But the problem is, to detect an abnormal stench, the government first needs to know the city’s normal aroma, to have an idea of its “chemical profile.” To that effect, DARPA just released a solicitation looking for suggestions on how to best build chemical composition maps of major United States cities. Spencer Ackerman over at Wired’s Danger Room t0ok a look at the solicitation and explained what DARPA is looking for:
The data Darpa wants collected will include “chemical, meteorological and topographical data” from at least 10 “local urban sources,” including “residences, gasoline stations, restaurants and dry cleaning stores that have particular patterns of emissions throughout the day.”
Then, subsequent chemical readings from the area could be compared to the “map” to check for abnormal chemicals in the air. Since many chemicals that can be used in a terrorist attacks are normally found around our cities, it’s difficult to just screen for them without having an idea of their baseline levels, explains Wired:
Man’s best friend can also be man’s best tandem parachuting partner. The Guardian reports that UK forces have been sending Taliban-hunting dogs into Afghanistan.
Dogs have been used previously by American and Austrian paratroopers, which sheds some light on how the British might be using their pups, says Wired:
SAS pooches are trained for High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) jumps, in which parachutes are deployed at a high altitude and long horizontal distance away from a target location in order to allow jumpers to glide in without detection.
The biggest threat to American security may not be scheming terrorists or secretive cyber attacks–it may be the growing girth of the average American youth.
Retired army generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, who have both served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argue that the obesity epidemic is rendering too many Americans unfit for duty. As the generals write in a Washington Post op-ed:
It seems incredible, but these are the facts: As of 2005, at least 9 million young adults — 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24 — were too overweight to serve in the military, according to the Army’s analysis of national data.
Since 1995, the number of recruits who have failed their medical exams because they’re overweight or obese has increased 70 percent. The generals say that to defuse this national security threat, the United States needs to get to potential soldiers when they’re young. They urge Congress to pass a child nutrition bill that would get junk food and soda out of schools, and that would make school lunches more nutritious.
If they’re really serious about this campaign, though, they might want to consider replacing lunchroom monitors with drill sergeants, who could scream at the little maggots to put down the Hostess CupCakes and to drop and give them 20.
Discoblog: New Villain in the Obesity Epidemic: Mean Gym Teachers
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80beats: Rats Fed on Bacon, Cheesecake, and Ding-Dongs Become Addicted to Junk Food
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Image: Flickr / See-ming Lee
Imagine a day in the future when a soldier could just roll out of bed, pull on a cotton T-shirt, and head out into a combat zone, without worrying about taking a bullet through the chest.
An international team of scientists from Switzerland, China, and the United States have moved one step closer towards the goal of a bulletproof T-shirt by combining cotton with boron carbide–the third hardest material known on earth and the stuff used to armor battle tanks.
Chemistry World reports:
Modern military forces use plates of boron carbide (B4C) as ceramic inserts for bulletproof clothing but these can restrict mobility, so the design of a nanocomposite — where B4C is used to reinforce another material — could provide the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.
Struggling for a gift idea? How about gifting a rat through “Adopt-a-HeroRat.” These are no regular New York City-type rats, creepily scampering across train tracks or spreading disease; these so-called HeroRats help save lives by sniffing out unexploded landmines in Mozambique. For just six dollars a month, you can choose to support the good work of “Allan,” “Kim,” “Tyson,” or “The Chosen One.”
The rats being used in Mozambique’s mine-sweeping operations are African pouched rats; they’re small, lightweight (weighing about 3 pounds), and, according to the BBC, surprisingly cute. Traditionally, mine-detection has been carried out by metal detectors and sniffer-dogs, but the rats are the latest workers to join the team. However, the mine-removal process is still dangerous and labor-intensive: Once a rat discovers a mine it has to be dismantled by a human.
A new game may help soldiers in that problematic campaign–winning the hearts and minds of people in occupied countries. The game, developed by the University of Texas and backed by the U.S. Army, gives American soldiers deployed abroad some lessons in foreign customs and cultures. This is the opposite of a first-person shooter game; the Pentagon calls it a “first-person cultural trainer” game.
Air-dropped into foreign lands, soldiers often find themselves at a loss, knowing neither the local language nor the cultural conventions. The new 3D simulation game is intended for soldiers to learn the niceties in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a friendly relations with locals could make the difference between life and death.
It’s a project that’s been in the works for three years, and uses cultural data provided by the military. The goal of the game is to enter a village, learn about the social structures and relevant issues, and then “work with the community” to successfully finish assigned missions.
New Scientist is reporting that a paper by the U.S. National Academies of Science has thrown out the possibility of using genetic testing and analysis to match soldiers with specific duties/specialties, and monitor their brains for signs of stress or weakness. For instance:
If a soldier is struggling, a digital “buddy” might step in and warn them about nearby threats, or advise comrades to zap them with an electromagnet to increase their alertness. If the whole unit is falling apart, biosensors could warn central commanders to send in a replacement team….
Sponsored by the U.S. army and written by a panel of 14 prominent neuroscientists, the report focuses on those areas with “high-payoff potential” – where the science is sufficiently reliable to turn into useful technologies….
Within five years, biomarkers might be used to assess how well a soldier’s brain is functioning, and within 10 years, it should be possible to predict how individuals are likely to respond to environmental stresses like extreme heat and cold, or endurance exercises.
There’s also the matter of matching people to combat specialties based on a combo of psych and genetics tests:
Kevlar is nice and all, but the next bullet-proof vest might be made of sticky goo. Colorado researchers are using specialized gels to fix knee injuries (and pretty much the rest of the human body). But a chemical engineering company called d3O lab has created the mightiest gel of all—one so strong that when an external force, such as a fist or the ground, hits it, the gel turns into a shock-absorbing material that hardens and soaks up the entire impact.
While the company has been testing the gel in sports equipment for athletes, the Ministry of Defense thinks the new goo may be capable of stopping bullets, so they’ve forked over $150,000 for testing.
The secret to how the gel works rests in chemistry (not magic), as inventor Richard Palmer explained to the Telegraph: “When moved slowly, the molecules will slip past each other, but in a high-energy impact they will snag and lock together, becoming solid.” So in this case, when a bullet hits the gel’s molecules, they bond together to form an “impenetrable” wall against bullets or shrapnel. But the solid state is only temporary—after the molecules absorb the shock and the impact stops, the gel becomes a gel again.