A Visit from Saint Assembler

Historical note: back when I ran sci.nanotech, it was my tradition to post this poem every Christmas, in a spirit of light-hearted fun.

We here at Foresight wish all our readers the merriest of seasons greetings, and hope that you all are safe, warm, and enjoying your holidays with family and friends!


A Visit from Saint Assembler

(With Apologies to Clement Moore)
by J. Storrs Hall

‘Twas the night before Breakthrough; when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The smocks were hung up in the lab for the night,
In hopes that a rest would bring some new insight.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of molecules danced through their heads.

Ma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap–

When logical inference struck me so hard
I let down my everyday common-sense guard.

The mind, on the crest of this new point of view
Took wild flights of fancy and made them seem true.

My wondering eyes, as I stood there agape,
Saw a miniature robot complete with a tape;

Of such a micronic molecular mass,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint … well, it must be a molecular assembler.

More rapidly than I could figure it out,
He built more of himself from stuff lying about.

He built Dasher and Dancer; they, Prancer and Vixen;
And then Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen.

Now faster than I could match each with his name,
they doubled and doubled–and they all were the same.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
(or more, rather, like smoke) they took off to the sky.

And I could imagine I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.

Down the chimney they came, eating all of the soot,
As carelessly diamonds were dropped on my foot.

Another small cloud of atomic erectors
Were turning the roof into solar collectors.

I looked at one closely: a jolly old speck,
He had plenty of arms, and a bivalent neck.

His tape told him what he was programmed to do;
He was fast and efficient–self-referent too.

He looked like a gang of maniacal boys
Had been put in a room full of wee tinkertoys,

And making a mechanical jest of their teacher,
Allowed it to mutate into an odd creature.

Benzene rings on his fingers, propellors for toes,
Bucky ball for a belly, and lithium nose.

His arms moved like twinkling magical wands,
and his ears were connected by hydrogen bonds.

A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

Though New Jersey, the previous hour or two,
Had melted to form a sweet, sticky, gray goo.

He said not a word, but went straight to his work,
Built three more just like him, and turned with a jerk.

It was hard to see whether he gestured or beckoned,
For he did it a million or more times a second.

Not a bit of the household escaped from his hustle,
Even the doors received eyes, ears, and muscle.

I’d just gotten used to a toaster with brains;
I now must contend with intelligent drains.

Then most of them left through the skin of my hands,
to do a refurbishing job on my glands–

But I heard them exclaim, ere they dove out of sight,
“Happy Future to all, and to all a good night!”

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