Pentagon’s portable ‘thermal laser’ pain weapon may end up in police hands

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The latest version of the Department of Defence’s Thermal Laser System (Image: US Department of Defence)

The Pentagon’s efforts to develop a beam weapon that can deter an adversary by causing a burning sensation on their skin has taken a step forward with the development of a small, potentially hand-held, version. The weapon, which is claimed to cause no permanent harm, could also end up being used by police to control civilians.

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(Image: Saul Loeb/Getty)

The idea of the weapon is to “create a heating sensation that repels individual adversaries”, according to the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) in Quantico, Virginia, which develops less-lethal weapons for the US military and coastguard.

Tests with a rifle-mounted infrared laser, carried out at a US air force lab near Dayton, Ohio, have determined a combination of laser pulse power and wavelength that causes an alarming, hot sensation on the skin, but which stops short of causing a burn, says JNLWD project engineer Wesley Burgei.

“We have established the minimum irradiance to cause a sensation and have characterised where thermal injury begins,” he says. “But the exact operating irradiance which balances a useful military effect with a conservative margin of safety has not been nailed down yet.”

That’s something that will have to be done before the weapon is deployed, as too powerful a laser beam could permanently blind someone if fired at their eyes. Weapons that do this are banned under the UN Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.

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Novartis microchip to help ensure patients take their medicine

equilibrium

The future: No chance to discontinue the medicine!



(Financial Times) Patients who fail to pop pills on time could soon benefit from having a chip on their shoulder, under a ground-breaking electronic system being developed by Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group.

The company is testing technology that inserts a tiny microchip into each pill swallowed and sends a reminder to patients by text message if they fail to follow their doctors’ prescriptions.

The partnership with Proteus Biomedical, which originally developed the technology, is one of several alliances under development by Novartis as it and rival pharmaceuticals companies attempt to maintain high prices for innovative medicines by ensuring that they are taken as the doctor ordered. Pfizer’s Health Solutions division has developed a system to telephone patients to encourage them to take medicine.

Joe Jimenez, head of pharmaceuticals at Novartis, said tests using the system – which broadcasts from the “chip in the pill” to a receiver on the shoulder – on 20 patients using Diovan, a drug to lower blood pressure, had boosted “compliance” with prescriptions from 30 per cent to 80 per cent after six months.

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US missile system’s track record: test delays, failed launches, missed targets

Designed to feed the military-industrial complex with taxpayer money.


For a system designed to protect the country from nuclear oblivion, the US national missile defence project’s history of failure has long raised eyebrows among scientists.

Years of testing have seen rocket-propelled interceptors refuse to launch from their silos, fail to separate from their boosters and miss their targets, sometimes by hundreds of miles.

Military officials can claim only a 50% hit rate, and only then in tests that are far removed from a real world attack scenario, said David Wright, a physicist and co-director of global security at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some tests were delayed for months because the weather was not considered good enough for the interceptor to find its target.

When tests did go ahead, missile operators knew when the target would be launched and its trajectory in the sky. The missile system that was due to be installed in Europe had undergone even less rigorous testing. The plans included a two-stage interceptor which has yet to even begin flight tests.

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Japan: Scientists Create Hologram You Can Touch

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) – Imagine a light switch or a book that appears only when you need it — Japanese scientists are one step closer to making the stuff of sci-fi films into reality after creating a hologram that can also be felt.

“Up until now, holography has been for the eyes only, and if you’d try to touch it, your hand would go right through,” Hiroyuki Shinoda, professor at Tokyo university and one of the developers of the technology, told Reuters.

“But now we have a technology that also adds the sensation of touch to holograms.”

Holograms — three-dimensional images — are commonly found on credit cards, DVDs and CDs to prevent forgery, and larger scale holograms have been used in entertainment.

By using ultrasonic waves, the scientists have developed software that creates pressure when a user’s hand “touches” a hologram that is projected.

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First Solar to build the world’s largest solar plant in China

China Plans World’s Largest Solar Plant (Bloomberg)


Added: September 09, 2009


First Solar to build the world's largest solar plant in China
In this Sept. 7, 2009 photo released by First Solar, First Solar CEO Mike Ahearn, left, greets Chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, in Phoenix.


NEW YORK (Reuters) – First Solar Inc said on Tuesday it plans to build the world’s largest solar plant in China in the first major foray by a U.S. company into the Asian nation’s fast growing alternative energy sector.

Under a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government, First Solar will build a 2-gigawatt power plant, enough to power about 3 million Chinese households, at Ordos City, in Inner Mongolia, and consider building a new manufacturing plant in China.

The announcement comes as the solar industry struggles to emerge from a year-long slump that saw financing for new projects dry up and reduced subsidies in Spain create a glut of unsold cells and panels.

The project is part of China’s program to generate 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020 to help meet its growing energy appetite that has made the country the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide.

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Long-range Taser found to be a health risk on ‘the receiving end’

Related articles:
Wireless Tasers extend the long arm of the law
Sold as non-lethal, Tasers killed 400 in US, Canada since 2001

Cops raise Taser safety claims; Metro officers hurt during training sue company(!)

