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Materials From Tough-as-Nails Crustacean Could Inspire Better Body Armor

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the don't-mess-with-the-little-guy dept.

Science 144

carmendrahl writes "The peacock mantis shrimp, a crustacean which is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, has hammer-like clubs for smashing the shells of its prey. They're so strong that regular glass aquariums can't hold them. But what's interested researchers for some time is how the clubs stand up to all that stress. Now, a team has figured out why: the mantis shrimp club's molecular structure is set up to resist fractures. That discovery could lead to stronger and lighter car frames or body armor."

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144 comments

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So it is a peacock? (5, Funny)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268581)

The peacock mantis shrimp, a crustacean which is neither a mantis nor a shrimp...

Ok. So it is a peacock.

Re:So it is a peacock? (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268603)

Exactly what I thought!

Re:So it is a peacock? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268671)

That's funny. Every time I try to keep a peacock in my aquarium, it drowns.

Re:So it is a peacock? (5, Funny)

crazypip666 (930562) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268741)

Didn't you read the summary? This one has clubs so it can break the glass and get out before it drowns.

Re:So it is a peacock? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268837)

The trick is simple. Don't fill it with water if you are planning to keep peacocks in it.

Re:So it is a peacock? (1)

Darby (84953) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269939)

If you don't fill it with water, then it's not an aquarium, it's a terrarium.

Re:So it is a peacock? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268835)

I think we should rename it it, to remove this silly confusion. I suggest "Alligator Platypus Tadpole".

Re:So it is a peacock? (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269451)

Alligator Platypus Tadpole? That would be apt.

Re:So it is a peacock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270357)

Oh, that is SO clever on so many (at least two anyway) levels lol.

Re:So it is a peacock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269481)

I vote for Interior Crocodile Alligator.

Re:So it is a peacock? (4, Informative)

rouge86 (608370) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268919)

Well, it is a stomatopod. I keep a couple of mantis shrimps, and they don't seem to have any inclination to break their aquarium glass. They are partial to the many snails in the aquarium though. Roy Caldwell [berkeley.edu] has a lot of information on keeping mantis shrimps and the different varieties.

Re:So it is a peacock? (4, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268951)

A stormtroopod? Of course it can't get out, it's got lousy aim.

Re:So it is a peacock? (2)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269027)

Lousy aim ? Didn't you hear Obi-Wan ? "And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise"

Re:So it is a peacock? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269131)

This is the same man who told Luke his father was dead.
You hear "too accurate for Sandpeople," but all I hear is "blah, blah, blah" coming out of his filthy lie-hole.

Re:So it is a peacock? (5, Funny)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269675)

This is also the man who, when going into hiding from the new Empire because they were hunting down and exterminating his kind decided to hide on Darth Vader's home planet and only change his first name.

Real S.M.R.T.

Re:So it is a peacock? (3, Funny)

JackCroww (733340) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269791)

You never know; Kenobi could be the Smith/Ng/Wong/etcetera of the Star Wars Universe...

Re:So it is a peacock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270749)

I am not the Kenobi you are looking for....

Re:So it is a peacock? (1)

xtrafe (1262576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270759)

Technically, a peacock is also neither.

To combat the robot hordes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268607)

Soon I can order my suit of pseudo-chitin armour? It will have to do until they invent power armour.

Re:To combat the robot hordes (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268923)

They could call it Zoidberg.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268613)

If they make it out of solar-powered spider silk, possibly at a room-temperature fusion reactor......the world will asplode.

Stronger, lighter cars? (4, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268639)

No. We have already passed the point on the strength axis at which the car survives but the occupants die of internal injuries. For cars, what you need is energy absorption to decelerate the car's contents gradually. That means a body that will crumple.

Body armor, perhaps. Here, the total energy of a typical round is not lethal if it can be spread over a large area of the body. This can be facilitated by stiff materials backed by some padding.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (4, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268701)

In some specific situations yes, but in others the occupant is perfectly fine but did thousands of dollars of Damage to their car.
And making a car more bullet resistant is in high demand from many sectors.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268809)

...making a car more bullet resistant is in high demand from many sectors.

I would be rich if I could make a bullet that was more car resistant.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270705)

I would be rich if I could make a bullet that was more car resistant.

You're a little late to this particular [wikipedia.org] game.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269403)

So you're saying we should build cars to avoid petty financial damage over serious life threatening damage?

