‘3 Body Problem’: Do those powerful nanofibres exist in reality?
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‘3 Body Problem’: Do those powerful nanofibres exist in reality?

In the Netflix adaptation of Liu Cixin’s renowned science fiction series The Three-Body Problem, viewers are introduced to plenty of high-concept scientific terms and phenomena. Apart from the titular physics problem, the show 3 Body Problem also depicts the absolute destruction mighty nanofibres can cause.

Auggie (portrayed by Eiza González), based on the character of Wang Miao from the novels, is a pivotal figure known for this groundbreaking invention: fine and sturdy nanofibre threads that can cut through anything. These nanofibres play a crucial role in the series. If you haven’t watched the show yet, then this is where you should stop reading this article.

One of the most disturbing scenes in the show involves the dramatic destruction of the Judgment Day ship and its occupants. Written off as traitors to humanity, the ship’s inhabitants—which included young children—are mercilessly eliminated as they arrive at port. Auggie’s invention, intended to better lives, is instead used to slice through an entire ship and its people.

The aftermath of the destruction disillusions Auggie about Earth’s retaliation tactics against the San Ti. But it has also worried viewers and led them to wonder if this kind of tech actually exists.

Is the 3 Body Problem nanofibre tech real? Can nanofibre threads cut through ships?

Nanofibres, as depicted in the series, are ultra-thin materials typically composed of carbon and known for their exceptional strength and conductivity. When stretched taut, as shown in the series, nanofibres could theoretically possess the capability to cut through various substances while remaining nearly invisible.

The depiction of nanofibres in the series presents them as a formidable tool capable of causing significant damage to advanced alien technology and human adversaries alike.

However, while the concept of nanofibres aligns with current scientific understanding, the portrayal of their capabilities in the series ventures into speculative territory. Dr Matt Kenzie, an associate professor of physics at the University of Cambridge and science advisor for the show, acknowledges the theoretical potential of nanofibres but highlights practical limitations. He notes that while nanofibres could theoretically cut through “almost anything,” there is a catch.

Dr Kenzie told Tudum, “One of the difficulties is how you hold them in place — the scaffolding it’s called. You have to design molecules which hold these things whilst you’re trying to build them.” While these fibres can cut through the sturdiest of objects, the cost of producing and properly containing them is what is preventing us from using them as weapons of mass destruction.

In conclusion, while nanofibres represent a fascinating area of scientific research with promising applications—as we see on the show, the portrayal of their capabilities in the 3 Body Problem stretches beyond current technical realities.