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New Sensor Technology Looks at Molecular 'Fingerprint'

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the that's-profiling-and-profiling-is-wrong dept.

113

New sensor technology developed by engineers at the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory can now detect chemical, biological, nuclear, and explosive materials much more quickly and efficiently. From the article: "The millimeter/terahertz technology detects the energy levels of a molecule as it rotates. The frequency distribution of this energy provides a unique and reproducible spectral pattern - its 'fingerprint' - that identifies the material. The technology can also be used in its imaging modality - ranging from concealed weapons to medical applications such as tumor detection."

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113 comments

Mystery Robot Solved? (3, Interesting)

HappyClown (668699) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388204)

I wonder if this technology is similar to what (might) be being used here:
Mystery Robot [nationalgeographic.com]

I highly doubt it... (2, Informative)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388700)

First off, take a look at that "robot" again (the picture in the NGEO article). Does that look like any kind of "research robot" you have ever seen? At best, it looks like something an amateur robotics experimenter might build, from a variety of parts picked up from various locations.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't discount such robotics. Over the years, many great things have been done in robotics using COTS "junk" and such by such amateurs. Unfortunately, this whole thing seems to scream "scam" to me. Those transducers on the front seem like speakers ripped from some center channel surround sound speaker. The metal-shell body with small access panels, a cheesy light on top, along with an even cheesier obviously fake dish antenna (with no apparent directional control - what is the point of such an antenna, which if it was real would be directional, and would need directional control for communications on a mobile platform?), which looks like it came from one of those "get cable signal quality without a cable box" scam antenna's from the 1980's. Finally, the wheels and such look like they belong to a cheap radio-control 4WD "monster truck" toy - complete to the "bling chrome" rims. Which wouldn't be much of an issue, except it doesn't look like the thing can turn, unless it is using differential steering instead of Ackerman (sp?) (which would be the normal mode of steering for a RC vehicle unless it was a tank, which the wheels don't appear to be from).

The thing just looks cheap, cheap, cheap - and not at all like something you would expect - even a prototype - to look like for research and development purposes where there is money supposedly being invested. I have seen more highly advanced amateur robots built using COTS parts found on Ebay, by dudes in their garages on shoestring budgets, that were way better built than this thing. Honestly, it looks like something I once cobbled together when I was a kid in grammar school. It just has an air of a scam - it looks like the equivalent of those scam perpetual "energy motors" and their inventors that you see so often. Stuff enough crap together, stick it in front of an audience not versed in what they are seeing, ask for some money for investment - standard scam stuff. Finally - normally I wouldn't comment on this - but what kind of facial expression is that on that man (Manuel Salinas)? He looks somewhere between drunk, stoned, and hit with a 2x4. Maybe he just was having a bad day?

Anyhow - enough of what I think. I did some googling on the guy and his robot. A few minutes of research turned up this blog entry [peeniewallie.com] about the guy and his "technology"...

Scam? Most likely...

Re:I highly doubt it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15389371)

Yeah, but if you combine it with Troy Hurtubise's Angel Light, they will RULE THE WORLD man!!!

What About ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388207)

Yes, all well and good. But can it be used to detect Cylons?

Re:What About ... (2, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388469)

Cylons no. But it *does* detect any conceiled weapons they're carrying...

Re:What About ... (1)

esper (11644) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389420)

Detecting Cylons is trivial: Have sex with them and see if their spines glow.

This sounds rather expensive. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388215)

This sounds like the sort of technology that is woefully expensive to implement. It's one thing to be functionally applicable for such uses, but it's completely different to be financially viable.

Would this technology ever actually make it to the security checks at an airport, for instance? Does it offer a clear financial benefit over existing solutions?

Re:This sounds rather expensive. (1)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388394)

Well, no more goon plane screeners would be a big benefit in my mind.

HEY! Yoos needs to takes off yoos shooz, else I have to get rough!

Re:This sounds rather expensive. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388431)

Gone are the days of "did anyone else pack your bags for you today?" Welcome to the future, where the question is "did anyone else contribute to your internal physiology in any way today?"

Re:This sounds rather expensive. (1, Informative)

Tx (96709) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388405)

Considering the war on terror is well on course to cost $1 trillion [msn.com], I guess it's no expense spared to make America safe. After all, it's not real money anyway, just extra 0's on the end of the deficit.