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269597)

or we could build a frame with an internal shock mounting where we could prevent frame destruction, as well as protect the passenger.
this could be done by having the passenger compartment be in a floating design where as much as energy as possible is transmitted to the whole frame, rather then absorbed on just one side, or have sacrificial parts that will rupture in a collision but are dirt cheap and easy to replace.

you don't have to have a 70s death trap or a modern crumple like a soda can when hit at 5 miles per hour.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268779)

Or make lighter cars that are just as strong.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268831)

And lighter cars are also more fuel efficient which also makes them more marketable, more ecofriendly and more regulatory friendly.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1, Insightful)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268881)

You assume the manufacturing process does not cause more damage to the environment than the weight saving offsets. Same as how buying a Prius is worse for the environment than buying a used (or even many new non-hybrid) cars due to the manufacturing process.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269253)

That doesn't change any of: :more marketable, more ecofriendly and more regulatory friendly" though.

Unless you interprete "ecofriendly" to be "better for the evironment" rather than "better for the owners feelings about the environment" of course.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269571)

Same as how buying a Prius is worse for the environment than buying a used (or even many new non-hybrid) cars due to the manufacturing process.

I totally agree with you, but am curious: do you have any credible sources? I know aluminum manufacturing is worse for the environment than steel due to it's high energy costs to both purify and recycle, but do you have any numbers that I could, say, share with my idiot democrat cousin who loves her Prius to prove that it isn't a good car for the environment?

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (3, Insightful)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270083)

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270535)

I'm not sure if you're being facetious or not, but both those pdfs you link to debunk the claims of “Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles
From Concept to Disposal” from CNW Marketing Research.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270941)

I was being informative. Was curious to see if anyone noticed. The Prius-haters are looney-toons. I'm not sure they make sense economically (would not for my commute) but they clearly have a lower life-cycle energy cost than most other new cars, and used cars don't last forever -- somebody has to buy new cars.

Note that the comparison of new-car to used-car will always start out behind on the lifecycle costs, since it is assumed that the "production cost" for the now-used-car was assigned to the first owner.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270581)

Also lighter cars = faster cars with the same engine.

There is a reason the base model Lotus Exige is much faster than a Cobalt SS, despite having a much less powerful engine. The Cobalt is pig heavy compared to the Lotus.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

pnot (96038) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268801)

No. We have already passed the point on the strength axis at which the car survives but the occupants die of internal injuries. For cars, what you need is energy absorption to decelerate the car's contents gradually. That means a body that will crumple.

Not exactly. Yes, you want a crumple zone. But you don't want the human occupants to be part of that crumple zone, even if their soft, fleshy bodies might make fairly decent shock absorbers.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268805)

Wouldn't a lighter car frame reduce the amount of kinetic energy involved in a collision? That seems like it would be a good thing to me.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268903)

The kinetic energy that will kill you is your bodies mass traveling inside of the vehicle (which just stopped suddenly) towards your dashboard.

Lower vehicle kinetic energy might save the occupants in the other car. But this isn't important for two reasons: 1) High energy two car collisions aren't that common. Odds are higher that you'll hit a fixed obstruction, or another vehicle with a glancing blow. 2) I don't care about the people in the other vehicle.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268989)

Perhaps the occupants of the other car would be just a tad more polite towards you and travel in a lighter one, if you weren't such an asshole.

A lighter vehicle can also carry more cargo, before going over the limit for its class.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269489)

> Perhaps the occupants of the other car would be just a tad more polite towards you and travel in a lighter one, if you weren't such an asshole.

Probably not.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269613)

I doubt it. The only thing that seems to discourage MFFYs and elicit 'polite' behavior is a large (rusty) 4x4 with winch bumper and Idaho Stop bars (also known as buffalo bars in other parts of the world).

Yeah, I know. Its not the safest vehicle. If I hit a tree, I'm dead. But then that's my own fault. If a Prius blows through a stop sign, it will absorb all the energy I'll need to walk away from that accident. Perhaps even drive away. Cargo isn't an issue with this vehicle. But frame strength is*.

* Cars today are so highly engineered to comply with regulations that an accident not anticipated by the FMVSS will probably cause them to crumple like wet cardboard. Heck, you can't even use bumper jacks on them anymore, since the bumpers are only designed for impact loads. Guess what will happen if you try yanking yourself out of a ditch with a bumper-mounted winch. You'll probably pull your frame apart.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270577)

Guess what will happen if you try yanking yourself out of a ditch with a bumper-mounted winch. You'll probably pull your frame apart.

