President Eisenhower, in his famous farewell speech in 1961, warned against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the "military industrial complex
." If he had given those remarks some sixty years later, he might have worked academia into the phrase -- especially if he knew about the snakes
! Certainly one of the more viscerally unnerving wargadgets we've encountered over the last few years, the creepy-crawly automatons of the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute are a big hit at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, where three of 'em have been arrayed onto a circular base to form the Robotic Tentacle Manipulator, a hand that could be used for opening doors or handling IEDs, possibly while mounted on the iRobot Warrior
. The "opening a door" problem, as it is called, has perplexed the field of robotics for quite some time now -- and it might one day be solved using technology like this. Until then, it looks like doorknobs are still the terrorist's best friend.