"Watch," says Johnson. From a height of about two feet, he drops a steel ball onto a brick-size chunk of the metal. The ball bounces so high and for so long—1 minute and 17 seconds, with a metronomic tick, tick, tick—that it looks unreal, like some kind of cinematic special effect. "When you try that with regular steel, it goes ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’ and stops," says Johnson. If the metal were glued to an unyielding surface such as concrete (instead of sitting on Johnson’s oak coffee table, which absorbs a lot of the energy), "the ball would bounce for more than two minutes," he says. "I’ve done it."
It is called metallic glass, or amorphous metal, and it appears to be nothing less than an entirely new class of material that can be used to build lighter, stronger versions of anything. "Everything from an Abrams tank to an F-16 jet to a bicycle can be made out of this, and because it is two to three times the strength of conventional alloys, you can halve the weight or more. That’s not evolutionary, it’s revolutionary," says Johnson. "This is the structural material of the future."