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Device Sniffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the smell-me-please dept.

Science 48

MTorrice writes "With every breath, people exhale a plume of chemicals. Now German researchers have developed a method to quickly and easily detect this chemical signature of life with a portable device. The team hopes that the approach can help firefighters and other first responders find people trapped inside rubble after earthquakes, terrorist attacks, or other calamities."

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Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters (4, Funny)

James McGuigan (852772) | about 2 years ago | (#42555057)

Had to do a double take on that one, my first reading was

"Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters"

Re:Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555155)

Had to do a double take on that one, my first reading was

"Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters"

Yes your reading comprehension disability is quite original and amusing. Good show!

Re:Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555515)

Sorry to ruin your mental masturbating and all, but believe it or not your superior sense of humor actually doesn't make you better than anybody.

Re:Device Snuffs Out Signs of Life After Disasters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42558951)

Sorry to ruin your mental masturbating and all, but believe it or not your superior sense of humor actually doesn't make you better than anybody.

Funny, that was my thought exactly toward anyone who posts these repetitive memes AND gets rewarded for it with +5 Funny. Ever try looking in a mirror once in a while before acting all butthurt about what someone else said?

After Dinosaurs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555415)

Haha, at first I thought it was about paleontology!

double take.. (0, Redundant)

coma_bug (830669) | about 2 years ago | (#42555067)

Device Snuffs Out Life Signs After Disasters

Re:double take.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555161)

If this thing works by smell then finally we have built-in affirmative action.

Niggers stink so bad it will smell them thru ANYTHING!

Dogs (4, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 2 years ago | (#42555087)

I've always thought dogs did a really great job of that.

Re:Dogs (1)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#42555211)

Well, yes. But dogs tend to have the downside of needing constant care and dying.

Of course, until they surpass dogs' ability to sniff out scents, they should, at best, be used as a supplement to and not as a replacement for them.

Re:Dogs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555229)

Well, yes. But dogs tend to have the downside of needing constant care and dying.

Of course, until they surpass dogs' ability to sniff out scents, they should, at best, be used as a supplement to and not as a replacement for them.

besides trained dogs make all the niggers nervous

Re:Dogs (2)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#42555317)

On second though, electronic devices need constant care and they die.

The costs involved are significantly less, though.

Re:Dogs (2)

William Robinson (875390) | about 2 years ago | (#42555253)

I agree that dogs do great job. However trained dogs are expensive and they have a time limit.

Back on topic, I was involved in design electronics and algorithms of chemical detector useful for military/security forces. Right now I am involved in design of device that would detect certain diseases. We used nanomaterial and I believe it does great job. It provides great sensitivity and helps package everything in a small 3 inch box.

IANAC, could anybody explain me whether the technology used in the device "ion mobility spectrometry" is better?

Re:Dogs (1)

PeterKraus (1244558) | about 2 years ago | (#42557003)

I don't know anything about your method - "nanomaterial" is quite a wide range of chemicals, really.

Their approach seems to be an incremental improvement on tried and tested analytical methodology - I mean, GC's have been here for ages, they are the best separation technique there is for robust applications.

The "ion mobility spectrometry" part seems to me like a secondary separation-based analysis. GC lets you separate analytes by molecular weight (in similar groups of chemicals - eg alkanes), and polarity/solubility (in case of different groups of chemicals, eg. alkanes and alcohols). Those pre-split analytes will, presumably, be first ionised and then further sliced based on their "ion mobility" (which is a term I hear first time in this context) within a carrier gas - size, charge, shape...

I fail to see how this is so much different from GC-MS (in terms of results), but I only read the abstract, it's the first time I hear about ion mobility spectroscopy, and can't really be arsed looking into the paper itself.

Re:Dogs (2)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about 2 years ago | (#42558541)

As someone who was once training a dog for SAR, I can tell you that most SAR (and cadaver) dogs are handled by volunteers so they are completely free (at least as far as the taxpayer is concerned). There are a ton of volunteer SAR organizations in the US.

Dogs do have a time limit but so do their handlers. It's pretty much a given that you're going to have to swap out teams for a truly long duration search. That's not going to be any different if you're using a device.

That said, the main benefit of a device over a dog is that a device could be used in areas that are simply too hazardous or difficult for dogs to operate.

Re:Dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555301)

but they go by body odor, sometimes the body ain't breathing. If this detects breath then you can concentrate on live people.

Re:Dogs (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555395)

Lots of reasons why. Dogs are great but not perfect.

