Let’s Talk About . . . Invention

I don’t know about you, but I have a socket set out in my toolbox that’s missing about 2/3s of the sockets, and the wrench itself only about half works, and the sockets I have left are the super huge ones and super tiny ones for which there are no bolts made by man. As a result, it’s more or less useless to me, but you don’t want to throw it away because OMG WHAT IF I NEED TO TIGHTEN A TINY BOLT!

In any event, there’s a fix for that solidly planted in the future. But at least we’re a little closer today. The geniuses over at MIT have made some pretty significant strides in creating what I like to callSmart Sand, but they call it “self-sculpting” sand.

The idea is pretty simple: tiny individual grains can be given a command to switch their magnets on or off to combine together to make –on demand– nearly anything. A hammer, a perfectly sized wrench, socket, screwdriver. A jack, a lug wrench, a – well, you get the idea.

Combine this with the glasses technology from my last post, and you’ve got a virtual bottomless toolbox anywhere you need it. The glasses can transmit information to the toolbox about the task at hand, automatically measuring bolts and screws, so you can reach in and pull out the right tool every time, easier than “Accio Screwdriver.”

Imagine having one in your car. You never have to worry about whether you’ve got a jack, or the tools to change your tires. Have them for astronauts so they can always have the tool or the part they need without the need for large and heavy sets of tools.

This is just another step forward, and while the researchers at MIT are a long ways from having small enough component pieces to actually form many useful objects, the fact remains that they’ve made great strides, and it’s just a matter of time before the technology gets small enough to make their dream a reality.

I’ve always been one to look forward to the future, often to a fault, but it’s exciting what’s out there. What we can do. What we have already done to reach such feats of technical and scientific skill and prowess. Often people look to nature to find the beautiful and the wondrous, and I don’t mean to say that we are wrong, but it is not arrogant, it is not prideful to also look at the works of man and stand in awe of our ingenuity, our creativity, and our penchant for solving problems. The natural world has its many marvels, and I revel in those as well, but from time to time, I feel we ought to pat ourselves on the back. We’ve come a long way in an exceedingly short amount of time, whether you want to count time on an evolutionary or creationist scale.

Over the course of a few thousand years, we’ve gone from caves, to farms, to written tablets, to bronze, to iron, and so on to today, the silicon age. It’s mighty satisfying to know we beat continent-wide epidemic, 2 world-wars, the thread of nuclear annihilation, and we’re still going strong inventing, dreaming, and making those dreams reality. Helps me feel good on days when I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels anyhow. How about you?

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2 Responses to “Let’s Talk About . . . Invention”

  1. Rachelskirts April 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I’m super annoyed that they’re working on that when I specifically asked them to deal with the umbrella issue. It’s 2012, and my umbrella still won’t fully collapse at the push of a button and wrap itself up and put itself away. Unacceptable.

    • Tyler April 6, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      But what if you could just have a little “sand” pouch in your purse that you could reach into and pull out an umbrella, and when you’re done, drop it back into that bag of sand?

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