One thing that has always baffled us is why scientists watch Terminator movies and think of them as instructions instead of warnings. The latest example of real technology inspired by fictional technology that wants to kill us all comes from North Carolina State University.
We’re not joking, either. Here’s their video detailing their work, found by Gizmodo, which opens with clips from Terminator 2:
Essentially, they combined gallium and indium into a liquid metal alloy. As they note, manipulating liquid metal has the problem of surface tension; it tends to want to contract into a lump, which is what this alloy does, much like many human beings on the weekend.
Also like many human beings, it’ll quickly spread out if you run enough electrical current through it. However, this alloy has a few rather more fascinating properties. An extremely low charge, less than one volt, is all it takes for an oxidized layer to form, drastically reducing the surface tension. Cranked all the way it flattens out like a pancake, but take it step by step and you can actually control the shape of the metal, or at least control how much it spreads out.
Joking about Robert Patrick killing us all aside, this does actually have some fascinating implications for engineering. You could use it, for example, to change how current is directed through a circuit; you might have this available for a computer to temporarily “self-heal” and keep operating in some capacity after it’s been damaged, or even create computers that can be completely reconfigured by flipping a switch. It also may apply to other liquid metal alloys, which would open up even more avenues for advances and engineering breakthroughs.
That said, if they start talking about building robots with this stuff, consider building that bunker. Even if it is more likely a malevolent artificial intelligence will just leave.