1) Convenience of mass production means greater deployment compared to the high time and cost of training dogs along with maintenance basically means cheaper costs and greater numbers
2) Deployment ability, devices are very easy to bring along and can be kept on all vehicles for standby, you can't exactly do that with dogs. It would also be easier for transportation like say extras are needed for a big emergency.
3) Durability/Downtime, devices can be fixed or replaced with little issues if damaged compared to dogs which can put them out of commission especially considering the danger of their work. Devices also don't need rest, batteries tend to be easy to deal with while there is little you can do with a tired dog.
4) Reliability, We know how the devices will work and it will work in a consistent manner (barring specific hardware issues) unlike dogs which are unlikely to be consistent in ability with the same amount of training.

Really, it doesn't even have to be an either or scenario in this case. Why not deploy both if this works as advertised? More testing and possibly research to prove it's capabilities are needed i think before we start deploying it everywhere but it may become an important tool in a disaster. Searching for way to improve upon the status quo can only be a good thing even if things don't always pan out. It's only when you start going with unproven, untested technology that is the problem (those tsa scanners).

Re:Dogs (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#42559073)

2) Deployment ability, devices are very easy to bring along and can be kept on all vehicles for standby, you can't exactly do that with dogs. It would also be easier for transportation like say extras are needed for a big emergency.

While it's possible to have the equipment standby always, it's a lot harder to deploy them because their range of omtions is much more limited than a dog.

Highly agile dogs can really get in and around rubble with such ease and relative safety moreso than electronic equipment.

It's actually gotten so bad that the rescue dogs often themselves are part of the process - bringing in the equipment to hard to reach places (dogs can go where humans can't, or would have extreme difficulty reaching). It's why they use highly agile breeds like German Shepherds and Labs because they can really maneuver and get into those crevices and such.

Most of this stuff goes with existing technology - not replace it. A dog can get to places that take hours for a robot to, and nigh-impossible for a human. At which point these can be deployed to get into crevices that a dog wouldn't go or are too big for.

So they are going to be another tool on the belt - the dog will assist in bringing the equipment onsite, and the equipment will aid the search efforts when the dogs have moved onto other areas.

Re:Dogs (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 2 years ago | (#42559121)

In that case, I'm going to start marketing an "Acme Emergency Disaster Locator Kit." You use it to smear bacon grease all over yourself. Every dog for miles around will find you.

TRAINED K-9 BETTER VALUE FOR THE MONEY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555191)

And they last a lot longer !!

If it makes you happy, strap on some resistors, diodes, and condensers, a few LEDs, a battery pack, and viola !! Electronic people sniffer on the cheap !! Or pay $50k per !!

It's called "dog's nose" (1)

MyHair (589485) | about 2 years ago | (#42555207)

NT

Re:It's called "dog's nose" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42558485)

From the department of redundancy department, brought to you by Captain Obvious.

Or it might (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555227)

Or it might be used to get your sent then track you down when they deem you not desirable humans any more.

I'm picking up organic chemicals nearby. (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42555291)

Scan the debris for life-signs.
Sir, we've detected the stench of several human survivors... From the smell, French I'd say... Eh, Jean Luc?
Intriguing, there is a 87.391% probability the remains are of a cargo ship;
The wreckage seems to be covered in some form of condiment,
and the flames are producing an odor signature similar to pork barbe--
That's ENOUGH, Data!

Re:I'm picking up organic chemicals nearby. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42556797)

Mass reading off the scale, Captain. It's either an unknown micro black hole or a convention of Americans discussing pork barrels.

Re:I'm picking up organic chemicals nearby. (1)

jonadab (583620) | about 2 years ago | (#42560261)

You little life forms, you pretty little life forms, precious little life forms, where are you? Doo doo doot doot doot doot doo.

I just love scanning for life forms!

Device snuffs out signs of life? (-1, Redundant)

cpicon92 (1157705) | about 2 years ago | (#42555293)

Am I the only one who read it that way? I was shocked and horrified until I reread it...

Plume of chemicals (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#42555299)

With every breath, people exhale a plume of chemicals

Finally something good about halitosis.That's bad news for Listerine...

Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the wall (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555403)

..and for locating insurgents hiding in warzones, or stowaways...
not all the uses of this technology are good

Re:Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the w (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#42555453)

..and for locating insurgents hiding in warzones, or stowaways... not all the uses of this technology are good

Of course not all is good, but what's wrong with finding stow-aways (could be a Muslim with a bomb) or locating insurgents hiding. Unless you are a pacifist discovering enemies who may later attack from behind the lines (saboteurs, snipers, etc.) is a legitimate aim.

