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Terrorism

Robotics

Device takes pipe bombs apart, and preserves the evidence

While improvised explosive devices are certainly not designed to be “safe,” pipe bombs are particularly notorious for being unstable. When police forces respond to calls regarding such bombs, they usually utilize a remote-control bomb disposal robot to disable or detonate them. Unfortunately, this process often results in a loss of forensic evidence, that could be used to track down the bomb-maker. That’s where the Department of Homeland Security’s new Semi Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-cap Remover (SAPBER) comes into play. It’s a device that dismantles pipe bombs, leaving all of their components intact.Read More

Military

British Ministry of Defence scientist develops multiple substance detector

In war and disaster, ignorance can be deadly, so it’s important that soldiers and first responders get the information they need as quickly as possible. Dr. Peter White, a scientist with Britain's Ministry of Defence, has invented a handheld device that makes collecting samples and carrying out tests in the field much simpler and faster than previously possible. Developed at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Integrated Multiplex Assay and Sampling System (IMASS) can collect samples of and detect eight different substances simultaneously.Read More

Military

Homeland Security releases an app for bomb threat response

Imagine if you were a police officer who suddenly realized that the abandoned vehicle you were assessing contained a bomb. While you might have had some training in how to handle such situations, would it all easily come back to you in the heat of the moment? Well, even if it wouldn’t, you might still know what to do ... if you were using the FiRST app. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security developed the application for emergency response personnel, to serve as a step-by-step guide for managing bomb threats.Read More

Scientists create anthrax-unfriendly "killer silk"

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

Science

"Questionable Observer Detector" identifies people who keep popping up in crime scene footage

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

Electronics

Wallet-sized dosimeter would alert users to dangerous radiation levels

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

Science

Prototype explosives-detection system utilizes live 'sniffer mice'

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

Science

Color-changing plants detect pollutants and explosives

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

Spy Gear

New CCTV tech could spot abandoned baggage and track its owner

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

Science

Getting inside the mind of a terrorist to prevent attacks

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

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