I’ve had some fun recently watching and reading about the Terminator series. It’s not a bad attempt to bring a large SF franchise into the more constrained world of TV, and there’sconsiderable fan momentum

If you were creating an artificial lifeform from the ground-up, what kinds of elements would you use?

First, in any kind of hostile environment, it would be wise to create an internal skeleton made of a matrix of some sort of highly flexible yet very strong metal. A network that would carry materials to re-build and upgrade internal systems — the best way of communicating would be through a chemical/electrical metallic soup of individually independent systems — little nano-like magnetized iron particles, each of which would contain the whole blueprint for the system, so you wouldn’t have to send signals back to some sort of central system in order to effect remote repairs on independent portions of the system.

Oh, and best of all, if you could have a self re-generating type of exoskeleton that would render the internal system and iron-based fluid network impervious to water contamination or external forces, that would be great. So, it really suits the Terminator-like model: metal interior skeleton, electrically-conducting interior network, metallic, iron-based magnetized nano-particles that each have a miniature copy of the entire system. Self-re-generating properties. Couple that with a strong brain based on electrical and chemical reactions, and we actually have… a human being.

Calcium — the basic building block of our internal skeleton — is, in fact, a metal. Here’ssome more information about the metal calcium, the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s surface. When used in a lattice-like framework, calcium is incredibly strong. Stronger than steel of similar weight and construction (which is the reason that in the Terminator movie and show they use a hitherto-undiscovered metal). And each of our blood cells in our veins contain our DNA as a blueprint of our whole system, and blood itself is iron-based — and arguably magnetizable (the considerable degree of iron in our blood turns it red on exposure to oxygen, and turns it brown like rust after long exposure). The brain, and our nervous system run off a combination of electrical and chemical impulses.

When we think of trying to construct a metal robot that is bipedal and self-sufficient (not to mention self re-generating), we really have in front of us an amazing model of how metal and electrical systems can evolve.

Terminator Source Code

While we’re on the topic, I came across an interesting bit of Terminator trivia this weekend.

Remember the original Terminator movie? Whenever you see through the eyes of The Terminator himself, a bunch of computery text is scrolling by. It turns out this text is the source code for an Apple II checksum program, among other programs. The code was first published in Nibble magazine in the early 80’s, so was close at hand when the movie’s producers needed something high-tech for their futuristic robot/killing machine/bodybuilder.

The code featured in the movie runs on a 70’s-era MOS 6502 microprocessor.