Sunday 17 March 2013

fantastic voyage or doctor inchworm, i presume?

The ever excellent BLDGBLOG reports on an RD project from the laboratories of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, experimenting with probes called mesh-worms whose motors are driven by a simple yet effective principle of expansion and contraction.

A microscopic lattice housing detectors and potentially a payload of metal alloyed just by a tiny pulse to raise the temperature a bit and let it relax back into its unexcited state to dutifully and tirelessly burrow and creep forward through very tight environments. Not only could this worm go spelunking and sound out more human-sized routes, explore the palimpsest of old architecture, pick locks and crack safe, such a probe could also patrol one’s insides for potential trouble spots and delivering a consignment of medicine—or poison, I suppose, as creepy-crawly assassins. Over-zealous nanotechnology or designer viruses have not yet taken over, but good-judgment does not always prevail. What do you think? Is this the realization of an unflagging panacea or more fodder for invasion and misuse?