The U.S. Navy may be considering a new kind of body armor. Made from hagfish slime. No shit. I can only add: Eww. Excerpt:
It looks and feels a lot like snot, but Navy researchers believe slime produced by the primitive hagfish could help save lives.
The bottom-dwelling hagfish is commonly referred to as a slime eel because it looks like an eel and produces a slimy substance that quickly expands in water to enable it to escape from predators by clogging up an attacker’s gills.
That unique capability is what has captured the Navy’s imagination .
Its researchers believe that, by reproducing the slime, they one day could replace synthetic products derived from petroleum, such as Kevlar that’s used in bulletproof vests. It’s not just science fiction, either.
The Navy says one of its research teams in Panama City, Fla., has already re-created the material. Now it’s beginning to work on how best to turn the synthetic slime into something useful.
“From a tactical standpoint, it would be interesting to have a material that can change the properties of the water at dilute concentrations in a matter of seconds,” Ryan Kincer, a materials engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, said in a statement.
Here’s what’s interesting about biology; the 4-billion year drunkard’s walk that has been evolution on the Earth has produced some pretty bizarre critters, but also some pretty useful stuff. One of the reasons medical research depends on animal models for a lot of work is that we can’t simulate a full organism with any kind of simulation; the best computer technology we have today is laughably crude when compared to a biological organism, even one as primitive as the jawless hagfish.
This is also a good illustration of the value of pure research. Most folks never would have thought that hagfish slime would be good for anything. But someone got curious, took a good hard look at the substance, figured out how to synthesize it – and now, maybe we’ll have a host of interesting and useful products from that research.
I call that a win.