02 April 2012

Can matter be spontaneously generated? And what is 'smart sand'?

Some interesting news (to say the least) came out of MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory earlier today, when the MIT News Office posted this article about a type of self-sculpting "smart sand" that could potentially "assume any shape [and allow for] spontaneous formation of new tools or duplication of broken mechanical parts."

"Robot pebbles" developed by researchers at MIT.
(Photo credit: M. Scott Brauer/MIT)
The lab, which is part of MIT's larger Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has developed a system of small cubes (measuring about 10mm an edge) with built-in "rudimentary microprocessors" and "unusual magnets on four of their sides." Apparently, these cubes have the ability to construct an object from a model of the object—using only an unformed pile of other cubes.

I'll leave it to the article to explain specifically how these cubes can generate matter. It's a fascinating read. Be sure you check out the video posted at the bottom of the article, too.

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