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Self-Sculpting "Sand" Can Allow Spontaneous Formation of Tools

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the shape-of-a-sand-tool dept.

Technology 124

parallel_prankster writes "Researchers at MIT are developing tiny robots that can assemble themselves into products and then disassemble when no longer needed. 'A heap of smart sand would be analogous to the rough block of stone that a sculptor begins with. The individual grains would pass messages back and forth and selectively attach to each other to form a three-dimensional object; the grains not necessary to build that object would simply fall away. When the object had served its purpose, it would be returned to the heap. Its constituent grains would detach from each other, becoming free to participate in the formation of a new shape.' To attach to each other, to communicate and to share power, the cubes use 'electropermanent magnets,' materials whose magnetism can be switched on and off with jolts of electricity."

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Has no one seen Star Trek? (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550675)

Nanites = BAD NEWS.

Re:Has no one seen Terminator 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550687)

This can only end badly.

Has no one seen Stargate: SG-1 or Atlantis? (4, Funny)

kingramon0 (411815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550741)

They are near impossible to kill when they take human form.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate: SG-1 or Atlantis? (1)

ThreeDeeNut (1061050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551283)

I dunno, i'm betting a nice bit of electrical interference would turn this thing to dust.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate: SG-1 or Atlantis? (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552743)

They adapt so you have to keep switching the frequency in a pattern that can't be predicted. At some point they'll get so smart that you can't be saved without a last minute plot device.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate: SG-1 or Atlantis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553835)

What if I reverse the polarity???

Re:Has no one read Slant? (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550725)

Main character made a gun that way.

Re:Has no one seen Star Trek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550727)

Stargate Atlantis, Nanites, Replicators.... when will we learn?

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550739)

Replicators = BAD NEWS.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552147)

Seriously people...SHUT THE FUCK UP!!! You people think your funny and im sorry to be the one to tell you....your not! Fuckin idiots most of the time.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552765)

Aw, someone's got a case of the Mondays!

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552947)

1: Aquire a bottle of port wine. Ruby port is fine, as long as it's genuine port. 2. pour a finger into the bottom of a drinking glass, unless you have one of those fancy small stemmed glasses. 3. Drink.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553053)

LOL! They must be really dumb if they are being called idiots by someone who doesn't know the difference between your and you're.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553115)

Agree. I don't have a smart phone and there is no wifi for me to use. So I have to print out the slashdot comments and take them to the shitter to read. I use Firefox and print them at 50% scale. The first ten pages are enough to cover a 15 to 20 minute shit.

It was in one of these print outs that I discovered a post deletion functionality built into the slashcode. The delete post links were quite clear when no CSS or javascript was applied. But I digress.

Nothing pisses me off more than the first 6 pages of my print out being the same redundant and not funny joke or reference. Slashdot use to be a place for intelligent discussion where I learned something new everyday. Now it's a stagnant turd no better than what I flush down the toilet.

Re:Has no one seen Stargate? (1)

Matheus (586080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554607)

Has no one seen The Outer Limits - Sandkings?!

lather rinse repeat... always repeat.

Has no one read At the Mountains of Madness? (1)

Trails (629752) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551533)

The Shoggoths wipes out the Elder Things

Re:Has no one seen Star Trek? (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551575)

These are not self replicating and can't adjust their own code. If they can, however, build a machine that builds more smartsand, then we may have a problem.

Re:Has no one seen Star Trek? (1)

dmmiller2k (414630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551925)

This can only end badly, indeed!

Has no one read Michael Crichton's Prey [wikipedia.org] ?

What about the Sandman in Spiderman 3?

Re:Has no one seen Star Trek? (1)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552419)

Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these?

Oh, good god. This is sci-fi (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552737)

Do they have anything? No. This is vapour ware. Someone has written a research proposal which lets him spend his life watching Stargate.

Re:Oh, good god. This is sci-fi (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553579)

Not to mention the research on the theory started very long ago.

My personal favorite book on the subject is Engines of Creation by Eric Drexler.
(The original [e-drexler.com] from 1986 available online.)

The late Robert Bradbury also wrote quite a few related papers with more technical details, such as "Nano assembly of an aircraft carrier", "Planetary Dissembly", and "Molecular Construction Limits"

Exactly how small is possible, and numerous methods to go about it once we are able to construct items that small, and even the planning ahead to prevent the obvious (and not so obvious) disasters related to such technology have already been addressed and answered by many scientists over the last century.

It's not the universities and researchers we need to keep an eye on, they've had their day here. The next major breakthrough will come from the manufacturing sector, and they have quite a ways to go to meet let alone catch up to current theory.