Taser applications:
Police State: Cops pepperspray, taser mentally challenged, deaf man, while using the toilet
Police State: Cops Taser Child 19 Times Leaving Him in a Coma
Police State: Cop Tasers Mom In Front of Her Children
Unedited Dash Cam Footage of Grandmother Being Tased
Taser use to obtain DNA not unconstitutional: NIAGARA COURTS RULING
Prison officer zaps children with 50,000-volt stun gun ‘to show them what a day at work is like’
Top cop fired for allegedly using Taser on wife
Ex-NFL Player Tasered For Pointing At Cop


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THE manufacturer of the Taser stun gun is sparking new controversy with the commercial launch of a long-range version that can be fired from a 12-bore shotgun.

Government-funded tests on initial versions of the new Extended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) have revealed possible health risks to people on the receiving end, New Scientist has learned. The manufacturer, Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, says the issue has been addressed in redesigned devices, but these have yet to be independently tested.

Unlike the current Taser X26, which fires darts attached to short wires, the XREP is wire-free. Its projectile, the size of a shotgun cartridge, is designed to pierce the target’s skin and contains battery-powered circuits that deliver a debilitating shock. It has a range of 20 metres or more, compared with 5 metres for previous Tasers.

A team led by Cynthia Bir, a trauma injury specialist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, found that some of the 275 XREP cartridges that Taser supplied for testing last year were capable of delivering an electric shock for more than 5 minutes, rather than the 20 seconds of shocking current they are supposed to generate. Previous Taser stun guns shock for only 5 seconds per discharge, though that can be repeated.

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US doctor is offering British couples the chance to choose the sex of their child

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In vitro fertilization process.

A US doctor is offering British couples the chance to choose the sex of their child at his New York clinic, a procedure that is illegal in the UK. Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, of Fertility Institutes, his New York clinic, provoked anger earlier this year when he said his fertility clinic could allow parents to produce “designer babies”.

He gave prospective parents the ability to choose eye, hair, skin colour and gender. In the United States, the law allows him to use pre-implentation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to allow parents to know an embryo’s sex.

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Panasonic’s Tiger-Resistant Laptop

Don’t believe manufacturers’ claims. We put Panasonic’s Toughbook through real survival tests.

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BURLINGAME, Calif. — Call it the James Bond of laptops.

We dropped the Panasonic CF-30 “Toughbook,” kicked it, stood on it and tried to back over it with a Volkswagen JettaTDi. (That left a mark–on the pavement.)

We poured Diet Coke on the keyboard. Then we used the lid to crush the can.

You might think this is unnecessary testing for a laptop. Advertising is always brimming with over-the-top claims. We’ve heard about “durable” notebooks before. But the ones we lug to press conferences seem to be as touchy as a bunch of squirrels. Surely, Panasonic’s claims of toughness are, well, over-the-top.

We found, however, that Panasonic’s Toughbook performed as promised. Fair enough. So we came up with some tests that were decidedly unfair.

We used the Panasonic Toughbook to serve Doritos. Then we crushed the chips to dust between the keyboard and the screen, the same screen we used as a dartboard. The darts poked holes in the screen’s protective coating, but the display underneath remained undamaged. Not a single dead pixel.

So we presented the $3,460 Toughbook to Nalin, a white tiger who lives at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif. Nalin treated it like a cat toy, knocking it to the ground, gnawing on the screen and licking every inch of its surface. He must have smelled those Doritos.

The tiger chewed off five keys, but that turned out to be just cosmetic. We could still type without them, and were able to glue four back on later (we made sure Nalin didn’t swallow anything). The fifth just snapped back into place.

elephant-toughbook

Next, Liz, a 10,000-pound Asian elephant, stepped on it, stood on it, dropped it onto a concrete slab, stood on it again–balanced on three legs–and then tossed it around some more. Liz put two small cracks in the laptop’s magnesium alloy lid and popped the hard drive out.

The drive slid right back in to the Toughbook’s chassis, which rebooted without a glitch. The screen was undamaged, although it was hard to see through the tiger hair and congealed drool.

That’s when we remembered: We’re allergic to cats.

Five days later, we turned from tests to something better described as execution: We took the laptop to the Jackson Arms firing range in South San Francisco to shoot it with a Ruger Mark III .22 pistol from 15 yards.

Dell declined to loan us a rugged laptop to shoot, saying they didn’t have the “inventory excess to participate this time around.”

Panasonic, meanwhile, was about to have one less notebook. We removed the battery to minimize the mess, and aimed.

Goodbye, Mr. Toughbook.

Or so we thought. We put a bullet through the laptop. Then we booted it up. We were able to log in. Our test file was still there. The screen had a hole in it, but was still usable.

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Lethal military robot warriors will get a guide to ethics

When and what to fire will be part of hardware and software ‘package’

robot-warrior
Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like QinetiQ’s MAARS robot (shown here), are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. A Georgia Tech computer science professor is developing a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire.

Smart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own?

Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an “ethical governor,” a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots,” comes out this month.

He argues not only can robots be programmed to behave more ethically on the battlefield, they may actually be able to respond better than human soldiers.

“Ultimately these systems could have more information to make wiser decisions than a human could make,” said Arkin. “Some robots are already stronger, faster and smarter than humans. We want to do better than people, to ultimately save more lives.”

Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like iRobot’s SWORDS or QinetiQ’s MAARS robots, are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. Flying drones can fire at insurgents on the ground. Patriot missile batteries can detect incoming missiles and send up other missiles to intercept and destroy them.

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