Form of… a sand monster!

Marc Sanchez Apr 3, 2012

Remember the Wonder Twins? One could turn into anything water, while the other morphed into any animal. It usually played out where the “water” twin would say something like: “Form of an bucket made of ice.” Then the other one would be stuck turning into an animal that could travel with an ice bucket: “Form of an eagle,” and off the eagle would fly carrying the ice bucket in its talons. Well in true Wonder Twin style, researchers at MIT have developed what they’re calling “smart sand,” which is basically a bunch of tiny, programmable magnetic cubes that can take the shape of virtually anything. Right now the cubes are about the size of a small die, but the researchers believe the technology will exist to shrink them down to the sand-grain size. The magnets communicate with each other, which enables them to come together and form a 3D version of whatever is trying to be replicated.

ZDNet reports: “Unlike 3-D printing techniques which use an additive process, the smart sand approach aims to replicate objects by essentially carving them out of a larger heap of building blocks with only an original shape as a guide.”
Form of my new eyes to replace the ones that just popped out of my skull!


We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.