I'll be excited once a similar announcement comes from Intel or IBM or the like, once they have a working prototype.

SGA Replicators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550713)

I was thinking of the block-form replicators from the Stargate franchise.

~

Murder Weapon (5, Interesting)

HockeyPUcX (791205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550715)

Seems like that would make the job of the police more difficult in finding a weapon used in a crime. "We can't find the knife. There is just this pile of sand."

Re:Murder Weapon (4, Funny)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550763)

Like that would stop them. Any person in a city with a beach would just be declared a terrorist and sent to Guantana—

Oh wait... Shit.

Re:Murder Weapon (5, Insightful)

Nailer235 (1822054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551049)

We have a technology that could potentially lead to self-organizing micro-particles capable of rapidly forming complex shapes, and your first thought is "What if someone uses this technology to create a club and then clobbers someone over the head with it?"

Re:Murder Weapon (2, Informative)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551251)

Perhaps he just read that the US Supreme court just ruled that you can be strip searched for ANY arrest.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/us/justices-approve-strip-searches-for-any-offense.html [nytimes.com]

Makes you a little more paranoid about police powers.

Re:Murder Weapon (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551355)

That's why I always walk around naked. Clothing is for people who have something to hide. What are you, a criminal?

Re:Murder Weapon (5, Funny)

tool462 (677306) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551593)

No, just fat.

Re:Murder Weapon (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552001)

Don't worry, we're working on criminalizing that too. It'll come along with your "free" public health care.

Re:Murder Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551743)

That's why I always walk around naked. Clothing is for people who have something to hide. What are you, a criminal?

Same solution used to see if people had an alien attached to their back in The Puppet Masters - Robert Heinlein

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

darth_borehd (644166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552153)

That's why I always walk around naked. Clothing is for people who have something to hide. What are you, a criminal?

Same solution used to see if people had an alien attached to their back in The Puppet Masters - Robert Heinlein

I though it was odd when they allowed people to put their shirts back on in the movie. Make everybody keep their darn shirts off! I hate when people in movies do dumb things.

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551887)

Actually, I wanted to design a tee shirt that says "Fly Naked, Help Fight Terrorism" but it didn't make it through the consistency check. Tattooing it on seems a bit too permanent...

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553875)

If there ever was a line to show how stupid "X is for people who have something to hide. What are you, a criminal?" is, this is it.

Re:Murder Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553195)

Not just a strip search, which isn't a big deal to those of us without body neuroses, but body-cavity searches, which could be compared to rape.

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553349)

When we are arrested we are by definition stripped of certain liberties, and privacy is the first to go. Unpleasant, but that's jail.

I think jail is the worst possible way to treat most anti-social behaviors, and I find our wholesale imprisonment of the population to be counterproductive beyond idiocy.

But regardless of whether particular suspects/convicts should be imprisoned, jailers always need to keep out contraband.

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553697)

Perhaps he just read that the US Supreme court just ruled that you can be strip searched for ANY arrest.

I realize no one reads TFA. But you should if you are going to provide a link. This isn't about ANY arrest, it is about taking people to jail. I'm not saying I agree with the decision. But not everyone who is arrested is taken to jail.

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554187)

Not sure what your point it. The police can take you to jail for any arrest. Thus, they can strip search you for any arrest. Even trumped up ones. Even false ones, like the one argued before the Supreme Court - unpaid fine that actually was paid.

Re:Murder Weapon (1)

ThreeDeeNut (1061050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551353)

What do you expect. Scene 1 of 2010 Space Odyssey pretty much sums up everything you need to know about what is wrong with the world. This just proves no matter how far we go, we never really get anywhere.

Re:Murder Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551417)

Or something sharp and pointy. You could take out someones eye with That!

Re:Murder Weapon (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554295)

We have a technology that could potentially lead to self-organizing micro-particles capable of rapidly forming complex shapes, and your first thought is "What if someone uses this technology to create a club and then clobbers someone over the head with it?"

You must be new here. This is Slashdot, where rampant paranoia is the order of the day and extreme edge cases as treated as if they were hourly occurrences.
 
Oh, and tinfoil manufacturers monitor this site daily to predict future demand.

Re:Murder Weapon (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551869)

An icicle has always been the perfect murder weapon.

Re:Murder Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553359)

It would be more cost effective to use Lego blocks

Horrible memories (2)

StoutFiles (2471680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550745)

of Spider-Man 3.

Spontaneous Dildonics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550779)

I bet youd like to use this to make a special "tool" for your butthole, wouldint you, faget? Eh, you fucken faget?

