Transformers: Coming to an Army Near You
This time, the Pentagon may have outdone itself. And I'm not even referring to death tolls, leaked documents, scandals, or borderline war crimes.
No, this one can go under #straight-up-insanely-cool-science-and-technology.
The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is well on its way to creating matter and materials that will be able to shapeshift more than government policy does (a truly impressive feat).
“You’re blurring the distinction between materials and machines. Materials act like computers and communications systems, and communications systems and computers act like materials.”
The teams of scientists involved in the project call it "programmable matter", which consists of materials that can "self-assemble or alter their shape, perform a function and then disassemble themselves". Theoretically, according to program manager Dr. Mitchell R. Zakin, in the future a soldier will be able to send a command to a bucket of goop sitting in the back, and the goop--really a composite of mesomatter, tiny particles that are one-half matter, one-half machine and computer--will self-assemble itself into any required tool or object.
One day, that could lead to “morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and ’soft’ robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.
Five separate teams from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard and Cornell universities are going about building their science fiction fantasies in different ways.
One team from Harvard is working on a kind of “generalized Rubik’s Cube” that can fold into all kinds of shapes. Another is trying to order large strands of synthetic DNA to bind together in a “molecular Velcro.” An MIT group is building “self-folding origami” machines that “use specialized sheets of material with built-in actuators and data. These machines use cutting-edge mathematical theorems to fold themselves into virtually any three-dimensional object.”
Finally, someone has found a better use for the Rubik's Cube than sitting abandoned in the desk drawer of many a disillusioned soul.
I, for one, look forward to the day I get my own personal Optimus Prime in a bucket.