Saw this online and found it interesting: OK, Sauronâ€”aka the Lord of the Ringsâ€”was a pretty buff dude. Ruled the world for a while, and remained in power in his home country for many centuries thereafter. He subverted the hearts and minds of many, and sent countless others to early and often unquiet graves. But his greatest achievement is widely acknowledged to be the One Ring, a device of great power and subtlety which permitted him to enslave the rulers of Middle-earth. All this is nice work if you can get it, but the time has come to ask ourselves a simple question: Is Sauron any tougher than we are? He got his ass kicked by hobbits, after all. Many people write to me asking, "Hey, Wil, couldn't we make one of those One Ring thingies using technology, and rule the world in an orgy of stupefying eeevyil?" The answer, happily, is yes. The most notable characteristic of the One Ring is that it turns its wearer invisible. In scientific terms, this means one of two things: either the wearer's index of refraction is reduced to that of airâ€”which is unlikely without major changes in atomic structureâ€”or else light waves are simply diverted around him. (I would say "him or her," except that the historical record shows all bearers of the One Ring to be male.) In fact, NASA and the U.S. Air Force have already experimented with "video camouflage" which places cameras on one side of an object and video screens on the other side. The object "disappears" before our very eyes, like the alien trophy-hunter in Predator, and with the hoped-for advent of projective holography, this technology can only improve. The One Ring also seems to extend the lifespan of its owner, while causing gradual behavioral changes such as irritability, light-sensitivity, modified diet and megalomania. In fact, people in the vicinity of the Ring are often similarly affected, even if they don't touch it. This effect is consistent with various forms of heavy metal poisoning, combined with a slow release of the chemical superoxide dismutase (SOD), which has been implicated in the long lifespans of certain genetically modified worms. Possibly there is a reservoir in the ring, where liquid mercury is used as a catalyst for the production of SOD from chemicals in the wearer's sweat. This mixture's effects linger for many years after exposure ceases, although the cocktail also appears to be highly and permanently addictive, indicating that it may include a narcotic component as well. Quantum dots, my precious Notably, the Ring looks and feels like gold, but isn't. The heat of an ordinary fire can't melt it, although it does cause some glowing letters to appear. To destroy the Ring, you have to throw it into the boiling magma of Mount Doom, which from its description is probably at least 2,000 degrees Celsius. This leads me to believe that the ring is in fact made of silicon (melting point 1,410C), whose surface propertiesâ€”as discussed in "The Heart of the (Programmable) Matter"â€”can be dramatically altered through the use of tiny electronic components called quantum dots. In this case, the quantum dots each contain 79 electrons, and behave optically and electrically as though they were atoms of gold. Some of the dots also emit light when excited thermally, which is perfectly consistent with their design and function. The real power of the One Ring comes from its ability to command the other rings, and so enslave the elvish and dwarvish and human rulers of ancient Middle-earth. This is actually very easy to arrange: the Ring is simply the master node of a wireless network, and is able to send commands and receive telemetry from the other rings, including their locations and the spoken words of the people around them. The reverse is not true: the One Ring sends out no telemetry, and obeys no commands. It can't be tracked at all unless it is used, and even then its location cannot be determined except in vague geographic terms. Also, since this network is known to operate over thousands of miles, across many mountain ranges and such, it must have a satellite relay. This is supported by the fact that Gollum, who kept and used the ring in an underground lair for hundreds of years, was not detected. The satellite(s) also presumably play a role in tracking the other rings' locations, which is one of the specific powers called out in Sauron's campaign slogan. Controlling the behavior of the other ring-bearers can be accomplished through a mix of addictive drugs, subliminal messaging and direct neural stimulationâ€”which has also been demonstrated recently with quantum dots. The human rings, in particular, appear to secrete a similar mix of heavy metals and antioxidants, and also produce optical changes in their wearers' appearance, sometimes including invisibility. They may also exude pheromones, as witnesses frequently describe a feeling of sourceless dread emanating from the so-called Dark Riders. Of course, you have to convince world leaders to use the other rings before you can enslave them. This is achieved through the universal weakness for gadgetry. A ring made of silicon quantum dots can perform some pretty wonderful tricks, such as firing laser beams, communicating with distant places, generating magnetic fields powerful enough to alter the trajectory of bullets and storing whole libraries of information. Really, it's the Palm Pilot of Middle-Earth, and every self-respecting elf queen is going to want one. One truck to rule them all My friends, all this is doable. With a concerted effort, like the top-secret Manhattan Project which created the first atomic bomb (or the trade-secret process which gives us Kentucky Fried Chicken), we here in the Summer Country could easily duplicate all the properties of the One Ring except its size. Unfortunately, the antennas required to communicate with a satellite network will not function well if they're that small. Also, more importantly, the Ring is known to have operated continuously for thousands of years, including several hundred years of total darkness. The only power source we have which can function this way is a Radio-Thermal Generator or RTG, of the type used to power deep space probes such as the Galileo orbiter presently visiting the planet Jupiter, and the Cassini orbiter/lander which is on its way to Saturn. Despite some bad press, these RTGs are actually extremely safe, and have survived launch mishaps (i.e., big explosions) so well that they've been recovered from the ocean floor and re-flown on later missions. But they aren't small. Our version of the One Ring would end up weighing several hundred pounds at the very least, and filling a space at least as large as the person wearing it. Therefore, it might be easiest to mount it in an all-terrain vehicle, such as a light truck or Humvee. The One Truck would shine like gold, turn invisible on a moment's notice, and ooze a steady stream of nicotine and vitamin E and whispered encouragements to mischief. It would be mildly radioactive, but if you were hanging around itâ€”or God forbid, driving one of the other trucks it commandsâ€”then this would be the least of your problems. A final property of the Ring is simply its great symbolic power. Like the Crown Jewels of Britain or the signet rings of Roman emperors, the One Ring is a symbol of office. It doesn't confer office by itself, but for a king to be without it is greatly humiliating. This by itself can cause wars (Rome's disastrous campaign in Germania was fought for similar reasons), and will certainly shake up the world while everyone either tries to take the ring back to its rightful owner, or else claim it for themselves. Anyone who possesses such a talisman for a significant period of time, when the whole world is looking for it, is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and perhaps obeyed. This effect can be duplicated easily enough: fill the trunk of the Humvee with rare collectibles, have its hull signed by Hollywood celebrities (in eerie, glowing script which is visible only when the Humvee is on fire), and arrange for a presidential sex scandal or two to occur on, inside, or immediately underneath it. If this fails to increase its symbolic value sufficiently, we can simply cheat and put a trillion dollars in there, accessible only by the driver at the rate of $100 million per day. That ought to command an army or two. One truck to rule them all GPS to find them OnStarTM to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Valley of Silicon, where technology rules! Wil McCarthy is a rocket guidance engineer, robot designer, science fiction author and occasional aquanaut. He has contributed to three interplanetary spacecraft, five communication and weather satellites, a line of landmine-clearing robots, and some other "really cool stuff" he can't tell us about. His short fiction has graced the pages of Analog, Asimov's, Science Fiction Age and other major publications, and his novel-length works include Aggressor Six, the New York Times notable Bloom, and The Collapsium.