbon molecule, which it shares with the tree it was originally part of.  And also with coal – which formed after forests rotted millions of years ago – and diamonds, which formed after a few more millions of years of lying around underground, undiscovered until grasping, greedy hands mined them.

So, if you wait long enough, your copy of the Pavement will be worth a fortune [the editor insists that it is already priceless in its current form; the gems being from other contributors, and my efforts the nutty slack].

Alas, linear time is the problem (as bloody usual, eh? Am I right?). As you know, human lifespans are disgracefully brief, even without years of government policies shortening them. If we could borrow McHaggis’ time machine and nip forward a few ice ages to when the mag turns into diamonds, we’d be laughing. But as regular readers surely know, there’s no place for fun in my scribblings.

Yet nanotechnology offers the tantalising prospect that micro-machines, a few atoms across, will one day patrol our bodies, killing off cancer cells and any other threats. It might also be able to realise the age-old alchemist’s dream of turning base metals or coal into valuable objects like gold and diamonds – thus reducing Hatton Garden to a tumbleweed-strewn wasteland, if everyone can grow their own sparklers.

It’s only sci-fi for now, but your intrepid (what do you mean insipid? Cheek!) reporter has managed to wangle a go on a prototype nano machine to see what’s going down at that billionth-of-a-metre level of existence. Will he strike gold? Or diamonds? Ah! Let’s find out…

I was shrunk down to nanotech size by a top-secret contraption that in no way infringes any copyright of the 1968 TV series Fantastic Voyage, which by pure coincidence had the idea to shrink people so they could travel around human bodies 55 years before I did. (Linear time again, eh? Gah!)

Anyhoo. I didn’t have anyone else’s body to be shrunk into, so I headed for the laundry basket, and soon found myself battling monstrosities which form the atomic level of the thong pollen that I hadn’t shaken out of my undies. They seemed to have evolved into whiffy abominations after weeks rotting, unwashed, in the Withnail and I-type squalor of the laundry bag.

I mounted a heroic defence, naturally, and though suave conversation and rugged good looks may count for something in the macro world, down at the micro level they count for very little (no pun intended). And so I was all but overpowered by the molecular monstrosities, but was saved at the last micro-second (pun intended) by a roving band of nanochists. These are the nano level’s impeccably right-on anti-fascist warriors and, yes, even at the smallest level of creation, they mainly graffiti bus stops with circled-A anarchy signs (see below) and talk a good game about smashing the system from their armchairs. [Note: MAHOOSIVE pot and kettle moment alert!]:


There is no authority but yourself! So tell yourself to behave yourself.

Ahem. With the thong pollen abomination defeated, and the nanochists thanked (“Aw, shucks! Don’t mention it!” they replied, modestly, if a little anarchically), it was time to return to the macro world and scribble down some cobblers before this month’s deadline and –

Ooops! Forget you read that; I mustn’t give away the tricks of the writers’ trade, so that will have to be redacted, and a more fitting phrase substituted, thus:


Splendid indeed. Ahem. So, there you have it: Erm, wood = paper = coal = diamonds if you wait long enough for The Smallest Things to happen. But of course, handicapped by linear time (yet again, the slimy, timey fecker!) etc, etc.

All that remains now is for the traditional “How-the-hell-am-I-going-to-end-this-issue’s-nonsense?” finale to my article. Time to use the old “tantalise ‘em with promises that next issue’s article will be better than the shite they’ve just read”: There’s better to come in 2024 for all our readers. I have it on good authority.

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