You're close: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19hUTpbm9OM [youtube.com]

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269567)

Lower weight and kinetic energy also means the car becomes more maneuverable, both in changing direction and in braking. This means you have a better chance of avoiding a collision.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (-1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268915)

Lighter = Faster
Faster = More Kinetic Energy

Weight is not a factor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_energy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269133)

Lighter = Faster
Faster = More Kinetic Energy

Weight is not a factor

Hmm... from my 40 year old classical physics I seem to recall that:

KE=1/2 MV^2
W=Mg

so KE = 1/2 (W/g)V^2

qed: weight is a factor

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269959)

You don't have to go faster.
Your link shows the relationship between kinetic energy, mass and velocity. Since mass has weight on Earth, weight is certainly a factor.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268817)

You miss the point. The application to cars is not about making the car more resistant to damage. It's about reducing the weight of the car without compromising existing safety standards in order to increase fuel efficiency and decrease cost. Also a better understanding of how materials withstand stresses & strains and how they ultimately fail leads to the ability of engineering crumple zone so that a car will deform in a predictable fashion.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (4, Insightful)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268883)

No. We have already passed the point on the strength axis at which the car survives but the occupants die of internal injuries. For cars, what you need is energy absorption to decelerate the car's contents gradually. That means a body that will crumple.

Body armor, perhaps. Here, the total energy of a typical round is not lethal if it can be spread over a large area of the body. This can be facilitated by stiff materials backed by some padding.

Seems like 'stiff materials backed by some padding' might describe the optimal car design also: an impact-absorbing outer layer (crumple zone), inside of which is an extremely hard shell to prevent debris penetrating and crushing the passenger. On impact, the passenger strapped within the inner shell decelerates by crumpling the outer layer, without the inner layer's being breached by debris, or the passenger's needing to decelerate within the context of the inner layer. In such a model, you would want to make the inner shell as hard as possible. You might even be able to make an even flimsier outer layer if you could make the inner layer harder, resulting in less abrupt deceleration when using harder material.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269029)

I even seem to remember that "we passed that point" loooong ago. So making tough car frames on its own hasn't been a problem for a long time. Though some others have mentioned good points as well:
- reducing weight
- making a tough frame around the driver/passengers but inside the crumple zone to protect them from the deformed frame and debris

The point about kinetic energy is incorrect though. What hurts you / kills you is the kinetic energy from the *other* car, not from your own. Reducing your own car's mass actually makes it more vulnerable to being "pushed" around, hence needs a larger crumple zone to avoid that (since being "pushed around" will kill you just as well as being crushed).

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269235)

No. We have already passed the point on the strength axis at which the car survives but the occupants die of internal injuries.

That's not the point. Stronger materials can make a stronger frame but they can also be used to make a *less heavy frame. The goal is lower fuel consumption and greater interior space.

*less heavy: most new materials will be less heavy as they will be primarily based on elements less dense then iron.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269435)

I think some people would prefer a broken arm over a totalled car. And it certainly is annoying to hit a pole at 8mph and instead of bouncing off, it "eats" the pole and does $2000 in damage to the car.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40271119)

And that's because the cost of a broken arm is externalized to other agents, so it appears to be less costly than the car damage.
Even so, why value a thing over your own health?

Re: prefer a broken arm (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40271513)

maybe; but those people already have concussion from their previous accident

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269717)

You make the material stronger, so you can use less of it, so the car is lighter, so you can use even less material and energy to move it around.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269827)

Stronger materials = less needed = lighter = more fuel efficient and/or faster cars.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (4, Informative)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270153)

Ok time for a mechanical engineer to step in here. There is some confusion between stiffness and strength. These are two different properties of the material.

Stiffness is the ability of the material to resist deflection. Think of identically shaped tube held fixed in one end made from different materials. Now put a force on the other end and assume it is small enough so you don't bend the tube permanently. All aluminum tubes will deflect about 3 times that of all steel tubes. It doesn't matter what kind of aluminum or steel. This is due to a property called Modulus of elasticity.

Now when we talk strength of metals we have two types. The first is yield strength. In the above example this would tell you what load the tube could take before it bends to the point when you remove the load it doesn't return to its original shape. The next is ultimate strength. This is the load when the tune actually breaks.