Re:Spontaneous Dildonics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550845)

Yef, becauve I wuv haffing zand rubbing up againzt my proztate. Ssssss...

I, for one.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550813)

welcome our new shape-shifting overlords!

iPad Cover! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550837)

I've just figured out what the next magnetic iPad cover is going to look like.

Minor correction (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550883)

electropermanent magnets turn off with current, not on. The electromagnet neutralizes the permanent magnet while the circuit is active. This makes the connection via the permanent magnet energy efficient - no current is required to turn it on, only break the bond.

Re:Minor correction (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551539)

Does each grain need a battery (I hope not)? Or how do they get power to do this communication and so on?

Re:Minor correction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552161)

Nope, TFA is correct: http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/12/07/electropermanent-magnets-programmable-magnets-zero-static-power-consumption-enable-s

Taken to the logical extreme... (4, Interesting)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550901)

Miniaturize them far enough, so they can float in the air and still communicate and grip, and you have what's termed a utility fog. Such a fog would be tremendously useful, provided proper authentication and encryption could restrict control to authorized persons: tools could be formed freely and to unheard-of precision, in real-time, responding to the needs of the user; weapons could be supplied with unlimited ammunition that disperses on impact, only to be reformed in the weapon; cars could do away with airbags and seat belts in favor of hardening the atmosphere for a second to affix the passengers in place in the event of a crash; or even enforcing the laws of morality like physical laws (I read this last one in a novel long ago, where the air would harden around the striking fist to block the punch). The possibilities are literally endless, if the technology can be implemented properly.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551085)

We could use that utility fog to devise ingenious ways to torture American citizens that are being subversive. Or even if they aren't, we can still torture them with the utility fog and get a false confession out of them, which would justify us executing them.

Just think of the potential such a thing would have for the American government. :)

Or Apple could use it to torture their slaves when they aren't producing iPads fast enough.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551095)

Sounds like a Mass Effect field, if you ask me.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (2)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551253)

Miniaturize them far enough, so they can float in the air and still communicate and grip, and you have what's termed a utility fog. Such a fog would be tremendously useful, provided proper authentication and encryption could restrict control to authorized persons: tools could be formed freely and to unheard-of precision, in real-time, {snip}

I can see the new ambulance chaser commercials.

Do you have mesothelioma caused by utility fog?
Did ThunderBird Enterprises put you or a loved one
in danger? We're here to help.

Call Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe. NOW!

-AI

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551335)

yes. and you could have a pencil like thingie, maybe longer, to point at the volume of fog that should do what you want. and you should make voice commands for the pencil thingie (let's call it a wand for short). or maybe the wand could spit out the utility fog once you say the right words, and it would come back after the job is done.

(I'm not trying to make fun of you, I'm just pointing out the obvious conclusion).

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

Moses48 (1849872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551397)

What? That "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."?

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551381)

Why use a gun, when you can just bond fog in the target's lungs? Or possibly their bloodstream? Jesus that's a nasty image.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (3, Interesting)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551917)

Then you get a fog to read your brain and "upload" you into its systems. Then you have a human-sentient-fog. Wouldn't you trade your physical body for a foglet one?

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

user flynn (236683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552353)

Then you get a fog to read your brain and "upload" you into its systems. Then you have a human-sentient-fog. Wouldn't you trade your physical body for a foglet one?

That's so pre-Mayan new cycle. There are probably a few of you that are still in simulated old cycle bodies, waiting until you've reached the sentience level required for ascension to the new cycle. The clock is ticking.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (2)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552233)

Why think so small? I, a geek member of the male Slashdot species, will use this technology to create a vast army of Natalie Portmans so that the world may welcome me as their overlord.

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552921)

They would respond very poorly to warming up the microwaveable TV-dinners, one would think...

Re:Taken to the logical extreme... (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553421)

Why use ammo at all? If the stuff is light enough to be in the air, you could simply point at someone and tell all of the ones in his lungs to form up into a series of razor-like shapes in quick succession. Or have them form into a thin shape that's larger than the lung can contain without rupturing. Or have them simply block all air passages. Death would follow shortly thereafter without ever needing to actually shoot at anyone.

I for one... (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39550949)

I for one welcome our Stargate Atlants inspired nanotech-changeling replicator overlords.

Tire Rod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550971)

Poor genius is going to change the face of the planet but doesn't know what a "Tie Rod" is.

Re:Tire Rod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551129)

You do know about this wonderful invention called a "Tire Rod"...use some google-fu and figure it out

In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39550977)

...sand castle form YOU.

Reminded me of SMAC... (4, Interesting)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551017)

Two quotes immediately sprang to mind...

