[ This did the rounds a while back, and we didn't cover it. We should have, it's damn cool. It's making the rounds again, for some reason, so here it is. -Ed. ]
By Evan Ackerman
If you’ve ever played with a cornstarch and water mixture, you know how totally bizarre dilatant materials are: they flow like a liquid until you apply force to them, which causes them to thicken instantly. Seems like a great idea for some armor that’s flexible when you want it to be, yet protective when necessary… It’s too bad that no matter how many gallons of oobleck you pour over yourself, it just won’t stick. British company d3o has been able to polymerize oobleck into a smart material that’s squishy but not too squishy until you pound it with something, at which point it turns instantly rigid. The US Olympic Ski Team used d3o material in their ski suits in Torino, and you adventurous winter types can currently buy hats and gloves with d3o linings. Of course, d3o hats aren’t going to be able to give you as much protection as a conventional helmet, but some protection is definitely a few million brain cells better than no protection.