Military Sets PHASR On Stun
Several prototype PHASR weapons are being tested by the US military. The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response device is under development at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate.
The PHASR has been designed as a non-lethal, man-portable deterrent weapon. It uses a laser system with two different wavelengths to blind (temporarily!) the enemy.
Laser weapons that could blind were banned under a 1995 UN convention - the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. The PHASR is intended to dazzle an enemy; it is also being fitted with a range-finding device to make sure that the amount of energy received is not too bright.
Obviously, the PHASR name is a retrofit to a sci-fi standard; namely, the phaser used on generations of Star Trek episodes. Captain Kirk is shown above with a phaser rifle. In the fictional world of Star Trek, "phaser" stands for "phased energy rectification." In the original series, phasers had several different settings - from stun to kill to vaporize.
If you like the PHASR or the phaser rifle, you'll love a somewhat more powerful fictional weapon - the Electrolux Death Ray. Read a bit more here and here.
NUGGET: NASA's new tricorder
NUGGET(Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography), an instrument containing a neutron generator, a neutron lens and a gamma-ray detector, could be used to investigate important biological indicators of life on distant worlds - just like Star Trek's tricorder.
The system provides a three-dimensional scanning instrument that focuses a beam of neutrons into an object. When the nucleus of an atom inside the rock captures the neutrons, it produces a gamma-ray signal for that element, which the gamma-ray detector then analyzes. The location of the elements can also be plotted; information can then be turned into an image of the elements within the rock. Scientists could then tell whether a certain type of bacteria had become fossilized inside the rock.
Many of us remember the tricorder from the original Star Trek series of the mid-1960's. The standard Starfleet tricorder was used for determining various characteristics of landing areas (like life form readings). (Doctors and engineers had their own specific types of tricorder.)
For other news related to sensors and science fiction, see EyeBall: Omni-Directional Smart Eye Sensor and ThereminVision Sensor: Robot Proximity Detection. Read more at NASA develops a NUGGET to search for life in space and at Astrobiology magazine. See also more tricorder images and details.
Transparent Aluminium Armour Tested By Military
Transparent aluminium armour (aluminium oxynitride - ALON) is being tested by the military as a lighter and stronger alternative to traditional materials.
ALON is a ceramic compound with very high compressive strength and durability; it offers better performance than traditional materials consisting of bonded glass. The new transparent aluminium armour uses ALON as a strike plate, a middle section of glass and a polymer backing. It provides better protection against armour piercing threats at half the weight and half the thickness of glass. It also appears to have a much longer life expectancy than glass.
In extensive testing, ALON has performed well against multiple hits of .30 calibre armour piercing rounds -- typical of anti-aircraft fire. Tests focusing on multiple hits from .50 calibre rounds and improvised explosive devices are in the works.
Star Trek fans are of course familiar with Scotty (above) passing on the formula for transparent aluminium (in spite of primitive computer technology) to an alert 20th century executive.
Read more at the source; thanks to Matt, Andrew, Winchell, and Steve for a multiple heads-up on this story. Unfortunately, I had an article to finish for Ad Astra today, and couldn't get to it until evening.
Holo-Dek - A Unique Real-World Virtual Venue
The Holo-Dek centre in Hampton, New Hampshire, may not quite have the same features as the holodeck from Star Trek - but when you see your favourite computer games unfold at human scale, you might just buy into their business.
The object at Holo-Dek gaming theatres is to combine the experiences of large-screen presentation with multi player gaming as experienced on-line - but better. No long waits for downloads, no screen lag - more like you might experience in a LAN party in which everyone had a $5,000 screen and PC rig. And, even better, you can fortify yourself with food and drinks, all ordered on-screen and delivered right to your seat.
"Basically, this is a video gaming theatre... like a movie theater for gaming. Everybody gets a state of the art PC and at least a six-foot screen," says Mike Fortier, co-founder.
There are 16 of the 73-inch screens, three 100-inch screens, and the big 13-footer. All can be connected to PCs or Xboxes, and players can play singly, or against each other, or on-line.