Re:This sounds rather expensive. (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390374)

Millimeter waves is the stuff that lets you look through clothes.

Though it would work, somehow I think it won't make it as an airport security checking device.

Not new at all? (3, Informative)

nasor (690345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388220)

Um...rotational spectroscopy is not new at all. It's been around for a very long time - at least 50 years, probably longer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotational_spectrosco py [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not new at all? (5, Informative)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388284)

Um...rotational spectroscopy is not new at all. It's been around for a very long time - at least 50 years, probably longer.

Maybe you should read the article first. The breakthrough is the extreme degree of sensitivity, coupled with the fact that it's doing the analysis passively (versus targeting molecules with lasers/microwaves).

Re:Not new at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388313)

>>versus targeting molecules with lasers

That's the big deal about this tech. No more endangered sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads are needed to make this work.

Re:Not new at all? (2, Interesting)

nasor (690345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388328)

The passive sensing is also not new. You can find journal articles about it going back at least 3-4 years; I don't have any off hand, but if you have access to a scientific journal database you can probably find them pretty quickly.

I don't recall the sensitivity of the technique given in the other articles that are out there, but then there isn't any hard data on sensitivity in this "article" either; just a reference to getting within 10 ppm in one particular test. Since they don't give the concentration of what they were measuring, this is of little value. 10 ppm error in something with parts-per-thousand concentration is pretty good. In something with parts-per-billion concentration, it's pretty bad. The information that they give in meaningless without knowing the circumstances of the test.

Who watches the watcher? (2, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389145)

Technologies that were formerly infeasible or unreliable frequently take on new life as the sweeping wave of information technology washes by.

Thus, an ancient, esoteric, expensive, and minimally useful technology (rotational spectroscopy) is suddenly viable as a new, privacy-piercing technology.

Which brings me to my point: Are we going to sit back and watch our freedoms erode due to the lack of the basic privacy we've taken for granted for so long, or are we going to restructure our society so that we can preserve our freedoms despite the fact that privacy is dying its last breaths? [wired.com]

Link goes to the most insightful and useful article I've ever seen that illucidates the problem nicely, while providing a solution we can sink our teeth into. If you haven't read it yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

Where the United States goes, I can only guess. But I'm quite sure that the next free society will apply the lessons in the link above.

Re:Not new at all? (2, Informative)

7ft_Big_Guy (972070) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389480)

It's old technology on a new level... Basically it's MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MR Spectroscopy is probably 40-50 years old, and has been getting into smaller and smaller packages over the years... With new methodologies of Integrated Circuit manufacturing, more sensitive and noise resistant receivers can be built. I's kind of like radar... you have a sample (person, luggage, test tube with chemicals in it etc) and pass it thru a magnetic field... as it passes thru the field, you send a radio frequency pulse out that "scatters" the magnetic moments of the atoms in the sample... as they recombine back to being parallel with each other, they generate a specific frequency that is unique to the molecule they are in. with a bunch of signals coming back from a single sample, you can know what compounds are in the sample and in what proportions... look that up in a simple table and bingo, you have whatever the substance is identified.

Re:Not new at all? (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390143)

You're confused about how this works; it's not like an MRI or NMR where a magnetic field creates energy states for different orientations of the atom's magnetic fields. This just induces rotational transitions in the molecules.

Re:Not new at all? (1)

7ft_Big_Guy (972070) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390865)

In NMR, the magnetic field doesn't create anything... it aligns the axes of all the atoms spins so they are all in the same direction... the RF pulse knocks them out of alignment with each other, and as they re-align, they generate a pulse of RF back. (IE the RF pulse generates rotational transitions in the aligned atoms). I worked with MRI and NMR for almost 20 years.

Re:Not new at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388296)

You are absolutely correct in that there is nothing new here. The only reason the article claims anything new is that they use "terahertz". However, this is simply a re-labeling of the spectral region that has been called "far-infrared" for >50 years. Terahertz is *the* new buzzword in spectroscopy. As for the "fingerprints" thing, this is also not a new idea since mid-infrared (400-4000 cm^-1) spectroscopy has used that terminology for many years.

Re:Not new at all? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389548)

all the RS work I ever did or saw was in the infrared, this seems longer wavelength, high portion of microwave

Re:Not new at all? (1)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389945)

What happens if you cool something? Less thermal energy, less vibration, less fingerprint?