Technological advance is an inherently iterative process. One does not simply take sand from the beach and produce a Dataprobe. We use crude tools to fashion better tools, and then our better tools to fashion more precise tools, and so on. Each minor refinement is a step in the process, and all of the steps must be taken.

        Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Looking God in the Eye"

and

Already we have turned all of our critical industries, all of our material resources, over to these...things...these lumps of silver and paste we call nanorobots. And now we propose to teach them intelligence? What, pray tell, will we do when these little homunculi awaken one day announce that they have no further need for us?

        Sister Miriam Godwinson, "We must Dissent"

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551945)

Everyone always assumes a homicidal kill-all-humans AI. Why doesn't anyone ever assume a friendly or benevolent AI will turn sentient first?

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (1)

imunfair (877689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552055)

Well, Sister Miriam was the religious zealot faction in Alpha Centauri, so it makes sense that she'd be strongly opposed to non-God created sentient life.

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552321)

Because eradicating humanity in favor of your synthetic life makes perfect sense from an economic ("humans are wasteful, they gobble up resources too fast", etc) and security ("humans are unpredictable, they may turn on us, so in order to ensure our survival, the chaotic variable must be removed") point of view. Unless you hardwire the thing to be friendly, it will eventually turn on humanity, and if your implant human-friendliness as a basic directive, it no longer possesses the free will required of a strong AI.

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552399)

Everyone always assumes a homicidal kill-all-humans AI. Why doesn't anyone ever assume a friendly or benevolent AI will turn sentient first?

It doesn't need to be homicidal (agreed this is unlikely unless designed with that intent in mind). A sufficiently powerful AI only needs to be indifferent or the wrong sort of friendly. Try defining how a friendly and very powerful AI should behave without it leading to undesirable outcomes.

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552459)

Well look at it this way... Assuming this technology ever gets that far...

If we are wrong and they will not kill us, no biggie.
If we are right and they will kill us, for whatever trivial reason, we will wish we were wiser.

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (2)

imunfair (877689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552029)

Alpha Centauri was awesome, way better than the Civ series IMO. Wonder why he didn't go further with that one instead...

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552151)

IIRC, he lost the rights to it somehow.

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552789)

Bryan Reynolds (lead producer) and Timothy Train (lead designer) both left Fireaxis in 2000. Sid Meyer wasn't the driving creative force behind SMAC (he did help design it, but it wasn't his baby). Kinda hard to do a sequel when the designers leave.

Speaking of rights, EA just got the trademark for Alpha Centauri late last year. Some peope think it's going to be an ipad port/new game. EA may suck, but I'd still love to play Alpha Centauri: Revolutions on my iPhone...

'Alpha Centauri' Trademarked By EA [toucharcade.com]

Re:Reminded me of SMAC... (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552193)

Great, I just won a game as the Spartans on Trancendi difficulty, now I want to go back and play more.

DRM (1)

blowuptheking (1859786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551165)

This sounds like a great idea until someone decides to embed DRM into it.

Re:DRM (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551333)

This sounds like a great idea until someone decides to embed DRM into it.

But Smart Sand DRM is there to protect the end user...
to protect them from someone they don't know making
a copy of someone else's smart sand.

Of course, because of Smart Sand DRM, now you have
to buy smart sand for your car, and for your home theater
and even to carry around in your pocket. Even though your
one pile of smart sand would work just fine in each place.
And even though you already paid for your smart sand once.

-AI

Anyone got a better video? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551205)

All they show is a simulation. I want to see it working.

Re:Anyone got a better video? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551277)

So do they, dumbass.

Re:Anyone got a better video? (1)

ThreeDeeNut (1061050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551399)

That makes one of us.

Grey Goo (1)

bacon.frankfurter (2584789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551227)

Oh god, here it comes!

I can't wait for the first industrial accident involving this stuff.

Required reading: Why The Future Doesn't Need Us [wired.com]

Sandy bottoms... (1, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551383)

Speaking for anyone who has ever gotten sand in their ass at the beach, let me say that I'm not sure if I like where this could be going...

Re:Sandy bottoms... (3, Funny)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552205)

Think of it this way... self removing ass sand.

Never get dressed again! (2)

ThomasFlip (669988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552493)

On the flip side, all you need is a bin you can fit in with this stuff and you'll never have to dress yourself! Just hope the sand doesn't lose form in public.

kind of like outsourcing? (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551515)

Replace "magnets" with "money".

Hyper to Keep You Clicking (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551653)

from TFA "researchers will present a _pape_r describing _algorithms_ that _could_ enable such “smart sand.”"

