These 3D-printed shapeshifting bots can crawl, jump, and catch things under magnetic control

MIT researchers designed and 3D-printed an array of soft, mechanical critters that are controlled by waving a magnet over them. The shapeshifters that fold up, crawl, grab things, and snap together into intricate formations may someday lead to new kinds of biomedical devices. For example, one of the devices "can even be directed to wrap itself around a small pill and carry it across a table." From MIT News:

“We think in biomedicine this technique will find promising applications,” says (MIT mechanical engineer Xuanhe Zhao.) “For example, we could put a structure around a blood vessel to control the pumping of blood, or use a magnet to guide a device through the GI tract to take images, extract tissue samples, clear a blockage, or deliver certain drugs to a specific location. You can design, simulate, and then just print to achieve various functions.”

In addition to a rippling ring, a self-squeezing tube, and a spider-like grabber, the team printed other complex structures, such as a set of “auxetic” structures that rapidly shrink or expand along two directions. Zhao and his colleagues also printed a ring embedded with electrical circuits and red and green LED lights. Depending on the orientation of an external magnetic field, the ring deforms to light up either red or green, in a programmed manner.

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Magnet fishing is the coolest hobby you probably didn't know existed

As a kid, I grew up near minutes from the beach and many times saw grownups meticulously sifting through the sand with a metal detector. I imagined they were pulling up diamond rings and pirate's gold. My dad assured me they weren't, though I suspect he just didn't want to buy me a metal detector.  

In any case, these magnet fishing hobbyists have them beat. 

By dropping a very strong magnet underwater, history buffs "WW2 Wendal" fish their local lochs and rivers for valuable metal objects. They primarily explore WW2 sites for discarded war artifacts but often reel in non-military items such as stolen safes and, well, junk.  Sometimes they find nothing at all but, judging from their videos, that doesn't break their spirit. 

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How to ship a 6-inch neodymium magnet

Neodymium magnets can be so powerful as to be dangerous: you don't want two of them "spotting" one another when a fleshy fingertip is in the way of true love. So how do you ship a 6" one safely?

"So, is it really shielded?" asks YouTube's Braniac, chuckling to himself. "No."

The magnets featured in the video appear to be from magnetportal.de—what's a good place to buy irresponsible magnets in the U.S.? Read the rest

Hourglass full of magnetized "sand"

This $14, 100-second hourglass is filled with magnetized iron filings that form beautiful fans and other shapes as the sand drains into the bottom bulb. (via Canopy) Read the rest

Dogs poop in line with Earth's magnetic field

A paper in Frontiers in Zoology claims that dogs can sense the Earth's magnetic field, and preferentially align to it when pooping. (via Sean Bonner) Read the rest

Table made of a floating matrix of wooden blocks with embedded magnets

The Float Table uses a 3D matrix of wooden blocks with embedded strong magnets, tethered to one another, to made a piece of furniture that's awesomely wobbly, in an impractical, drinks-all-over-the-carpet way. Read the rest

Ultimate fidget-pen, made from rare-earth magnets

Polar is a pen made of 12 rare-earth magnets, which has blown way, way past its modest Kickstarter goal. It's the ultimate in fidget-gadgets, wildly reconfigurable, with the power to levitate magnetized rings along its axis. Wired's Kyle VanHemert calls it the Sistine Chapel of time wasting. Read the rest

Gravity-defying levitating superconductor on a magnetic Möbius strip

Andy from the Royal Institution made a large, suspended Möbius strip out of rare-earth magnets, then cooled down an object until it became a superconductor, and set it levitating and running around the track. The result is amazing, plus Andy's explanation is cogent and fascinating. Plus, gravity-defying levitation!

Levitating Superconductor on a Möbius strip

(Thanks, Ed!) Read the rest

50' chain of beads leaps and cavorts its way out of a jar

Steve Mould, Britain's Brightest's "science guy," showed that if you put coil a 50' chain of magnets in a jar and then casually toss out one end, the whole chain goes berzerk leaps and cavorts like an innocent colt on crystal meth, defying gravity and gravitas. In this video, Earth Unplugged gets Steve to explain what's really happening.

Amazing bead chain experiment in slow motion - Slo Mo #19 - Earth Unplugged

(via IO9) Read the rest