Re: We're stuck with each other

From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 12:25:00 MST

On Wed, 23 Jan 2002, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> Louis, *you're* doing it again. Right now diamond is expensive.
> Nanotechnology produces diamond as a waste product. If you convert
> carbon in its other forms into diamond, you get a large amount of
> energy *out* of the chemical reaction. That's why diamonds are so

Depositing pure diamond in small increments is very expensive
energetically. Doesn't matter, of course, energy is basically free. As
long as you don't melt the site...

> hard - you have to expend that amount of energy, add it back in,
> before you can break the molecular bonds.

Um, most stable allotrope of carbon at normal conditions is graphite. If
you have a few (ten) GYears spare time, you can watch a diamond slowly
decay into graphite.

> When you look at a description of a diamondoid space suit and protest
> that not even Bill Gates could afford it, you are applying your
> twentieth-century expectations to a surface description of the future.
> You take this one concept, "space suit made of diamonds" (which it
> isn't; "diamondoid" isn't the same thing at all), and then applying
> the twentieth-century concept that diamonds are expensive, and
> concluding that nobody can afford the space suit. But the concept

If you can make such a suit, you don't have to. Because "people" no longer
need it.

> doesn't exist in isolation. Along with the concept of a diamondoid
> space suit goes the concept of diamond, not as expensive rocks dug up
> out of the ground, but as a waste material produced by exothermic and
> exoergic nanotech manufacturing processes.
> What you do have with nanotechnology is the diamondoid recycling
> problem. As I pointed out at the last Foresight Gathering when the
> topic of recycling came up, "a diamond is not forever", but it's
> probably more efficient to disintegrate it - take the energy output of
> a power plant or a solar mirror and run the diamondoid material
> through en masse - rather than disassembling it atom-by-atom, as I've
> heard proposed.

Diamonds burn just fine. Better than graphite, in fact, in terms of

> Speaking of which, Robert, are you sure that it's possible to consume
> diamond and oxygen as a fuel? Are you sure you aren't thinking of a
> rocket-suit that got you into orbit by turning something else, maybe
> acetylene, into the diamondoid suit?

The reason diamonds are difficult to light is because they're excellent
conductors of heat (in fact, only buckys anisotropically conduct better
than isotopically pure diamond), so you need to heat them uniformly, and
of course the usual scale applies. You *could* fire a charcoal brazier
with brilliants, though.

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