These strengths vary widely for metals with some aluminums stronger than steels and the other way around.

The next thing is density. Aluminum is 1/3 the density of steel. But you need more if it to make a stiff structure.

So what does this mean for impacts in cars? You want a material that is stiff for its weight so that it can absorb the energy as it deflects but also strong so that it doesn't break as it deflects. Ideally you would want your car to crush like modern cars do to absorb the impact then return to their original shape so there is no damage.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270305)

OK, so where does that place this crustacean's club/claw/whatever in terms of stiffness and strength?

I think its a combination of both. You want to have something that's strong (high yield strength) and stiff (deforms less than your target so as to transfer more energy to it).

Either way, the design philosophy behind the crustacean's club seems to be different than that of autos in a collision. The crustacean doesn't want to bend or break its club whereas cars are supposed to crumple (exceed ultimate strength in a predictable manner). That sounds like two different goals and perhaps two different materials selections.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270571)

It was behind a pay wall so I didn't see the data. I'm pretty sure steel is both stronger and stiffer than this crustacean.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270797)

They don't really say. They never describe strength in a classical mechanical engineering fashion. Mostly TFA is about the microstructure of the material:

Our studies show that the stomatopod dactyl club represents a notable departure from previously studied damage-tolerant biological composites, in that it is specifically employed for high-velocity offensive strikes. Our structural investigations, coupled with nanomechanical characterization and finite element simulations, have shown that the club consists of several microstructural features that permit the infliction of crippling impacts while simultaneously minimizing internal damage within the club. These characteristics include a pitch-graded helicoidal architecture constructed from mineralized chitin fibers that can dissipate the energy released by propagating microcracks; an oscillating elastic modulus that provides further shielding against catastrophic crack propagation; a modulus mismatch in the impact region that acts as a crack deflector near the impact surface; and an ultrahard outer layer correlated with a high level of mineralization and a radial organization of apatitic crystallites. The structural lessons gained from the study of this multiphase biological composite could thus provide important design insights into the fabrication of tough ceramic/organic hybrid materials in structural applications where components are subjected to intense repetitive loading.

I hate it when Slashdot covers stuff behind paywalls, but unfortunately virtually all decent science and engineering is either 1) described by the breathless university PR department which could not describe the difference between gravity and fish farming or 2) behind a paywall.

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

Sketchly (1354369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270507)

"Here, the total energy of a typical round is not lethal if it can be spread over a large area of the body"........ is that why fat people are harder to kill?

Re:Stronger, lighter cars? (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270921)

Yes, but when drivers figured out if they had a car that strength axis could in fact cause the occupants of the 'other' car to die of internal injuries they told us we had to go green. So now we all drive around these batches of shit.

That's really how you get funding these days... (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268641)

...tell the military that your science project has military applications. Otherwise, good luck getting a grant.

Re:That's really how you get funding these days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268987)

Or you could claim a climate change angle.

butter tipped crustacean piercing rounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268647)

I can see the future of hot melted butter with a hint of lemon jiuce on those body armor piecing rounds. On the hand to hand combat front,shrimp forks being the weapon of choice.

the thing i don't understand (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268713)

about animal lovers, is that the world, naturally, is a place of violence

although, what it isn't a place of, is cruelty. nature kills for hunger, and with no emotion. taking delight in another's suffering is the problem. the mechanics of the violence we are born and live in and die in is without cruelty, it just is

you see something like this shrimp, and you think: isn't this evil? and the answer is, no, because it is only hungry, it is not cruel. it is the human mind that perceives cruelty where there is none. much like those against eating meat

Re:the thing i don't understand (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268755)

Well, cats domestic and big cats tend to kill anything that moves and not just to eat.... do they find pleasure in it I don't know, they do seem to have fun with it from having watched them with lizards.... should I have jumped up and stopped that, I don't know.... I wonder why we only sell cat food in flavors people would find interesting, I never see, rat, snake, lizard on the shelf, but my cat seemed to like snake more then anything else.

Re:the thing i don't understand (2)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268807)

For cats, playing with food is a form of training exercise. The mother cat brings dead or half-dead prey to the kittens so they can practice hunting.

