Physicists Have Created a Rubber Block That Can Count to 10

In the world of mathematics and engineering, where complex circuits and advanced technologies often take the spotlight, a seemingly simple yet remarkable creation has emerged. Researchers have unveiled a unique piece of rubber, aptly named the Beam Counter, capable of counting without the need for sophisticated electronics.

A Counting Rubber Block

Physicists Have Created a Rubber Block That Can Count to 10
A Counting Rubber Block

The ingenious design of the Beam Counter, developed by Leiden University Ph.D. student Lennard Kwakernaak, challenges conventional notions and opens up intriguing possibilities for future applications. The block of rubber is an embodiment of simplicity, comprising just a series of beams carved into the flexible material. By applying pressure, the beams bend in a specific sequence, creating a clever chain reaction that enables counting. Impressively, this rubber marvel can distinguish between soft and hard pressure, recording each independently. The concept is akin to the binary system used in computing, with the beams acting as storage units for ones and zeros.

The process of counting on this rubber metamaterial is elegantly straightforward. When pressure is applied to the top of the counter, the beams bend in a controlled manner, except for the first one, which bends in the opposite direction. This unique design ensures that subsequent pushes result in the bending of other beams in the right order, keeping a record of the number of pushes received. The material is ingeniously engineered to retain this information without bouncing back, making it an efficient counting tool.

Lennard Kwakernaak Created the Beam Counter

Lennard Kwakernaak Created the Beam Counter

Beyond its mathematical prowess, this rubber creation holds promise in various fields, including bridge engineering and satellite deployment. Its ability to memorize shapes upon temperature changes could find practical applications in engineering projects and space missions. Additionally, Kwakernaak envisions the potential to build versions of the counter with different divisions, akin to tens and ones, expanding its counting capacity to much larger numbers.

Despite living in an era dominated by computers, this low-tech, non-electric counter presents intriguing possibilities. While an industrial revolution might not be on the horizon, its cheap, robust, and low-maintenance characteristics make it alluring for diverse applications. Kwakernaak remains optimistic about discovering new uses for this metamaterial, much like the surprising counting ability found in Venus flytraps, proving that even the simplest inventions can lead to fascinating discoveries.

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