How does the shrinking work in Michael Crichton's book Micro?
December 31, 2013 11:00 AM   Subscribe

There's a Michael Crichton book (technically finished based on his notes) called Micro. It is about a group of people who get shrunk to miniscule size and are attacked by mundane wildlife.

That's what I've gathered from reading the back cover, googling and flicking through on the shelves. I'm not at all interested in reading the book, but I'm very curious how they explain the shrinking.

I associate Michael Crichton with science that is at least superficially plausible, but shrink rays are particularly difficult to justify ("Oh my no, that would require extremely tiny atoms") so it's given me a brain-itch.

If anyone who's read the book could share what techno-babble is used to explain the shrinking, I'd be grateful.
posted by Lorc to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"In Micro, Vin Drake is the visionary running Nanigen Micro-Technologies, a firm that is bio-prospecting the Oahu rain forest for the pharmacological gold glimmering in the secretions of the fauna and flora. Drake’s twist on bio-prospecting is to shrink both robotic tools and their human handlers to half an inch tall with a high-intensity magnetic “tensor field.” This approach has risks: Shrinkage is reversible, but after about three days, little people suffer the “micro-bends” and bleed out." Source: Slate.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:11 AM on December 31, 2013

There was a machine called a "tensor generator" that used magnetic fields, somehow. I think "quantum mechanics" was also liberally used, which is a way that a lot of people like to say "magic".

Assuming you get shrunk, though, things still remain implausible. The square-cube law suggests that a person shrunk to 1/2 inch tall would probably have to eat constantly to keep from dying of hypothermia. Assuming a person 5'6", their skin's surface area (which radiates heat) would have decreased by a factor of 17,424 but the mass of their body (which generates heat) would have decreased by a factor of 2.3 million. Unless the machine can somehow alter the body to massively increase its metabolism, our micro-hero is doomed. Of course, with such a boost to metabolism, he had better not sleep long if he doesn't want to starve overnight.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:20 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you. I'd already found mentions of "high powered magnetic fields" and assumed there was more flannel to explain it in the book itself.

I guess not.
posted by Lorc at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2013

Slightly off topic - but couldn't our hero wear an insulated suit?

Slightly off topic 2 - couldn't you plausibly (in this kind of fictional world) achieve this shrinkage by "creating a field which locally modifies the mass and charge of sub atomic particles" You shrink the atoms and the interactions between charged particles and I suspect you could get a perfectly "shrunk" individual - how they interact with electro magnetic radiation from the non shrunk world certainly would be an issue, but not one that further hand waving couldn't satisfy...
posted by NoDef at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2013

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