7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics

7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics

The universe is full of weird substances like liquid metal and whatever preservative keeps Larry King alive. But mankind isn't happy to accept the weirdness of nature when we can create our own abominations of science that, due to the miracle of technology, spit in nature's face and call it retarded.

That's why we came up with...


What do you get when you suspend nanoparticles of iron compounds in a colloidal solution of water, oil and a surfactant? Did you guess Zima? The real answer is ferrofluids, though you should be proud if you just knew what "surfactant" was.

A ferrofluid is a liquid that reacts to magnetic fields in trippy ways that make you think that science is both magical and potentially evil. They have multiple real world applications, many which are pretty badass, and none of which you will care about after seeing this:

Tell us that didn't look like the birth of the most sinister dildo ever.

What happens is that when a magnetic field is applied to the fluid, the particles of iron compound inside align to it. Once that happens, the fluid becomes a fluid-solid. That's right, ferrofluids are first generation T-1000s, only metallic black and thus 10 times as badass.

What the Hell is it Used For?

Ferrofluids have a lot of pretty mundane uses, from lubricating and protecting hard drives to providing heat conduction in speakers, but their primary use is in looking cool.

The ability to become solid or liquid with the application of a magnetic field also makes them perfect for computer assisted shock absorbers in Ferraris; NASA uses them for high-tech flight altitude assistance, and like a gyroscope in spacecraft. The Air Force uses their magnetic field absorbing properties to make aircraft invisible to radar and we like to think someday they'll be able to make super hot, futuristic robot dominatrices that we can store in a cup in the pantry when not in use.


It's not the brick in the picture up there, it's the stuff under the brick. Aerogel, also called "Frozen Smoke," is very much like Ben Affleck's appeal: practically non-existent, but still there somehow. It is 99 percent air, with the other percent being silicon dioxide or fudge or whatever, and looks like fucking magic. Its structure makes it a piss-poor conductor and thus makes it an excellent insulator. In other words, aerogel is also fireproof.

In addition to being awesomely heat resistant, aerogel can also hold insane amounts of weight proportionate to the size of the aerogel being used, up to 4000 times, which shames regular air something fierce. To put it in totally nonsensical terms, if air had a party, while aerogel was busy getting hummers in the back, loser oxygen would be making sure everyone was using a coaster. That's how much cooler aerogel is. Fuck you, oxygen.

What the Hell is it Used For?

The suits astronauts use are filled with it to keep the cold of space from, you know, killing them. More transparent aerogels are being made to insulate windows, or the world's lightest ping-pong ball, as you can see in this clip at 0:36:

Every once in a while, science rules.


Remember that scene in The Abyss, before you fell asleep, when Ed Harris was put in a diving suit that was filled with pink goo that he then breathed? It turns out James Cameron wasn't blowing pink goo-laced smoke up our ass; that stuff really exists. Perfluorocarbons are fluids that contain shitloads of oxygen, making it possible to breathe liquid. They originally tested it back in the 60s on mice, with a certain degree of success... sort of.

The mice ended up dying after being submerged in it for a few hours, possibly due to the gut wrenching horror of drowning, but not dying, while trying to scream in their tiny mouse voices. Rather than manning up to the fact that breathing liquid destroyed the mice's diaphragms, the scientists blamed the deaths on impurities in the liquid (most likely horrified mouse shit).

What the Hell is it Used For?

Aside from slow, tortuous rodent murder, perfluorocarbons are used for ultrasounds, and even artificial blood. But before you go out and fill your pool with some for a leisurely four-hour swim at the bottom, be aware they are also awful pollutants. The worst offenders have a half life of 50,000 years and warm the atmosphere 6,500 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, and God knows how many cow farts that would be. Supervillains of the world, we hope you are taking notes.

Elastic Conductors

Odds are pretty good that some of you are reading this on an LCD screen while the rest of us are trying to make it out on the 13-inch monochrome monitor that came with our garage sale Commodore 64. But even with the LCD, some laptops still weigh over 10-pounds. And while that doesn't seem like much, the level of muscle atrophy experienced by the average Warcraft addict makes that weight a thousand times heavier. However, elastic conductors could fix that and make smuggling your porn collection into church even easier.

