Mad Scientists are cool. They get to say things like "Unleash the Robot Lobsters!" or "Release the Radio-Controlled Sharks!" Who else gets neat lines like that?
Well, it appears that soon those classic Mad Scientist lines will become part of the standard United States Navy lexicon. The Mad Scientists at DARPA have been hard at work developing two extremely cool Mad Science inventions: robot lobsters and radio-controlled sharks.
The lobsters (more precisely, the Biomimetic Underwater Robots) are designed to scuttle around the seabottom and track chemical gradients using sensors in their antennae. Presumably they could be used for things like locating and disabling underwater mines, or (more peacefully) finding toxic waste sources or pipeline leaks.
Even cooler are the experiments on radio-controlled sharks. Using electrical implants which stimulate the sharks' sense of smell, scientists at Woods Hole can pretty much steer the big toothy fish like they were toy trucks from Radio Shack. While it would be exceedingly nifty to imagine, say, pirates being eaten by Navy radio-controlled sharks, the idea is apparently to use the sharks' keen senses to gather information -- turning them into living reconaissance drones, in effect. The pirates (or whoever) would then presumably perish by more conventional means.
All this goes to show that if you want to be a Mad Scientist nowadays there's no need to get yourself an underground headquarters or some hunchbacked minions. Just send in a grant proposal to DARPA. In a world that looks more and more like a comic book every day, Mad Scientists are now a vital national resource.