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Use Jellyfish Skin to Instantly Up Your Spy Game

Back in the day, we’d write a note on a stretched rubber band in order to get an urgent coded message to a middle school classmate. But now, according to Gizmodo, University of Connecticut scientist Luyi Sun is taking that note-passing game to a new level. Inspired by jellyfish and squid, Sun and a team or researchers have created a squishy material that transforms from clear to opaque with a quick stretch.

“There are several marine animals that can very smartly and actively alter their skin’s structure and color,” says Sun, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “In this work, we follow two examples, squid and jellyfish respectively, to create different mechanical responsive devices.”

In mirroring jellyfish, they’ve created a material that’s naturally transparent, but becomes opaque when wrinkled. That’s what you’re seeing in the video above: as the material is stretched, the wrinkling effect causes it to scatter light outward, making it more and more difficult to read the words beneath it.

To copy the squid, the researchers made, what else, a material that changes color and then changes back — a move that will undoubtedly reignite and intensify the debate around “The Dress.”

Beyond replacing the red plastic strip we used to learn the solution of Clue VHS puzzles, researcher Songshan Zeng sees a host of commercial applications for the material: Windows that can let the sun shine in or offer blurred privacy at the touch of a button; anti-glare screens for electronics; or hidden elements in cell phones that let repair shops know whether the device got wet (and voided your warranty). Naturally, the coolest use is for creating messages that are hidden, then destroyed after being read once. To make your own at home, layer a thin film of polyvinyl alcohol on a slab of polydimethylsiloxane, and you’ll never need rubber bands for spy messages ever again.

What do you think of this discovery? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image: Walt Disney/Pixar

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