Re:Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the w (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42555513)

Depends whose side you are on. One mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. During WW2, the French resistance were the insurgents. Had the Nazis somehow won, history would have recalled them as terrorists.

Re:Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the w (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#42556453)

Pacifism, as our dear friend Orwell noted, is objectively pro-Fascist. And pro-Communist. No thanks.

Re:Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the w (2)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 2 years ago | (#42555579)

Why was this modded down? This is quite the most insightful comment here. Oh, AC mentioned Jews, that's why.

Re:Also good for sniffing out jews hiding in the w (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42556977)

Why was it modded down? Probably because the mod was tired of the rampant tinfoil hat paranoia and the tendency to leap directly to the downsides so prevalent here on Slashdot.

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Funding. (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42555527)

Cynically, I think that adding 'terrorist attack' to the list might just be to greatly aid the chances of getting some sweet, sweet government money. Earthquakes and simular natural disasters achieve an annual victim count that outnumbers terrorist attacks by a few orders of magnitude, but governments seem so much more eager to publicly spend money on counter-terrorism.

What else is detectable? (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | about 2 years ago | (#42555547)

Could something along the lines of a millimeter wave radar detect a heartbeat through rubble, or under snow after an avalanche, perhaps?

-jcr

Re:What else is detectable? (2)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | about 2 years ago | (#42556367)

Not sure about the radar, but snow jackets and pants will sometimes have a built-in Recco reflector [wikipedia.org] specifically for ease of victim location after an avalanche.

Re: What else is detectable? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42556567)

Answer is no, you pseudo intellectual cunt.

Thanks for trying, though.

Re: What else is detectable? (1)

jcr (53032) | about 2 years ago | (#42571369)

Thanks for showing us that there are some people whom we should just leave under the rubble. What a thoughtful and helpful contribution to the discussion at hand.

-jcr

Re:What else is detectable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42557669)

In fact, such things exist. They've been in the literature for about 40 years (see the work of Chen at Michigan state, or Geisheimer at Georgia Tech, as well as countless others all over the world). Several papers by Italian researchers have shown that you can do heartbeat detection through several meters of snow, one using a small sensor on a quadcopter that lands on the surface. However, there are some practical challenges in making it a field usable device. The handheld "through the wall radars" (largely developed for military applications in areas full of mudbrick and concrete block buildings) don't work well at detecting the small (1mm) motions from heartbeat (because you can't hold it steady long enough).

You don't actually want millimeter wave, because the propagation through rubble scatters the short wavelengths more than longer wavelengths (e.g why the sky is blue), but something a bit longer. You don't want too low a frequency, because of things like rebar and steel reinforcing mesh. Somewhere in the 2.5-5 GHz range is probably best but it's situational.

Dept of Homeland Security (favorite whipping boy on slashdot) Science & Technology directorate is funding development of just such a practical device.

Re:What else is detectable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42558725)

Millimeter RADAR have too poor penetration. 5-10 GHZ goes through brick walls and it is being used for survivour detection in both secnarios. Moving a RADAR around in a grid in a disaster zone is tedious and takes a long time, Too long for avalanches.

Chemical sniffers are also used to detect illegal immigrants in trucks and ships.

So, we got ourselves a life-signs detector. (1)

Mattsson (105422) | about 2 years ago | (#42555743)

Ford: "So, we got ourselves a life-signs detector."

Sheppard: "We can name it later."

Alternative use... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42555859)

How to know whether ...to save some fuel.. ...or whether to drone back around for a second sweep and wipe out some more pakis

A nice step towards sci-fi style technology. (1)

Soluzar (1957050) | about 2 years ago | (#42556309)

"Life signs have been detected, sir."

Not such a great idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42557033)

Let's face it, the people at the bottom of the rubble pile are all fucked up by now.

It's kinder to just leave them there.

Skynet (1)

dhalsim2 (626618) | about 2 years ago | (#42559531)

Once Skynet becomes self-aware, this is one of the first devices that it will take possession of.

Drug detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42560877)

I'd think something like this would be useful to evil authoritarian governments in their pursuit of drug users.

Mosquitos excel at tracking CO2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42563649)

... sense humans and mammals by exhaled breath.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6486057.stm

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