Re:the thing i don't understand (2)

Sodki (621717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268785)

There are some nutty "animal lovers" out there, but I think most of those that are against easting meat do it in protest against the cruelty of how animals are raised for human consumption. As a meat-eater myself, I often think about this and I'm getting closer to be an almost full-time vegetarian. I don't have any problems eating the livestock that my parents raise, because I know they live a good life, full of great outdoors, and are treated with respect. But I've seen my share of farms and in some of them the conditions in which animals live are horrendous. This is the cruelty you speak of.

Re:the thing i don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268787)

much like those against eating meat

Not quite. Humans have other choices.

Re:the thing i don't understand (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268841)

but the point is you wouldn't see the need for other choices if you understood eating meat isn't cruelty

Re:the thing i don't understand (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269817)

Eating meat isn't cruelty, it's the cruelty that seems built into the system of getting meat to your fridge. I'm happy to eat hunted meat, or even pasture animals where I know the animal wasn't killed cruelly. Of course I still don't eat much meat due to the environmental damage...

Re:the thing i don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268949)

Yes, much like Lisa Simpson stranded on the island, humans could probably lick slime if so desired. At least slime wouldn't require the slaughter of the countless millions of animals that die mangled in harvester combines every year, harvesting all that oh-so-good vegetarian goodness.

I'm not sure how an "other choice" which favours convenience and hypocrisy over morals is anything to crow about, but knock yourself out.

Re:the thing i don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269289)

I'm not sure how an "other choice" which favours convenience and hypocrisy over morals is anything to crow about, but knock yourself out.

There is nothing hypocritical about desiring to reduce the suffering of other living beings. The desire itself, that is. Your example is akin to saying that indirectly and unintentionally hurting something is the same as purposefully doing it, and that's simply preposterous.

Not to mention that you attempt to point out others' alleged hypocrisy to presumably make yourself feel better. The world does not work like that.

Re:the thing i don't understand (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269775)

although, what it isn't a place of, is cruelty.

That's good that you don't allow mammals into your "nature". Those are creepy creatures.

Ep.u..!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268733)

obsessivEs and the faster, c4eaper,

Mantis Shrimps are smart (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268761)

Everything I know about Mantis Shrimps comes from The Science of Discworld (a book which should really be named, The Science of Roundworld, since it's about how the inhabitants of Discworld might view our world), by Terry Pratchett and two scientists, one of whom actually owned one of these critters. They're extremely smart (relatively speaking). He used to set it puzzles it had to solve to get food. After a while, it started ignoring food that didn't involve solving a puzzle, apparently because it was too boring.

They also have quite a vision system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268803)

Trinocular vision with at least 8 visual pigments (as opposed to our mere rgb) and the ability to detect the direction of circularly polarized light.

Theorized to help them detect the phase of the moon for breeding and to see in turbid waters and as secret communication channel between the sexes that cant be exploited by predators.

Stronger car frames? (2, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268823)

The very point of a car frame is to crumple. They're expensive to replace, but not as much as the driver.

Re:Stronger car frames? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269013)

Hey, the proposed car frame would resist the impact so the driver wouldn't be killed, however anybody caught by that car frame in a crash isn't probably going to survive a hit that strong.

Re:Stronger car frames? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269993)

I guess i get to be the one to point out that you fail physics forever. It's entirely possible to build a car that will bounce off an obstacle without taking significant damage. But if the car bounces without deforming then the passengers inside have to withstand the exact same forces. Without something else absorbing the energy even 10-20 mph impacts would be exceedingly dangerous. Don't believe me? Go outside, find a brick wall, and try running into it full tilt without stopping. That's what it would feel like if you were driving in a car at 10-20 mph and it instantly came to a dead stop in a collision.

Re:Stronger car frames? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270829)

Go outside, find a brick wall, and try running into it full tilt without stopping.

Much too difficult for the average Slashdotter. The easy way: Go up on the second floor. Swan dive to ground. Let gravity do all the work.

Even better one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40271217)

Go bungee jumping off the brooklyn bridge with the bungee secured to the helmet on your head.

That's the extent of the whiplash a human being would feel if a car actually bounced off a wall.

Re:Stronger car frames? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269193)

[Car frames] are expensive to replace, but not as much as the driver.

Not really, but people tend to frown when you put things in the opposite order.

Re:Stronger car frames? (1)

vakuona (788200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269441)

No, parts of a car should crumple in a controlled way. You do not want the passenger section crumpling. You use airbag to absorb energy in those parts.

