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Professor Quippy: How would you like your robot apocalypse — in replicators or gray goo?

Professor QuippyResearchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are trying to kill us all!

Seriously, they are excited about a project they’re working on, the goal of which is to create “swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together.”

Seth Goldstein, who leads the research project says the goal is a distant one.

Seth, Seth, Seth, have you never read any science fiction? This little science project can only end one of three ways:

  1. you won’t be successful
  2. the tiny robots will start replicating themselves mindlessly, eating all living matter on Earth and covering it with gray goo similar to the kind found in Cloris Leachman’s strainer baskets
  3. the tiny robots will become self-aware, impersonate the human form, and proceed to run amok, destroying human civilization in an orgy of dispassionate, logical carnage (probably by turning their arms into broadswords and engaging in a grand human decranialization project).

According to the New Scientist:

Ultimately, Goldstein believes his claytronic robots may one day achieve this [higher intelligence], and much more: “I’ll be done when we produce something that can pass a Turing test face-to-face,” he says. “You won’t know if you’re shaking hands with me or a claytronics copy of me.”

Personally, I’m pulling for #1. No offense Seth.

Mark’s short story, Hounding Manny, (originally published in Oceans of the Mind, Fall 2002) is a touching childhood romp about the moon, bullying and gray goo. More romping (both gooey and childish) may be found at here.


  1. Yikes, Rickey becomes very nervous when hack writers like Michael Crichton seem to eerily forecast our collective doom (Rickey’s referring to “Swarm”).

  2. That was great … seriously.

    Why can’t the researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University try working on something USEFUL … like swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into NACHOS instead?

    I swear to God once you become a scientist, you lose all humanity.

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