Reasonable design of this kind of replicator will likely include several assembler manipulator and several manipulators for holding and moving the work object. Each of these manipulators - is one million or so atoms. The other part - the reader tape, chemical processors etc. - May be the same complex as the assemblers. In the end, a flexible backup system will probably include a simple computer; following the mechanical approach referred to in Chapter 1, it will add about 100 million atoms. All parts together will be less than 150 million atoms. Suppose even that it will be one billion, to leave a tolerance for error. We will not take into account the additional capacity of the additional assembly manipulators, leaving an even greater tolerance. Operating at speeds of a million atoms per second, the system will still copy itself over thousands of seconds or a little more than fifteen minutes - about the time for which the bacterium reproduces itself under good conditions.
Around the Quabbin: Where Nature Flourishes and History Comes to Life
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