Re:Not new at all? (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390125)

No, cooling it shouldn't matter; it would probably actually get easier to take a spectra of a cool sample because there would be less "noise" from vibrations.

iran? (2, Interesting)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388226)

From TFA:

  "We can use this technology to detect chemical and biological agents and also to determine if a country is using its nuclear reactors to produce material for nuclear weapons or to track the direction of a chemical or radioactive plume to evacuate an area," explained Paul Raptis, section manager. Raptis is developing these sensors with Argonne engineers Sami Gopalsami, Sasan Bakhtiari and Hual-Te Chien.

It seems as if this is good news, the ability to decide if they really are WMD's or just a new fuel source for some 3rd world country that he had no reason to invade. Perhaps this can be tested with the Iranian issues of today.

Re:iran? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388564)

So you give some credence to Iran's claims that its nuclear program is just for power generation? I don't, for two reasons:

1) Thanks to oil, Iran is just about the most energy-rich country in the world. No other energy source will come close to the cost-effectiveness of simply sticking a spigot into the ground.
2) A country would almost have to be crazy to not want a nuclear arsenal. In a conflict, nukes easily make the difference between entering a negotiation among peers (of a sort), and getting invaded. In a world where Pakistan has the Bomb, where do you stand if you do not? (And don't bring up countries like Japan; they do have a nuclear program and could make nuclear weapons almost at a whim, and already have powerful nuke-armed allies).

None of which means I would trust Iran with Nukes. I expect us to act in our best interests just like I expect them to act in theirs.

Re:iran? (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388797)

2) A country would almost have to be crazy to not want a nuclear arsenal. In a conflict, nukes easily make the difference between entering a negotiation among peers (of a sort), and getting invaded. In a world where Pakistan has the Bomb, where do you stand if you do not? (And don't bring up countries like Japan; they do have a nuclear program and could make nuclear weapons almost at a whim, and already have powerful nuke-armed allies).

A Nuke is easy to make. A delivery method is much harder. Japan could not fabricate this at whim. It would take 2-3 years to contruct test and assemble then 5 years to make a delivery vehicle that could get it off japanese soil and about 10 more to make a icbm.

Re:iran? (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389092)

A delivery method is much harder.
They're called ships, and they float on the ocean, or if attacking a land locked country use an airplane.

Re:iran? (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389847)

A delivery method is much harder.

They're called ships, and they float on the ocean, or if attacking a land locked country use an airplane


Which is very limiting as you'd get at most 1 shot with this delivery method. Same for Air. If you didn't already have air dominance you are then gambling on these methods. Also their fairly slow methods. The coast gaurd / air traffic control and air defence would also run a significant chance of intercepting any traffic that isn't normal and a disguised ship will only work once or twice.

Re:iran? (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390127)

And exactly how many times to you figure you can get away with launching nuclear weapons from an icbm?!?

In fact a ship or plane seems infinately more likely/logical...pretty damn tough to say that big missle hole in the ground is NOT yours or belongs to a rogue group!

Re:iran? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389850)

A Nuke is easy to make. A delivery method is much harder. Japan could not fabricate this at whim. It would take 2-3 years to contruct test and assemble then 5 years to make a delivery vehicle that could get it off japanese soil...
That's not how it went down it WWII.

Re:iran? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15390034)

Iran is no where near the energy richest country in the world, Saudi Arabia has them beat by a country mile. Iran's oil production has peaked and is beginning to decline. With current high price of oil, they would be stupid not to be transitioning from primarily oil based power generation to nuclear power.

Re:iran? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15389041)

The problem arises when you have an administration that has an agenda and is not influenced by the facts. 'Facts' only matter to people that have not already made up their minds about what they are going to do.

Remember 'my mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts'?

How appropriate, my capcha is 'preempt'

This is all fine and good, (3, Insightful)

glassjaw rocks (793596) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388227)

But without any mobility of the device, this just wont work. Sure, it can detect if anything is amiss in a radius of 600 meters, but beyond that, it would be pretty expensive to implement in all major areas of the US.

Of course, I would feel pretty good seeing one at airports.

Overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388238)

Great! Another reason to fear our robotic overlords....they're trying to find our pot!

Obligatory jab at WMD intelligence (0, Troll)

cdogbert (964753) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388239)

If only we had this technology when we first went to war with Iraq.

Oh wait...

