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Self-Sculpting "Sand" Can Allow Spontaneous Formation of Tools 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the shape-of-a-sand-tool dept.
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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Self-Sculpting "Sand" Can Allow Spontaneous Formation of Tools

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  • Murder Weapon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HockeyPUcX (791205) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:23PM (#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."
  • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <> on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:36PM (#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.

  • by MachDelta (704883) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:45PM (#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"


    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"

  • by MrQuacker (1938262) on Monday April 02, 2012 @03:01PM (#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?

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.