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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Cookie-Cutters  
  Very small (corpuscle-sized) devices that can enter the blood stream and destroy an enemy from within.  

Very creative, very scary. Let's hope it's not possible to manufacture these. In the world of The Diamond Age, most of the threats were too small to see with the naked eye.

Microscopic invaders were more of the threat nowadays. Just to name one example, there was the Red Death, a.k.a. the Seven Minute Special, a tiny aerodynamic capsule that burst open on impact and released a thousand or so corpuscle-sized bodies, known colloquially as cookie-cutters, into the victim's bloodstream. It took about seven minutes ... for the cookie cutters to be randomly distributed throughout the victim's organs and limbs.

A cookie-cutter was shaped like an aspirin tablet ... two tiny centrifuges. Detonation dissolved the bonds holding the centrifuges together so that each of a thousand or so ballisticules suddenly flew outward...The victim was just a big leaky sack of undifferentiated gore at this point and, of course, never survived.

From The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam Books in 1995
Additional resources -

The key to this particular weapon is the sudden release of the kinetic energy concealed in the paired spinning ballisticules.

A nasty weapon; I wonder if he somehow got the name from the cookie-cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis) - a small (about 50 cm in length) shark that takes the unusual (if sensible) approach that you don't need to eat the whole animal - just take a small bite. It attaches itself to its prey with suctorial lips, and then spins to slice out a cookie-shaped piece of flesh with its sharp teeth.

Also, gastroenterologists will (rarely) diagnose the following problem with children complaining of stomach aches: the child has swallowed a penny, which has become stuck in the intestinal tract. Over time, the acids present have transformed the relatively blunt edge of the penny into a razor-sharp edge that cuts into the intestine, moved by peristalsis like the rest of the contents.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Diamond Age
  More Ideas and Technology by Neal Stephenson
  Tech news articles related to The Diamond Age
  Tech news articles related to works by Neal Stephenson

Cookie-Cutters-related news articles:
  - Microgrippers Grab, Cut Tissue Internally
  - Mu-Gripper Microsurgical 'Robots'
  - Robot Swarm Performs Colonoscopy And Biopsy

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