Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Weapons

Gizcast 7: Great inventions - the AK-47

This week, we take a look at the fascinating story of how Mikhail Kalashnikov's AK-47 assault rifle came to be the world's most popular firearm, with as many as 75 million units currently in service around the globe. Throw an AK-47 into a combat zone, and David suddenly starts beating Goliath - it's become a powerful political symbol of strength in the face of invasion or repression. It's the most successful killing machine in history, which is a horrifying achievement and obviously not something to be applauded, but with reference to its impact on humanity it is, sadly, among the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Also, Geoffrey Baird has been surfing away in his sound booth this week, and he's dug up 5 oddball gadgets for our weekly roundup.  Read More

The thermal effects of the 'Little Boy' nuclear bomb if it was dropped on New York City.

Not that it's particularly likely, but as long as nuclear bombs exist, there's the chance - however slim - that one might go off somewhere near you. This little Google Maps overlay might be a bit morbid, but it's also pretty fascinating. It shows you the heat, pressure and fallout spread of a range of different nuclear bombs detonating anywhere in the world. It's particularly sobering to get a sense of the scale of the devastation caused by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs in World War 2 - and then see how tiny those bombs are compared to the USSR's enormous Tsar Bomba, the biggest nuke ever detonated.  Read More

A robotic 'ferret' will help customs find drugs, weapons and people hidden in freight cont...

It won’t be cuddly, but it’ll certainly be efficient. The University of Sheffield is developing what it calls a cargo-screening ferret that uses a combination of laser and fiber-optic technology to sniff out the tiniest traces of drugs, weapons, explosives and even illegal immigrants.  Read More

The XM25 smart weapon

The XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon is looking likely to be the shoulder-fired weapon of choice for the US military to kill or neutralize hidden targets. Due for field test this summer, the lightweight XM-25 "smart weapon" uses High Explosive Air-Burst (HEAB) munitions that can be programmed to detonate at a precise point in the air without the need to impact, spelling trouble for elusive targets, be they behind a wall, inside a building or in a foxhole.  Read More

Metal Storm completes First Shoulder Firing of MAUL Shotgun

Metal Storm's MAUL ultra-light shotgun attachment has joined the company’s 3GL grenade launcher in achieving certification for safe shoulder-firing. MAUL, which stands for Multishot Accessory Underbarrel Launcher, mounts under the barrel of a combat weapon including the M-4 and M-16 rifles and is capable of firing a range of lethal and non lethal munitions using the company's computer-controlled, electronic ignition system.  Read More

Akos Ledeczi holds a kevlar helmet with the microphones and network node attached that can...

Imagine being able to pinpoint an enemy shooter in difficult terrain with such deadly accuracy that you can see whether they are kneeling or standing and not only what kind of weapon they are firing but the caliber too. Well, engineers at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) have developed such a system by turning soldiers' combat helmets into "smart nodes" in a wireless sensor network.  Read More

The 84 mm Carl-Gustaf recoilless, multi-role, man-portable weapon (Images: SAAB)

In the world of military technology, new weapon capabilities quickly supersede the old. With the United States expenditure for the 2009 fiscal year at US$515.4 billion, it's rare to find a very old weapon still cutting it with the best on the battlefield, but the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle (CG) has proved the exception to this rule. First produced in 1946, the Carl Gustav remains in widespread use today.  Read More

HPM bombsuse an enormous electromagnetic radio pulse to disable computers, electronics, ve...

High-power microwave (HPM) bombs that use an enormous electromagnetic radio pulse to disable computers, electronics, vehicles, guided missiles and communications while leaving people and structures unharmed have been under investigation in research labs for a number of years. Until recently these weapons have been impractically large at over 3.5 meters long, but researchers at Texas Tech University have now built a self powered device with U.S. Army funding that measures 15 cm in diameter and only 1.5 meters long, making it small enough to be considered portable.  Read More

The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (Credit:  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication S...

Naval mine strikes are cited as the root cause of almost 4/5ths of U.S. Navy ship casualties occurring since 1950, so any device that either detects mines or cloaks the ship to avoid detonation will aid in the reduction of these alarming statistics. This new technology developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) consists of a high temperature superconducting (HTS) degaussing coil which acts to form a cloaking device which eliminates the magnetic signature of the ship. This interferes with undersea mines' ability to detect and detonate when a large magnetic field – like the one created by a ship – comes within close proximity.  Read More

Boeing to develop Free Electron Laser for US Navy
 (Photo: Frank Buck/Boeing)

Boeing has won a U.S. Navy contract worth up to $163 million to develop the Free Electron Laser (FEL), a weapon system that the company says "will transform naval warfare in the next decade by providing an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new, challenging threats, such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles." The envisioned level of precision would enable U.S. Navy ships to deliver nonlethal or lethal force to targets with power and minimal collateral damage.  Read More

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