A few days ago I gave Rocket Boy a LEGO-building challenge – to build a creature and its habitat. After a brief discussion of what “a habitat” meant and whether a creature had to be real or not, the kid set out to build. Not even ten minutes later he was proudly presenting his four-armed, four-legged, one-eyed Goo Monster and its habitat. I pointed out that the habitat was too small for the monster to fit in. No problem, said the kiddo, the monster is made out of non-Newtonian putty; when it stops moving, it deforms and easily fills the smallish-looking habitat.
What followed was a longish and convoluted-ish story of the Monster coming alive and wreaking all kinds of havoc and destruction. And how the problem was solved. And how our over-reliance on technology and carelessness with it lead to unintended consequences. It’s deep, man, deep!
One day two kids named Mark and Alex were playing with a non-Newtonian putty. Alex said: “Let’s make a mixture.” Mark and Alex started putting together all these crazy ingredients, like something called Drano and something called Brasso and something called Live-o. Once the mixture was ready, the kids were going to put it near the putty.
Accidentally, Mark spilled a drop of crazy mixture onto the putty. Then Mark and Alex thought of experimenting a bit. They took a whole cupful of the mixture and poured it onto the putty. They closed the lid of the round metal container with the putty. But a few minutes later, when they opened the container, the catastrophe began to unfold.
The putty was swirling and shaping on its own! It rose up! Mark and Alex tried smacking it down, but it just wouldn’t go back down into its container. Quickly, the swirling putty formed into a monster with four tentacles, four legs, and one head.
Mark and Alex ran away in horror. But then Mark came up with an idea. He got out a sludge hammer (not to be confused with a sledge hammer) and smacked the monster right in the chest with it. To his surprise, the sludge hammer just sank into the Goo Monster.
Then Alex thought of an idea. He took a laser cannon out of an emergency kit and fired it. But the monster didn’t feel a single thing! He just got VERY angry and started to run after the boys as quickly as its gooey feet allowed it.
It was Mark’s turn to come up with an idea. He ran into the kitchen and got a blender. He quickly dug a hole outside, put the blender in the hole. Alex plugged it in. Then Mark and Alex stood right behind the trap. The Goo Monster ran right into the trap and fell into the hole. The boys pressed the “On” button. But the Goo Monster simply formed itself into sticky cubes that jammed the blender. The blender exploded! Luckily Mark and Alex were far enough away.
But the cubes re-formed into the Goo Monster. At this point Alex came up with a great idea: “Let’s get a vacuum cleaner!” Mark said: “I’m gonna put the putty container right into the vacuum cleaner.” They did just that. They put some metal bars in front of the vacuum cleaner and turned it on. The Goo Monster slammed into the bars and started to ooze through them (this was its natural instinct). The boys turned the vacuum cleaner to full power and the Monster got sucked right into it. As soon as it happened, they closed the lid on the metal container and glued it shut.
That’s how they defeated the Goo Monster.
But after a while they got really curious and made another mixture. This time they put glue in it, twenty bottles of it. That’s when the next catastrophe happened. Inadvertently, they created the Glue Monster. It looked like a big white blob that was constantly inflating and deflating and was very squishy. So they thought: “ok, it wouldn’t hurt to try laying on this thing.” This was their biggest mistake yet! The Glue Monster got super-annoyed with them and threw them off. The boys landed right on the sidewalk in front of the house.
Then the Glue Monster went on a rampage. He glued himself to every dangerous thing in sight. He went into a store and glued himself to a sword. Now he was armed. But Mark and Alex’s advantage was that they created this monster before, only that time it was smaller. So they knew how to defeat him like they knew how to defeat the Goo Monster.
They again took the laser cannon out. This time they upgraded it to have multiple lasers. They set the cannon right in front of the Glue Monster. But the monster slipped right through it, hitting the cannon with his sword. The sword broke, but the cannon also broke. This made the Glue Monster even angrier.
“Maybe we can un-jam the blender and make it bigger?”, said Mark. But there were still Goo Monster bits in it. “Ah, these are harmless”, they thought and scooped them out. But all of a sudden the Goo Monster bits turned into another Goo Monster. “We are in a big trouble!” the boys thought.
