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Archive for March, 2004


Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

“Its not exactly NASCAR,” says Engadget’s Peter Rojas, “but we did get a kick out of watching robot after robot starting up and then moments later either crashing into a wall, stalling, or catching on fire.“
Check out footage from Darpa’s ill-fated Grand Challenge robot race here.


Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

America is only in the first year of the kind of fight Israel has been waging for decades. So it’s only natural that the Pentagon is starting to get some of its combat technology from Tel Aviv.
“From tennis ball-sized sensors that can be thrown or shot from snipers rifles into terrorist lairs to wall-breaching devices for urban combat, gear invented for Israels anti-terror wars in Gaza and the West Bank are increasingly being put in the hands of U.S. warfighters,” Defense News reports.

One system proposed for the U.S. Marines is a remote-controlled weapon station for crew protection and target engagement. Combined with an… acoustic sensor detection and direction-finding device, it essentially becomes a robotic anti-sniper weapon for wheeled or tracked vehicles…
[An Israeli] firm sold 100 maritime versions of the remote-controlled systems to the U.S. Special Operations Command in late 2003…
Meanwhile, the Pentagons Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office has ordered multiple prototypes of a new, 360-degree surveillance sensor from a small Tel Aviv-based firm called ODF Optronics Ltd. Called the Eyeball, the tennis ball-sized reconnaissance system contains motion-detectors, a voice-activated recorder, speakers, microphones and transmitters to see, hear and communicate with enemy insurgents within a 25 meter radius…
And, the U.S. Army has ordered an additional 14 Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd.-developed Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles to support ongoing operations in Iraq.
The Hunter contract, estimated at $33 million, is a follow-on to the Armys existing fleet of systems, which collectively flew more than 3,000 hours over the Iraqi theater, U.S. and Israeli sources said.


Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

“Popular science magazines used to be aimed at the geeky wannabe inventor,” Salon says. “Today, it’s all about the glamour of war.”


Monday, March 29th, 2004

Fareed Zakaria has a must-read Newsweek column on “the rise of a new phenomenon in global politics: terrorism that is not state-sponsored but society-sponsored.”

Al Qaeda has lost its base in Afghanistan, two thirds of its leaders have been captured or killed, its funds are being frozen. And yet terror attacks mount from Indonesia to Casablanca to Spain. “These attacks are not being directed by Al Qaeda. They are being inspired by it,” the official told me. “I’m not even sure it makes sense to speak of Al Qaeda because it conveys the image of a single, if decentralized, group. In fact, these are all different, local groups that have in common only ideology and enemies.“
This is the new face of terror: dozens of local groups across the world connected by a global ideology.


Monday, March 29th, 2004

“Whatever you may think of the Israeli decision to eliminate Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, it is vaguely creepy that the killing of specific individuals can now be done from the air,” writes Gregg Easterbrook. “And it’s about to get creepier, because this task may soon be taken over by remote-controlled drones.“
THERE’S MORE: Israel Aircraft Industries unveiled a pair of itty bitty spy drones weighing just 250 grams.


Sunday, March 28th, 2004

“NASA has made aeronautics history by launching an experimental jet that reached a record velocity of just over seven times the speed of sound,” CNN reports.
“Fifty-seven years after test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, NASA on Saturday launched the unpiloted [X-43A] research jet. It is the first time a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or scramjet, which uses air for fuel, had traveled so fast.“
Slashdot has more here. And here’s an article of mine from November on the Pentagon’s supersonic efforts.


Friday, March 26th, 2004

If a new Pentagon proposal gets through Congress intact, half of the G.I.s in Germany may being saying auf wiedersehen to Deutschland. Phil Carter <a href=“a href=“http://philcarter.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_philcarter_archive.html#108023184207566987″>explains the move.


Friday, March 26th, 2004

The Bush administration is increasingly doing the public’s work in private, rendering reams of official documents off-limits to average folks. A new coalition of citizens’ groups, OpenTheGovernment​.org, is getting together to try to buck the trend. Check ‘em out here.


Thursday, March 25th, 2004

Back in the day, putting down a jailhouse riot meant using a couple of billy clubs and a whole lot of malice. But now, there’s a wider array of tools, from cameras that see through walls to robots that spew fog. Wired magazine looks at the technology of prison guards.


Thursday, March 25th, 2004

Clearing the world’s nearly 60 million unexploded land mines is tedious, torturous work, with conventional detectors often unable to tell the difference between a mine and a Coke can.
“But a new technology that shakes the surface of suspected mine fields with gentle seismic waves may one day detect many plastic or metal mines while ignoring metal debris,” the New York Times reports. “That is because these mines vibrate differently from the soil or debris around them. Radar or laser-based scans can detect this difference and, with the right signal processing, show the location of mines in computer displays.”