Radioactive plumes (2, Interesting)

sssmashy (612587) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388255)

To remotely detect radiation from nuclear accidents or reactor operations, Argonne researchers are testing millimeter-wave radars and developing models to detect and interpret radiation-induced effects in air that cause radar reflection and scattering. Preliminary results of tests, in collaboration with AOZT Finn-Trade of St. Peterspurg, Russia, with instruments located 9 km from a nuclear power plant showed clear differences between when the plant was operating and when it was idling. This technology can also be applied to mapping plumes from nuclear radiation releases.

I was under the impression that properly functioning nuclear power plants shouldn't be releasing any kind of radiation into the air while operating, let alone enough radiocative plumes detectable from 9 km away. Then again, it is a Russian nuclear power plant, and Russians seem to have a much more relaxed attitude about that kind of thing.

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388370)

Russians seem to have a much more relaxed attitude about that kind of thing.

I, for one, welcome our new three-headed Russion overlords.

Re:Radioactive plumes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388382)

I do not think so. I use to work in the lab in Russia. Well, you know this is a lab, because there are instruments and glassware all over the place and you hear noise from the pumps - otherwise, it's clean it does not smell.
OTH, I used to work in the US, in the FDA regulated lab - you can barely breathe there - it stinks so much. There were only 2 full size fume hoods for about 20 people working in the lab.

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

NotALamer (742110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388383)

They still release some radiation, but presumably not enough to cause harm to nearby plants or animals. Even coal burning plants release radioactive material into the air, generally more than nuke plants from what I understand.

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388407)

I was under the impression that properly functioning nuclear power plants shouldn't be releasing any kind of radiation into the air

Considering even coal plants do [google.com], I am not surprised.

Re:Radioactive plumes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388412)

Actually, in Soviet Russia radioactive plumes detect YOU!

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

Alchemar (720449) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388426)

When was the last time you have seen something that always properly functions. When something goes wrong they flood the reactor. They have to vent the gas at the top so that they completely flood the chamber. It does create a radio active plume, but it is mild compared to a complete meltdown.

Re:Radioactive plumes (2, Informative)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388555)

A properly operating power plant does not release any radioactive particles. There is still gamma radiation through the sides walls of the reactor. This is typically less than the background radiation from other sources. The fact that it is measurable is more a testament to the sensitivy of the instruments than the radiation level. It has been said that you receive more radiation watching TV for an hour each day than you do living a mile from a nuclear plant (what wavelengths is another question, though). As the section you quote says, they were observing the effects of radiation on the air molecules that change the way radar reflects off of them. I'm not sure what the effect is...probably just ionization of a few atoms.

If they can detect this, they can definitely detect a plume from a containment breach and hopefully map very accurately how it spreads.

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

Eric Sharkey (1717) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389352)

A properly operating power plant does not release any radioactive particles.

It does produce neutrinos, which should count as radioactive particles, despite very low interaction rates. These are remotely detectable. For example, the Kamland [stanford.edu] experiment measures neutrinos from multiple reactors across Japan and neighboring countries.

Re:Radioactive plumes (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389438)

Your combining two sentences. They weren't detecting radioactive plumes they were detecting that the plant was operating at that distance, and then on another topic they could use it to map radioactive plumes if something goes boom.

Sniff, then Peek (1, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388256)

If that tech really works as simply as that, then we should immediately have laws to protect our privacy, while offering security. Like requiring the imaging be allowed only when the material detection shows an illegal, controlled substance - like anthrax or uranium. A strict list of controlled substances, with contingencies for substances with "dual use" (legal as well as illegal) should allow imaging of legal objects to stop the intrusions.

Re:Sniff, then Peek (1, Informative)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388325)

when the material detection shows an illegal, controlled substance - like anthrax or uranium

Uranium, in itself, does not count as a "controlled" substance. You can, legally, go online and buy anything from uranium metal to large quantities of ore samples MUCH "hotter" than you should ever spend much time near.

However, although you might poison yourself, you can't actually use those (in any realistic quantity) to build an explosive device.

Now, enriched uranium, plutonium, and very-hot fissile byproducts such as cesium-137, you can't get without jumping through legal hoops.

But using the fact that someone has low levels of radiation coming from their car or home should most certainly NOT count as "probably cause".

For comparison, here in New England, we have plain ol' grantite outcroppings hotter than U238 metal (not unrelated, we also have a lot of Radon gas problems, but, not the point).

