Controllably Morphable

By Sean Carroll | December 10, 2009 9:11 am

We occasionally joke about the looming robot menace, but seriously. Discoblog has picked out the Niftiest Robots of 2009, but “Scariest” would have been an equally appropriate appellation.

Yes, there is a robot that crawls around inside your colon, not to mention a Japanese emobot, but the one I would least like to meet in a dark alley is Chembot. It’s a blob-shaped thing that uses jamming in granular materials to make a robot that can alter its shape.

Still pretty primitive, but you can see where we’re headed here. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

  • Philoponus

    So what seriously should we be doing now if sharing the planet with chembot and his ilk is going to be uncomfortable experience?

  • Joe


    We should start by destroying Cyberdyne Systems to ensure Skynet is never created.

  • Surferosad


  • Theo

    Very cool robot.

    Something more-or-less unrelated that is not cool, however, is drug ads on the RSS feed. I don’t see any on this page (the random advertisements here are inoffensive: Chevy, Shell, HP, and appropriate Discover Magazine), but when this post showed up on Google Reader, at the end of the post was an image almost as large as the embedded video, reading “Could your SADNESS and LOSS of INTEREST in the things you previously enjoyed be BIPOLAR DEPRESSION? Learn more”. The link takes you to a website pushing quetiapine fumarate. According to Wikipedia, in a 2005 NIMH study, “74% of trial participants (of the 1,493 people that were in the different treatment groups) discontinued from the trial before it ended. The majority of people discontinued treatment due to intolerable side effects or lack of efficacy.”

    Somehow, Cosmic Variance never struck me as the type of place that would endorse big-pharma psychotropic drugs.

  • DaveH

    That’s part of it. Now, how to robotize the liquifiable metal skeleton?

  • Bruce the Canuck

    Cool! All they need need to do now is to make it into a tubular worm shape, and nurse-kind’s greatest dream will be realized: an enima tube that can find its own way up. Just sit the patient over the toilet and press a button!

  • Peter Coles

    Is it a sex toy?

  • Sili

    I was pretty sure I didn’t want that thing in my colon.

    But then I scrolled down and saw Peter Coles’ comment.

    (And now I’m reminded of today’s SMBC.)

  • Number 6

    I am not a number!

  • nagrogin

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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