"Real science opens windows for us to look through. We're right at the footsteps of the most interesting scientists around."
It seems clear that what Stephenson is describing here is a shear thickening fluid, also called "dilatant" fluid.
It turns out that others use this material as well:
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18 Wheels Mutant Centipede Vehicle
'If a centipede were a dinosaur and made of metal to boot...'
Octopus Suckers Inspire Transdermal Patches
'...a capsule which he placed against his wrist.'
Robotic Hands Have More Than One Use
'The crawling, exploring object was V-Stephen's surgeon-hand...'
Space Weather To Universe Weather
'It radiates outward in a cone which, by the time it has reached our section of space, is many lightyears across.'
That's MOXIE! Terraforming Mars Baby Steps
'Drake was the young spatial engineer he employed to terraform the little rock.'
'No, I'm Not A Robot' - Robot
'... with a weird simulation of life, the ten forked ends of each arm commenced a rattling pressing of the buttons.'
Missing Jet Finally Found
Ah, what could have been - still in the future.
Philippines Coast Guard Cuts Chinese Barrier
'Each of the four areas is enclosed by a sonic wall...'
Barista Robot Perfects Latte Swirl With Multi-DOF Wriggle
'It's done with a flip of the third joint of the tentacle on the down beat.'
Vendetta 2023 All-Terrain Skateboard Could Use Neal Stephenson's Smartwheels
'If you surf over a bump... If you surf over a pothole...'
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