Also, oooohhh.

Elastic conductors are made of "ionic liquid" mixed with carbon nanotubes. We shrugged when we read that too, but scientists are very excited about it because you can run a current through it and it will stretch to double its original length, and snap back into place as if nothing happened. The point being you can wind up with the roll out, paper thin computer pictured above.

What the Hell is it Used For?

In addition to making screens that can be rolled up and stuck in our back pocket, a lot of scientists and doctors want to use elastic conductors to make flexible-lensed cameras... to be fitted to the back of the eyeball.

Girlfriends the world over will actually start recording their boyfriend's every word and guys at urinals will become infinitely more paranoid if they catch another guy's eye. On the plus side, the market for hidden camera porn will probably experience an unprecedented explosion in content.

Non-Newtonian Fluids

A non-Newtonian liquid, in practical terms, is a liquid that turns solid when sufficient stress is applied. Like, say, the impact of feet:

They have the power to make dorks walk on water like Jesus (which is exceptionally cool for about the first 30 seconds of the video, and then sad for the remainder).

What the Hell is it Used For?

Our friends in the military want to use them for body armor. The idea is that the fluids will allow fabrics to be soft and supple, but harden on the impact of a bullet. It would be like wearing a Jell-O sweater that doubles as a bulletproof vest.

Transparent Alumina

You may remember from Star Trek IV that Scotty orders some transparent aluminum so that they can steal whales for the future (it made a lot more sense at the time). Anyway, in the movie the material baffled the present-day engineers he described it to, since it's a miracle substance from centuries in the future.

In reality, transparent alumina has been around for a while. Originally, it was just boring old sapphires and rubies (both are transparent aluminum crystals), but as we have seen, mankind is not happy to let nature have the last laugh and we are now able to make transparent alumina, which is a clear metal that is as strong as steel. Our dreams of building Wonder Woman's invisible jet have taken another glorious step toward reality.

What the Hell is it Used For?

The military (again) wants it for see-through armor, probably so that every time a soldier standing behind a clear wall gets shot at and flinches in life-flashing-before-the-eyes terror, his buddies are justified for punching him and calling "two for flinching."

Also, something with lasers.

Transparent alumina could usher in a new world where windows deflect bullets, or airplane windows don't shatter when they hit a goose at Mach 4. The downside being that if they make car windows out of it, people who don't wear their seat belts will no longer live the dream of being "thrown clear" of the accident, and more likely wind up as "that guy whose nose shot out his ass."

Carbon Nanotubes

These things are a miracle material that will someday power our homes, launch us into space, and make love to us whenever and wherever we want. That last one isn't planned yet, but it better be. Carbon nanotubes were the accidental leftovers of an arc-welder experiment, and they have nerds and scientists foaming at the mouth with their possible uses.

They are the strongest material ever found by mankind. Ever. Even stronger than Lou Ferrigno and he was the fucking Hulk, man. A hair-thick strand can bear the weight of an entire car, assuming it wouldn't cut straight through the chassis. Although that would possibly be even cooler than lifting a car with artificial hair.

There is the small, some might say major, issue that carbon nanotubes are only microns long, and pasting them together end to end has so far proven impossible. But physics can't hold back mankind, and recently a New Hampshire based company made a man-sized blanket out of nanotubes, showing that science will always say "Fuck you" to Mother Nature when she sets boundaries.

What the Hell is it Used For?

So far, they have managed to make super-small computer processors and low-resistance circuitry. In the future, all bets are off. Everything from tiny supercomputers to even tinier, super-efficient batteries, to more efficient solar panels to paper-thin materials that can stop a bullet, to freaking space elevators.

Sunglasses hinges that never break, toasters that get the toast right every time, TV remotes where the numbers don't wear off the buttons, ceiling fans that don't vibrate. Bags of chips that never get stuck in the vending machine. Carbon nanotubes will fucking solve it all.

Find more from David at Associated Content.

For more reasons to burn scientists at the stake, check out 6 Valuable (And Disgusting) Ways They're Reusing Human Waste and 9 Real Life Mad Scientists.

And stop by the Top Picks to see how we slap physics in the face (with our dicks).

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?