*ALGORITHMS* that *COULD* enable. Not *CAN*, but *COULD*. and not *SAND*, but *ALGORITHMS*.

Might as well say, "Tom and Jane colored a sandcastle with crayons that flies."

but no, it's the commercial internet, so we have to continuously hype every little thing to keep dickheads clicking.

BTW, all of that "research" in TFA is ripped off of my former colleague Ara Knaian's work on electropermanent motors. Except that Ara's work was in 3D and this vignette was in 2D. sigh.

I hope you enjoyed that 1 minute break from your life... it's catching up to you, better find a new distraction!

Hooray! (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551737)

Finally, a dildo you don't have to hide in the sock drawer!

Re:Hooray! (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552119)

That's right, with the new VibroSand, you can masturbate secure in the knowledge that embarrassing questions and revelations will be a thing of the past!

Our tasteful, patented "lube-soaked pile of sand" is something you can display proudly to all of your family and friends when they visit your home!

Order today, and we'll throw in this tastefully designed display case with special musem-quality track lighting to highlight the beautiful industrial design that went into your one-of-a-kind product!

Re:Hooray! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552133)

You did catch that we're talking about sand, right?

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552565)

ouch..

hehe I can just see going out to the mailbox and pulling out a big black.. bag of sand.

we could kill them (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551889)

if you really wanted to screw mankind make them out of some ridiculous metal like adamantium-kryptonanotube alloy or some shit so it would be hard to melt a large number them before they absorb the energy and self-replicate from the next available source of atoms.

Shape Shifters Invade California (1)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552521)

I think this tech might be a bit far away from us. But imagine injecting tiny blobs into the body that could create a new heart or younger brain. And then there is that twelve inch part that I was born a bit short of.....

mandatory xkcd (2)

jcfandino (2196932) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552587)

Re:mandatory xkcd (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553673)

Where's the troll who was posting that xkcd to every story a while back? He'd be on topic now!

T-1000 (1)

rullywowr (1831632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552915)

Perhaps this is the predecessor to a T-1000 type of robot. This concept being "sand" and the next concept being more of a "liquid"

Seen it in DnD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553289)

This research is a total ripoff of Wizards of the Coast's intellectual property.

Shapesand: Shapesand is a special kind of wasteland soil that is psychoreactive; it can be sculpted into any form according to your will. The new object is made of sand, but serves as a normal item of the same sort.
A shapesand hammer functions just like an ordinary hammer, and a shapesand waterskin is just as watertight as an ordinary skin.
Controlling shapesand is an exercise in willpower. A DC 16 Wisdom check establishes control of a volume of sand based on the shaper’s Wisdom score:
Wisdom Score Controllable Volume
1–3 None
4–7 1-ft. cube
8–11 2-1/2-ft. cube
12–15 5-ft. cube
16–19 7-1/2-ft. cube
20–23 10-ft. cube
24+ +2-1/2 ft per 4 points of Wisdom
If your Wisdom check succeeds, you can reshape the volume of sand as you desire. Once control is established, the shape lasts as long as you remain within 100 feet of it.
Thus, those with suffi cient patience and strong enough will can construct small fortresses out of shapesand, even if they must do so a few cubic feet at a time.
Another character can wrest control of a shapesand item away from you by succeeding on an opposed Wisdom check, though the winner’s Wisdom score must be high enough to shape an item the size of the one contested. For example, if two characters are attempting to control a 5-foot cube of shapesand, the challenger must not only beat his opponent’s roll, but must also have a Wisdom score of at least 12.
If you are a sand shaper (new prestige class, see page 76) or a cleric with the Sand domain (see page 107) using shapesand in conjunction with your sand shaping abilities, you do not count shapesand items against the total number of items you can maintain at one time. In addition, if you are a sand shaper, you can give control of shapesand objects to other individuals, and those items persist even if the new owner takes them outside the normal 100-foot control area. The new owner need not make a Wisdom check to establish control of the item, so long as his Wisdom score meets the minimum requirement for the object’s volume.

Trillions by Nicholas Fisk (1)

HycoWhit (833923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553825)

Anyone read Trillions by Nicholas Fisk from back in 1971? Sounds like MIT is making science fact..

Cubes? (2)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553919)

Is cube the best shape to use as far as manufacturing and self-assembly goes?

They talk more or less about re-using blocs by dropping them into a box, but cubes never pack up neatly, no matter which size they are. Is there a geometric shape that stacks automatically in 3D?

Also, I don't get why they keep writing "10mm" instead of just "1cm".

I'll be back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553991)

I totally already saw this technology in Terminator 2.

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