Micro, the final novel by Michael Crichton published posthumously this past fall was a relatively quick and enjoyable read. Crichton, I’m sad to say has missed the mark on this book. Unfortunately, while it was enjoyable as a suspenseful novel it had an utterly unbelievable plot. The usually well researched and near believable science of Crichton thrillers like Prey, the Andromeda Strain and Next has been abandoned for shrinking and embiggening objects by manipulating an extremely strong magnetic “tensor field.”
The tensor field in question is supposedly able to create magnetic fields of 60 tesla which causes a shrinking effect on any object contained. 60 tesla fields aren’t unheard of, but are extremely powerful magnetic fields. The record for generated magnetic field strength is apparently 91.5 tesla as of 6/28/11. So the field strength of 60 tesla is possible. What is totally, utterly, ridiculously impossible is the shrinking effect portrayed by Crichton.
In Micro, people are shrunk down to a height of half an inch and then have to traverse through the Hawaiian rainforest. While it’s a cool concept, the implausibility of it really ruined the book for me. There are a whole host of problems with the story even once the people are that small. For example, if this tensor field magically shrunk all their molecules by about a factor of 100 how is it that they can still interact with normal size matter? The shrunken characters drink from dewdrops, eat insect muscles for sustenance and of course are touching everything around them. I find it impossible to accept that the difference in the size of the shrunken molecules to the normal ones would allow them interact with each other in a normal way. Continue reading