Fly Trapped in a 3D Printer is a 21st Century Fossil

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum on at

Millions of years ago, unlucky animals settled in the sticky resin of trees, only to be trapped and preserved until we humans found them. Fossils of the distant future, however, will probably be a whole lot weirder than bugs in tree sap.

An engineer 3D-printing this honeycomb structure was surprised to find a bug had trapped itself in the print, like an insect in amber. Forget Jurassic Park—one day, this new fossil could be the start of some sort of Quaternary Park.

“[The fly] settled in there during the print,” Senior Lecturer in Engineering Eifion Jewell from Swansea University in Wales said in an email passed along to Gizmodo. “Don’t know what attracted him or why he decided to take a break when he did, but it led to his undoing.”

Image: Richard Johnston

Of course, we’ll never know if the researchers did anything to bait the flies, but that won’t matter in the future. Polymers and resins are mostly non-biodegradable, so if this hunk of 3D-printed stuff ends up in a landfill, someone in the future really might just put it in some sort of post-singularity museum.

People have already started calling the modern era the “Anthropocene,” the time in which humans have started acting as a geological force of nature. As we’ve written in the past, people have impacted the Earth by introducing invasive species and changing the climate. Pieces of plastic like this really could end up as yet more fossils of our strange new era.

As for the fly, wrote Jewell, “there’s a moral there somewhere about sleeping on the job.” [h/t Richard Johnston!]


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