Just as the AK-47 rifle shifted the balance of power on battlefields the world over during the second half of the last century, the improvised explosive device (IED) has defined 21st-century insurgent warfare, allowing relatively low-tech warriors to inflict major damage on better-equipped conventional troops. IEDs have also left some 130,000 U.S. soldiers and marines suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that continue to affect them long after they leave the combat zone.
The Stuxnet worm has generated plenty of commentary from computer industry experts and security pundits, but yesterday the U.S. government’s senior cybersecurity expert at the Department of Homeland Security weighed in, calling the malicious program a “game changer” in cyber warfare. The head of the DHS’s Cybersecurity Center, Sean McGurk, made the statement to the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday.
Keeping tabs on nuclear material is both increasingly important and increasingly difficult these days, but researchers at the University of Maryland have devised a mechanism that may make it a lot easier to ensure unchecked radioactive materials don’t make it illicitly ashore. A novel approach to gamma ray detection could make it easier for customs officials to test shipping containers for radioactive payloads without searching them one by one.
DARPA’s Transformer – sometimes referred to as the flying Humvee – seems to be moving right along, even if only on paper at this point. The DoD’s out-there tech incubator has awarded Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute $988,000 to develop an autonomous flight system for the vehicle, which would go a long way toward helping the proposed military vehicle get off the ground in both the literal and figurative senses.
In Afghanistan, perhaps more so than in a small Polish town, it's important to know exactly where you're going. So you can imagine the frustration felt by Polish troops serving in Afghanistan when faulty GPS equipment told them that they weren't in Afghanistan, but in one of several African nations or back home in the small town of Zielona Gora in Western Poland.
Aboard oceanfaring vessels, real estate is naturally limited. But communications are vital, presenting something of a conundrum for a ship’s communications crews: where to place all the large antennas necessary for long-range (and often encrypted) communications. So U.S. Navy R&D lab SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) engineered a clever scheme to turn the ocean’s most abundant resource into communications equipment, making antennas out of geysers of seawater.
"This new millennium sucks! It's exactly the same as the old millennium! You know why? No flying cars!" – Lewis Black
Of all the far-out visions for the future provided us by popular culture (indeed, by this very magazine above almost all else), perhaps none is so conspicuously absent today as the flying car. Other sci-fi fantasies – the invisibility cloak, laser weapons, universal translators, 3-D printers – exist to some degree, if only on a lab bench somewhere. But the flying car, once considered the next logical step in personal transit, simply never took flight.
But now, for the first time since the age of Henry Ford, the flying car has a serious patron. And it's not some eccentric millionaire or overzealous garage inventor. It's the United States Department of Defense.
They’re out there, biding their time. Waiting patiently. And when you least expect it, they’re going to plunge you and everyone you care about into total darkness. Luckily, we can see solar storms coming from about 93 million miles away, and NASA is now in the process of creating a “Solar Shield” that should be able to minimize the damage to power grids caused by electromagnetic disturbances in the atmosphere and ground caused by foul weather on the sun.
The Missile Defense Agency’s airborne laser weapon is supposed to save us all from imminent nuclear demise, but after yesterday’s botched test firing – the second failure in a row – the Airborne Laser Test Bed program may not be able to save itself. During a test run off the California coast yesterday, the high-energy lasing Boeing 747 located a test missile in the sky but never got down to the very important business of blasting it out of the sky.