Mark and Alex quickly set up two stations. One had 100 vacuum cleaners set in a circle, each with an automatically closing container. And the other was a humongous blender. Alex was in charge of the vacuum cleaners. And Mark was in charge of the blender. The Remaining Goo Monster and the Glue Monster were so dumb, that they walked straight into the traps!
The Remaining Goo Monster got sucked into 100 different containers, then put into one big one. But the Glue Monster just let out a strand of glue into the Blender and broke it! Then Mark and Alex ran and took out a billion or so toothpicks, a big metal plate, a motor, a switch and a car battery. They connected all these together. The Glue Monster walked straight into the spinning toothpicks. He didn’t see that coming! He popped! Pieces of glue bubble were everywhere! Then the Glue Monster leaked and leaked with still-wet glue.
Mark and Alex decided to have a little fun with glue. But in the process, they accidentally let out three pieces of Glue Monster. “Hey, if we want the Glue Monster to stay in this container, we just have to make a temporary Carbonite brick for him”, said the boys. They needed help. They set out to 3D print the container. Then they got all the pieces of Glue Monster into that container. They only had 10 minutes before the glue dried. So they decided to do this fast. They dumped the trapped Goo Monster into all that glue to immobilize the Glue Monster and put the lid on. The glue dried.
The boys carried the container all the way to the lab. There they separated the Goo Monster from the Glue Monster and put the Goo Monster pieces into another container, closed the lid and went home.
Then once again they got pretty curious with something. They wanted to explore Styrofoam. They prepared a new mixture and put a huge block of Styrofoam right into it. They got ready to see the Styrofoam Monster this time. So they had the sludge hammer ready (‘cause Styrofoam is easy to crush). They smashed the monster with the hammer and the monster broke. But now, instead of one giant Styrofoam monster, they had four normal size ones. The boys ran because they knew that blending Styrofoam monster in a blender meant creating thousands of tiny Styrofoam monsters. If thousands of tiny Styrofoam monsters started roaming around this neighborhood, we all would be in trouble.
So the boys got a balloon, filled it with Styrofoam monster pieces and tied it well. But the Monster put itself back together and the balloon popped. The Monster fell out of it and broke into even tinier pieces. Mark and Alex decided to take lots of sticky glue and pour it all over the sidewalk to trap these little pieces. Bad idea!!! Once the tiny Styrofoam monsters got stuck, they absorbed the glue and glued themselves forever back together. Now they could only be cut with a laser.
Mark and Alex had a big problem on their hands. The Styrofoam Monsters started absorbing more and more glue, creating glue armor. “We need a solution!” the boys thought. They took out another big container, lured the Styrofoam Monster into it. But all the while they had a bad feeling that something was wrong. Then Alex remembered that it was the container with putty and glue and left-over mixtures. “Oh no!” screamed the boys. But it was too late.
At this point the boys said: “Fine! You want to live in a big container? Sure!” And they put the new Styrofoam Monster into the largest container yet and closed the lid. But now they noticed something: the Goo-Glue-Styrofoam Monster was absorbing the container!
Mark and Alex took a metal pipe, put the monster into it, closed the ends and buried the tube in the ground. Then they ran straight to the 3D printing facility (it was just a shed with 3D printers in it, but it didn’t matter to them). The boys needed weapons and armor and a map. First, they designed and printed two swords. Then – full-scale armor. And then they printed the map.
They left the facility fully prepared. They dug up the monster, but to their surprise the monster found a way to absorb the soil around him. “Oh, no! If he keeps going this way, the entire world will be gone! And all we’ll have left is this big bulging Glue-Goo-Styrofoam Monster!” said the boys.
They took out a special liquid that they prepared a couple of weeks ago in their lab. And poured it all over the Monster. Whatever the liquid touched, it turned it to ice. Now they had some time until it melted free. In this time, they were going to run back to Mark’s house and create some good monsters for once. They took all the different putties, put them into the putty mixture. Only this time they added something called Goo-d-guyzon into the mix. They also added some tin cans to strengthen the monster. And they waited until something good came out.
The awesome Goo-d-guy Robot came out! He shot good goo and good putty out of his arms. They asked the robot to help them defeat the Glue-Goo-Styrofoam Monster. The three of them ran back to where the monster was.
The monster wasn’t happy to see them. But with the Robot’s help they defeated the Monster after a few blasts of good goo and good putty. And everything was great… until one day…