Pentagon exploring robot killers that can fire on their own

“We are sleepwalking into a brave new world where robots decide who, where and when to kill,” said Noel Sharkey, an expert on robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, England.


WASHINGTON — The unmanned bombers that frequently cause unintended civilian casualties in Pakistan are a step toward an even more lethal generation of robotic hunters-killers that operate with limited, if any, human control.

The Defense Department is financing studies of autonomous, or self-governing, armed robots that could find and destroy targets on their own. On-board computer programs, not flesh-and-blood people, would decide whether to fire their weapons.

“The trend is clear: Warfare will continue and autonomous robots will ultimately be deployed in its conduct,” Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, wrote in a study commissioned by the Army.

“The pressure of an increasing battlefield tempo is forcing autonomy further and further toward the point of robots making that final, lethal decision,” he predicted. “The time available to make the decision to shoot or not to shoot is becoming too short for remote humans to make intelligent informed decisions.”

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Google’s spy in the streets triggers a wave of protests

  • Internet giant’s busiest day as traffic jumps 41%
  • Invasive pictures are removed from site


Google street views, Birmingham. Photograph: Google

For 24 hours, Google’s new Street View brought a vision of British cities to the web that included such memorable sights as a man throwing up between his knees outside a London bar and youths with traffic cones on their heads in Edinburgh.

But while the chance to take a 360-degree tour of every street in 25 UK cities continued to bring most offices to a standstill yesterday, some of the more invasive moments caught on camera saw Google hit with a wave of privacy complaints.

The company said yesterday that it had removed scores of photographs from the site, including an image in London of someone coming out of a sex shop in Soho, the forlorn man being sick on a pavement, and another man being arrested by police.

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Military Laser Hits Battlefield Strength

Huge news for real-life ray guns: Electric lasers have hit battlefield strength for the first time — paving the way for energy weapons to go to war.

In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement.

That much power won’t get you a Star Wars-style blaster. But it should be more than enough to zap the mortars and rockets that insurgents have used to pound American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The battlefield-strength breakthrough is just one part in a larger military push to finally make laser weapons a reality, after decades of unfulfilled promises. The Army recently gave Boeing a $36 million contract to build a laser-equipped truck. Raytheon is set to start test-firing a mortar-zapper of its own. Darpa is funding a 150 kilowatt laser project that is meant to be fitted onto “tactical aircraft.”

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Star Wars scientists use laser gun to kill mosquitoes in fight against malaria

Scientists who worked the Star Wars anti-missile programme in the United States are building a ray-gun than can kill mosquitoes in a bid to tackle the scourge of malaria.


Insect-killing lasers could fight the spread of malaria Photo: AFP

Experts behind the 1980s missile shield idea have helped to develop a laser that locks onto and kills airborne insects.

It is thought the device, dubbed the ‘Weapon of Mosquito Destruction’ (WMD), could be used against mosquitoes, which kill almost one million people around the world every year by spreading malaria.

The research in Seattle, reported in the Wall Street Journal, has been funded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates through his charitable foundation.

The WMD laser works by detecting the audio frequency created by the beating of mosquito wings. A computer triggers the laser beam which burns the wings off the mosquito and kills it.

Among those working on the research project are astrophysicists Dr Lowell Wood and Dr Jordin Kare who both worked on the original Star Wars plan to shield America from nuclear attack.

Dr Kare said: “We like to think back then we made some contribution to the ending of the cold war. Now we’re just trying to make a dent in a war that’s actually gone on a lot longer and claimed a lot more lives.”

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Lasers to create mini sun in hunt for clean energy

However, the NIF experiment is not without controversy. The Californian facility’s primary purpose is to allow munitions to be tested without a radioactive fallout, which would contravene the nuclear test ban treaty.

Critics fear the US military is using the NIF complex to develop a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons, although a spokesman for the facility denied this.


Physicists hope to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology by firing laser beams at a pellet of hydrogen

SCIENTISTS are to use the world’s most powerful laser system to replicate the fiery core of the sun in experiments that may ultimately offer humanity a clean source of energy.

After more than 50 years of experimentation, physicists are hoping to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology that produces more energy than it consumes.

Within the next fortnight, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts – 1,000 times the power of the US national grid – for a fraction of a second.

The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun.

The scientists hope to refine the process over the next year until they trigger a nuclear reaction capable of producing large amounts of energy.

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Scientists develop battery that can be charged in just 10 seconds

Thing of the past? The new mobile phone batteries will be recharged in just 10 seconds

A revolutionary mobile phone battery that recharges in 10 seconds instead of several hours has been created by scientists.

The new device charges 100 times as fast as a conventional battery and could also be used in phones, laptops, iPods and digital cameras within just two or three years, they say.

The same technology could even allow an electric car to be charged up in the same time that it takes to fill a conventional car with petrol – removing one of the biggest obstacles to green, clean motoring.

The quick-charge battery is the brainchild of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT team say their invention uses materials already available to battery manufacturers and would be simple to mass produce.


The new battery could also work with rechargeable cars

The invention is based on conventional lithium ion rechargeable batteries found in most cameras, phones and portable computers.

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Wireless Tasers extend the long arm of the law

Take a close look at the logo of TASER International and …
(Wikipedia: Waffen-SS and SS)


TASER stun guns are going wireless, doubling their range.

The Taser XREP is an electrically charged dart that can be fired from up to 20 metres away with a 12-gauge shotgun. Upon impact, its barbed electrodes penetrate a victim’s skin, discharging a 20-second burst of electricity to “distract, disorient and entice the subject to grab the projectile”, says Taser. But grabbing the dart routes the shock through the hand, making it difficult to let go and spreading the pain further.

While the XREP delivers a lower voltage for a longer time, a spokeswoman for Taser says its effect is similar to existing versions.

Commercial production of the XREP is due to start later this month, with US police departments and the US military expected to be using the weapons by the end of 2009.

11 March 2009

Source: New Scientist

Diebold voting system sported ‘delete’ button: report

Election observers already distrustful of the electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold will have more reason to be wary now.

“Following three months of investigation, California’s secretary of state has released a report examining why a voting system made by Premier Election Solutions (formerly known as Diebold Election Systems) lost about 200 ballots in Humboldt County during the November presidential election,” Kim Zetter reports for Wired.

Zetter continues, “But the most startling information in the state’s 13-page report (.pdf) is not about why the system lost votes, which Threat Level previously covered in detail, but that some versions of Diebold’s vote tabulation system, known as the Global Election Management System (GEMS), include a button that allows someone to delete audit logs from the system.”

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French fighter planes grounded by computer virus

French fighter planes were unable to take off after military computers were infected by a computer virus, an intelligence magazine claims.


French fighter jets were unable to take off after military computers were attacked by a virus Photo: AFP

The aircraft were unable to download their flight plans after databases were infected by a Microsoft virus they had already been warned about several months beforehand.

At one point French naval staff were also instructed not to even open their computers.

Microsoft had warned that the “Conficker” virus, transmitted through Windows, was attacking computer systems in October last year, but according to reports the French military ignored the warning and failed to install the necessary security measures.

The French newspaper Ouest France said the virus had hit the internal computer network at the French Navy.

Jérome Erulin, French navy spokesman told the paper: “It affected exchanges of information but no information was lost. It was a security problem we had already simulated. We cut the communication links that could have transmitted the virus and 99 per cent of the network is safe.”

However, the French navy admitted that during the time it took to eradicate the virus, it had to return to more traditional forms of communication: telephone, fax and post.

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