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Terrorism

Chances are, you’ve seen at least one or two TV shows in which the police examine news footage shot at several different crime scenes, and recognize the same person’s face showing up repeatedly in the crowds of onlookers ... the ol’ “criminal returning to the scenes of their crimes” scenario. Realistically, it’s pretty hard to believe that one person could look through all that footage, and remember all those faces. It turns out that a computer could do it, however, as scientists at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame have illustrated with their “Questionable Observer Detector," or QuOD. Read More

When anthrax spores go dormant, they develop a tough outer coating that can withstand heat, radiation and antibiotics, in one case even allowing them to come back to life after 250 million years. It seems that such spores could be no match, however, for a special pair of silk curtains. Read More

Personal radiation dosimeter badges are the things that you may have seen people wearing in nuclear power plants, that measure how much radiation is in the immediate environment. Unfortunately, the devices don’t provide real-time feedback – instead, they must be sent off to a processing lab, which determines the wearer’s radiation exposure after the fact. Now, however, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working on a wallet-sized card that would serve the same purpose, but that could also be read on the spot using a handheld reading device. Called the Citizen's Dosimeter, it could be used to detect the presence of ionizing radiation caused by nuclear accidents or dirty bombs. Read More
Mice ... they may nibble our food, poop in our cupboards, and make us go "eek," but they may also someday keep us from getting blown up. Before they can do that, however, Israeli tech company BioExplorers has to get its mouse-based explosives detection system out of the prototype stage and into production. If it ever does see the light of day, then people at airports, arenas, and other high terrorism-risk areas may routinely be getting a sniff-down by containers of live rodents. Read More
There may come a day when certain plants in your workplace suddenly turn white, at which point everyone will run screaming from the building – those co-workers will have been right to do so, as the white plants indicated that a toxic gas was present. Before that scenario can take place, a little more work still needs to be done, and Colorado State University (CSU) biologist Dr. June Medford is doing it. Using a computer-designed detection trait, she is creating plants that stop producing chlorophyll when they detect pollutants or explosives in the air. Read More
We’ve told you before about CCTV programs that can identify criminal behavior, or that skip through footage where nothing’s happening. Now, a consortium of ten organizations from six European countries is working on another concept involving video monitoring of public spaces. It’s called the SUBITO project, for Surveillance of Unattended Baggage and the Identification and Tracking of the Owner, and it’s intended to do pretty much what the name suggests. Installed in existing security camera systems at places such as airports or train stations, the software will identify baggage that has been left unattended, and that could therefore possibly contain an explosive device. It will then search back to identify the person who deposited that baggage, then follow them forward through various cameras to establish their present location. Read More
Recently, 29 students from Northwestern University in Illinois planned a terrorist attack. Researchers from the university were subsequently able to learn details of the attack, even though the students never admitted to anything. How was this possible? Well, essentially, the researchers read the students’ minds. More specifically, they monitored their P300 brain waves – brief electrical patterns in the cortex, which occur when meaningful information is presented to someone with “guilty knowledge.” In this case, it was a mock planned attack, but the research team believe their process could be used to prevent the real thing. Read More
Hidden explosives, chemical weapons, biological agents and illegal drugs could one day be optically detectable from up to 20 meters away. How? Well, every substance has its own unique terahertz (THz) radiation “fingerprint”, the waves of which pass through anything other than metal or liquid. Scientists from New York state’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are working on a way of analyzing those waves, then determining what substance they’re emanating from. The process would be harmless to both the subject and the observer, and could make the world a much safer place. Read More
OK, so first of all, how can a fabric possibly get thicker when stretched? Doesn’t that go against the laws of physics? Not, it turns out, when that material is auxetic. Cat skin and shin bones also apparently possess this quality. The University of Exteter, in collaboration with their spin-off company Auxetix Ltd, have developed an auxetic blast-proof curtain. If a bomb were to go off near such a curtain, the pressure wave would stretch the fabric outwards, thus thickening it and making it better able to hold back flying glass and other debris. The curtain is intended to be fitted over windows of buildings that are terrorist targets, or that are subject to events such as hurricanes. Read More
If a terrorist attack has left an area contaminated with nerve gas, chances are no one wants to add any other noxious substances to it. Using conventional chlorine- and lye-based decontamination agents, however, that’s exactly what’s happening. Not only can these substances run off and harm people or the environment, they can also react with the very materials they’re cleaning up, forming new toxic substances. It is for reasons such as these that the US military has developed Decon Green - a non-toxic set of ultra-strength cleaners. Read More
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