Liquid Metal

Imagine the benefits of being a Terminator T-1000, the fictional android assassin.  It’s cool enough being a shape-shifter.  You easily absorb collateral damage, melt through narrow gaps, steal through prison bars.  Fashion your hands and arms into any weapon you wish to yield.  But there’s more.  There are the untold and unlimited possibilities of the kitchen, and the bedroom.  Imagine the glory.  The girls.

The liquid metal menace from James Cameron’s 1991 movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was not fiction’s first foray into fluid alloys.  Abraham Merritt’s The Metal Monster (1920) showed similar metallic potential, as did Jack Williamson’s 1928 story, The Metal Man.

The melting point of most metals is in thousands of degrees.  Some, such as mercury, are liquid at room temperature.  One class of metals, shape memory alloys, contract when heated up, returning to their initial shape on cooling.  Scientists say they may soon use such alloys as muscles in robots.

But the material most like the liquid metal of the Terminator series is metallic glass.  Since its atomic structure is rather haphazard, it is springier than steel, more malleable than most metals, and can be molded as easily as memory.

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