Buckliballs, with their geometric design and near-magical behaviour, encapsulate the cleverness and beauty for which extreme-mechanics researchers yearn. Looking ahead, the more theoretically minded foresee a new set of general rules that could describe the behaviour of any flexible solid as it crumples. Meanwhile, those with an engineering bent imagine robots with appendages that can transform into tools or squeeze, octopus-like, through tiny spaces; backpacks that expand into tents; and mobile phones that users can roll up and stick behind their ears like a pencil. They see a whole realm of devices that transmute failure into function. That could all be years in the making — but Bertoldi and her rapt audience already see far more in this field than engineers' toys.
Via David McConville