Re:Stronger car frames? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269867)

Worth reading, even if only slightly relevant: http://holyjoe.org/poetry/holmes1.htm

I don't get it? (1)

thestudio_bob (894258) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268829)

If it's as tough as nails, then why not just make the armor out of nails? Thanks folks, I'll be here all week!

real missed opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40268845)

"The peacock mantis shrimp, a crustacean which is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, let alone a peacock..."

Science: Killing people or not getting killed ... (0)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268857)

... in the process.

This is neither the first nor in any way exceptional, but in every single instance, it is a disgrace!

Molecular Acid (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40268863)

Does this protect against it? Never know when you might be fighting Xenomorphs.

Paid Subscription (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269317)

Kinda worthless linking an article the requires a paid subscription to access.

Re:Paid Subscription (1)

MLease (652529) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269341)

Not if your objective is to sell subscriptions.

-Mike

What we've got (5, Informative)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269473)

Just to outline what the standard gear can do as of fairly recently; I'm out, but I wore it in 2010.

The kevlar lining in the vest, by itself, is rated to stop 9mm pistol rounds.

The main chest and back ESAPI plates are rated to stop a NATO 7.62x51 round. (The AK commonly fires the lighter 7.62x39 round.)

The armor is bulky as hell. The full assemblage, helmet, shoulder protectors, front and back plates, side plates, etc., is heavy and greatly restricts movement. I found it very difficult, with everything on, to man a gun and drop down to check radios. (I've also never found a decent pair of gloves.) I stopped wearing the neck protection and shoulder protection while driving because I couldn't easily turn my head.

The problem of being trapped is partially addressed through the quick-release mechanism; there is a strap you pull that will simply make your armor fall off. Of course, there's a fairly elaborate system of cables wound throughout the armor, and the armor itself is more annoying to put on.

My feelings are that we're well past the point where the increased likelihood of getting shot while stumbling around is worse than the benefits of not getting hurt by shrapnel. I'm considering a common combined IED and small arms attack in which the convoy is successfully stopped, and they have to kick out dismounts to respond. In that scenario, getting in and out of vehicles is very dangerous (especially some MRAPs where you have to basically go out ass-first) and performing tricky tasks like hooking up tow bars and tow cables.

The next biggest problem is it's hard to allow air flow. The armor tries, and they recently came out (thank god) with a lighter shirt to wear underneath it instead of the regular ACU top. That was a huge improvement, but it's fundamentally hard to put yourself inside a ceramic box and not cook.

Except for shoulders (and no one wants to wear the damned shoulder armor) it doesn't protect joints. The neck protection further restricts mobility.

Wearing it, overall, I felt like a damned turtle. Other people I saw didn't seem to be doing much better.

Re:What we've got (1)

Sketchly (1354369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270539)

Presumably, though, if you were shot in the face all this would be irrelevant?

Re:What we've got (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270845)

Well, we simply should invade Canada and stop bothering with the pesky, hot, dangerous places.

Mosquito repellent and you're golden!

Cool Natural Materials... (3, Insightful)

pittance (78536) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269517)

Lots of natural materials exhibit really interesting properties, sometimes at odds with the way we'd expect such materials to react. For example crustacean shells are ceramic but quite tough because of the layering of the ceramic with small amounts of organic binder material which causes any fractures to be diverted before they spread though the bulk of the material.

Many natural materials exhibit high levels of hierarchy like this and it's one of the many reasons why natural structures and materials are way cooler than most of the things that we make, with the possible exception of aerogel. One of the most interesting hierarchical structures is Euplectella Aspergillum (Venus' flower basket [wikipedia.org] ), its structure is really complex [nhm.ac.uk] . I can easily see this being an aerospace material in 10 years...

Re:Cool Natural Materials... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270117)

I hope it's sooner than that. This stuff sounds great for protecting carbon fiber bike frames.

Size isn't everything (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269541)

The way the fibers are laid out to create the surface can have a dramatic effect on it's strength and ability to maintain shape. Watch this TED talk [youtube.com] for more interesting facts about penis anatomy.

I want to be a lawyer representing the.... (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270933)

Well, whatever it is. Anyways. Let them build their armor. I'll hold off a few years and then throw a Lodsys on them!

Once again something amazing that just happened... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40271101)

Evolution is just amazing. It produced a complex highly application specific material that we will need to copy because of its (undeniably intelligent) design.
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