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An “ah-ha” moment leads to shapeshifting chainmail

Plus: What happens when a sea snake thinks you’re its date?

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What do chainmail and coffee grounds have in common?

The answer might lead to a bionic exoskeleton for humans. This innovative idea is the subject of our lead story for this Monday, August 23, 2021. Keep scrolling to read more.

I’m Nick Lucchesi, and this is Inverse Daily. Tell a friend to subscribe using this link.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Monday, August 23, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

Resembling a weighted crocheted blanket when “fluid,” this material is capable of lifting 50x its own weight if given the chance.Wang et al. / Nature

Shapeshifting armor and bionic exoskeletons Sarah Wells reports that engineers from Caltech have used 3D printing to design a new kind of chainmail that can change form under a vacuum and hold more than 50x its own weight:

It was the kind of ah-ha moment scientists only dream about when Chiara Daraio, professor of mechanical engineering and applied physics at Caltech, realized that her lab’s work on so-called “granular materials” — like rice or coffee beans — may have an ancient connection as well.

“This project came from the realization that the rings in a chainmail are, from a material perspective, very similar to coffee grains,” she explains. “They also can be jammed, under the right conditions (like vacuum packaging).”

Read the full story.

More innovation writing:

An illustration of Phaeton doing its thing. NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC

A weird asteroid and a glorious meteor shower Erika K. Clarson reports that the dust grains that cause the annual Geminid meteor shower probably come from this asteroid. Still, scientists don’t know how the asteroid ejected the grains:

Each December, meteors streak across the sky as part of the massive Geminid meteor shower, with up to about 120 meteors visible per hour at the shower’s peak.

This reliable yearly show is a popular sight for stargazers, but the origin of the Geminids is shrouded in a bit of mystery.

Meteor showers like the Perseids, which show up each August, happen when Earth passes through a cloud of dust in its orbit left by a passing comet. The dust grains caught in the pull of Earth’s atmosphere burn up, causing the bright streaks we call meteors, or “shooting stars.”

Read the full story.

Hello, fellow asteroid geeks:

Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, stands for a portrait in front of the recovered first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX in California.PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

How Netflix and SpaceX are about to open up spaceflight Mike Brown and Ashley Bardhan report on the Inspriation4 mission, the first of its kind in history. The mission also marks a milestone for CEO Elon Musk’s company, which hopes to one day help humans live across the galaxy:

SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, scheduled to blast off on September 15, may change spaceflight forever.

The all-civilian mission is not only the first of its kind in history. It also marks a milestone for Musk’s company, which hopes to help humans live across the galaxy one day.

This is a huge, fairly sci-fi goal, but the trailblazing Inspiration4 crew could help the general public believe in it. And a Netflix documentary certainly doesn’t hurt.

Read the full story.

How we got here:

Sea snakes are attacking divers Jenn Walter has created a dynamic card story that tells the story of the Olive sea snake, which sometimes charges at divers unprompted. But data analysis shows this is likely a misdirected courtship behavior:

All of the attacks happened between May and August — during mating season.

Most of the snakes who approached divers were males, though sometimes female snakes did it too.

Read the full story.

Go deeper (pun fully intended):

That’s all for this Monday. Take care of yourselves and each other.

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