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The Question:

What is gray goo?

The Answer:

"Gray goo" is a term used to describe what might happen if teeny-tiny robots were created with the ability—and imperative—to use the substances around them to create more, identical teeny-tiny robots. The idea is that this process could get out of control, with a wave of teeny-tiny robots overrunning the earth and turning everything to gray goo.

The term is also used in the online virtual world of Second Life for self-replicating objects that get out of hand in a similar manner, to the point where they crash the computer server on which they're running.

—The Editors

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