Last week was a busy one for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, a detection agency set up to identify nations when they test nuclear weapons banned by treaty. On Tuesday, the organization's seismographs detected a rumble in North Korea that could only have been an atomic test. Then on Friday, CTBTO infrasound sensors picked up an explosion over Russia, but this time, it wasn't a nuclear test.
A new type of sensor can identify substances as small as a molecule by examining the light they reflect, potentially leading to sensors for a wide range of substances, from explosives to cancer.
The DARPA-funded sensor uses a chip full of metal pillars to boost the light signals bouncing off an object. It’s a billion times more sensitive than was previously possible, according to researchers at Princeton University.
By Rose Eveleth
Posted 11.08.2010 at 11:20 am 4 Comments
Bomb squads have long used metal detectors, X-ray machines and dogs to uncover threats. Without them, authorities may not have intercepted some of the thirteen homemade explosives that froze Greece’s outgoing mail earlier this week. But soon they may find a new tool in their quest to find the bad guys and their bombs: microscopic worms.
Imagine running a Google search for basketball videos, and having your computer sift through actual footage of online videos rather than just the text of the descriptions. A new type of software could enable computers to run searches inside videos, and pick out humans and objects alike.
In 2006, a bunch of terrorists went ahead and ruined air travel for the rest of us. After the terrorists failed to bring liquid explosives onto a British flight, the airlines banned liquid carry-on items larger than 3.4 ounces. This forced us to leave shampoo at home and buy outrageously overpriced drinks by the gate, to say nothing of the flask of whiskey I liked to travel with.
Calling a lithe, sniffing robot a "ferret" raises hopes that it'll be rather cuter than the mockup pictured, but the cargo-screening device in development has capabilities that outshine its aesthetic shortcomings. Though still in its beginning stages -- working prototypes will be ready in about two years -- this robot could revolutionize airport and seaport security by serving as an all-in-one drug, weapon, explosive, and illegal-stowaway detection powerhouse.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.