Open for only three weeks, the dimly-lit rooms are peppered with teenage and 20-something gamers playing Half-Life 2, or Halo 2, or Far Cry. Yet despite the massive carnage and techicolor sci-fi action exploding on the walls all around, Holo-Dek is quiet, since the gamers are playing with headphones on. The space feels civilized, clean, and relaxed.
The developers are not content with flat screens - even in a 180 degree set-up. Coming soon - at a Holo-Dek near you, the gaming sphere: a twenty-foot diameter spherical screen with a robot at the centre featuring 360 degrees of gaming excitement.
The Star Trek holodeck is a virtual environment that provides infinitely varied participatory, interactive entertainment in a very small space. On Federation starships, stressed crew members need to have some sort of outlet for exercise and entertainment. (After all, they face certain death every week - every night in some markets!)
The holodeck combines several key technologies to create an environment in which crew members can physically participate and interact in a staged drama in which they are the main characters:
The walls of the holodeck are covered with millions of omni-directional holo diodes (OHDs) that can project full-colour three dimensional images and force fields. The force fields allow people to have a physical experience of running, climbing, pushing or pulling in a very small area; participants "move" from one cell to another in the virtual scene.
The transporter can create and destroy physical props at will, in the same way that it can materialize people and objects at a distance.
The ST:TNG holodeck is the ultimate in gaming environments. But Holo-Dek might actually bring you something you can use in the next year or two. Read more at the next world: life at the dawn of the gaming century from /.. And the company site at Holo-Dek.
And don't forget the original holodeck - the first sf interactive, participatory environment - Ray Bradbury's The Veldt, in his Happylife Home.
Remote Control For Humans
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corp says it is developing a consumer version of a galvanic vestibular stimulation machine. It uses electric current to cause your body to feel the need to move on demand.
A special headset sends a low voltage current from the back of your ears through your head - right to left or left to right, depending on what the person with the "human controller" joystick chooses to do. Galvanic vestibular stimulation confuses the nerves in your ear to throw off your sense of balance. Since you feel unbalanced, you seek to orient your body properly. When the controller turns the switch to the right while you are walking, your body rebalances itself to veer to the right - without conscious thought. According to researchers, it is possible to force a person to actually walk along a predetermined route - like a pretzel-shaped path - using the device.
In looking around for science fictional antecedents to the idea of a remote control for a person, I recalled the Star Trek episode Spock's Brain, which aired September 20th, 1968. In the story, Spock's brain is actually stolen right out of his head by beautiful aliens, leaving the body behind. McCoy fixes up a device that lets him control Spock's brainless body remotely; he fiddles with the controls on the remote, and Spock walks.
Science fiction stories about mind control almost invariably include the idea of telepathy by an organic mind, rather than by a mechanical device. For example, the thought-screen from the 1940's novel Gray Lensman by E.E. "Doc" Smith is intended to protect the user from beings with mind control powers. Robert Heinlein, in his 1951 novel The Puppet Masters, writes about "slugs" from Titan that ride on a human being and take complete control of the brain and nervous system.
Philip K. Dick, in his excellent 1955 short story Service Call, writes about the swibble, which was a combination of living organism and electronics:
Swibble-culture is an organic phenotype evolved in a protein medium under controlled conditions. The directing neurological tissue that forms the basis of the swibble is alive, certainly, in the sense that it grows, thinks, feeds, excretes waste. Yes, it's definitely alive. But the swibble, as a functioning whole, is a manufactured item.
More recently, the evil Plankton hopes to force Spongebob Squarepants to reveal the secret Krabby Patty formula by taking control of Spongebob's brain with a device labelled "Total Control" and forcing him to walk right out of his house.
I'm hoping that, by including this whimsical reference to a popular children's television show, any unfortunate paranoids who come upon this page will be reassured that this product will only be used for fun and games. Despite the fact that users of NTT's experimental device claim that "It's a mesmerizing sensation similar to being drunk or melting into sleep under the influence of anaesthesia. But it's more definitive, as though an invisible hand were reaching inside your brain." Rest assured, though; you can even remote-control yourself by taking the device into your own hands.
Click to view image: 'Startrek'
In: Arts and Entertainment
Tags: startrek, technology, transparent, aluminum, aluminium, pasar. phaser, holo, deck,
Location: Stafford, Staffordshire, United Kingdom (UK/GB) (load item map)
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