Re:Sniff, then Peek (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388335)

Ugh - "we have plain ol' granite outcroppings". Learn to spell, pla!

Re:Sniff, then Peek (1)

deathy_epl+ccs (896747) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388377)

Hey, man... don't hassle him over a simple typo! ;-)

(Yeah, I know you was respondin' to yerself, just bein' silly...)

Re:Sniff, then Peek (1)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389150)

Ugh - "we have plain ol' granite outcroppings". Learn to spell, pla!

I just took it for granite

Re:Sniff, then Peek (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388415)

Can U235 be distinguished from U238 (and U234) by these THz rotational sensors? Can't the sensors detect the amount of the material?

Agree... (1)

BlabberMouth (672282) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388327)

The government should regulate our ability to use reflected energy to identify and examine objects.

Re:Agree... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388440)

The government already protects our efforts to shield ourselves from people shining extra energy through covering expected to protect our privacy. New laws specifiying that these new energies are just as regulated as the old ones will protect us better.

Especially from people making artifically broad and vague descriptions of the privacy invasion in order to justify them.

Re:Agree... (1)

BlabberMouth (672282) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388620)

"Especially from people making artifically broad and vague descriptions of the privacy invasion in order to justify them." In the interest of clarity, what privacy invasion do I describe vaguely? The only vaguely described privacy invasion here is in somebody finding out what the molecular properties of my personal property are. How is that analogous to listening devices?

Re:Agree... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388935)

"The government should regulate our ability to use reflected energy to identify and examine objects."

You describe the privacy invasion when people shine a special artificial light through a usually opaque barrier so vaguely that you're also describing the practice of looking at anything that's not just emitting its own light. To say the government should regulate seeing is obviously sarcastic, obviously saying that the government shouldn't regulate this THz imaging.

As for an analogy to listening devices, which I didn't mention (nor has anyone else in this thread or story, until you threw that straw man), it's similarly analogous to freshly churned butter.

Pretty lame troll. Especially your followup, in which you show your hand as you grasp at more straws. BlabberMouth.

Re:Agree... (1)

rahrens (939941) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388732)

I seem to remember a case a few years ago where a man was convicted on growing weed in an outbuilding on a farm. It seems that the building had no windows, but the police used infrared imaging technology to detect the heat of the plant lights inside the building, so they could, in affect, 'see' through the walls.

Upon appeal, the court noted that, like light rays penetrating a window, (and police can raid a place based upon something in "plain sight") infrared rays, since they extend beyond the boundaries of the property, can be used similarly, and do not give a presumption of privacy just because they can't be seen by the naked eye. He lost and went to jail.

So I would assume that, by extension, the "leaking" of radiation from your property and detected by this new technology could similarly be construed to be fair game to law enforcement detection.

Re:Agree... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388848)

Actually, I seem to remember that case, or one like it based on infrared scopes through a shaded (in visible spectrum only) window, was resolved recently in favor of the person who expected privacy. They were reasonable to expect it because the emission wasn't general knowledge. I'm not sure that has changed since then, or how a given judge's own "reasonable expectations" influence this kind of analysis.

But THz imaging doesn't use reflected ambient light, or light generated by the material owned/controlled by the suspect. The cop shines THz light on the subject near a sensor. Which violates any reasonable expectation of privacy, with the possible exception that people might expect to have their privacy invaded at security checkpoints. That might be a BS circular self-justifying argument, or it might just be part of the "exceptions" to protections of our liberty we're forced to accept these days. Regardless (pun intended ;), the fineness of the legal points deteriorate our natural sense of freedom and integrity, our distrust of the authorities, and show no evidence of increased security beyond measures that respect privacy until evidence justifies otherwise.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388263)

I can totally see this being used for cancer research. As in, no more mamograms or colonoscopies. sweet.

Re:Awesome (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390094)

I read about using THz imaging to have moving "X-Rays," which could help arthritis research and diagnosis as well as many other skeletal ailments. Plus make that cool scene from Total Recal where Ah-nold walks through the metal detector a reality.

Sensor? (1, Funny)

Mr.Scamp (974300) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388269)

When you look into the display of this device does it cast a soft blue glow on your face?

Re:Sensor? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388353)

In the words of Farty Trowels' Manuel: "Que?"

Won't SOMEONE think of the pot heads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388280)

I certainly don't want to walk through one of these sensor things and have alarms and lights go flashing: POT HEAD ALERT!! POT HEAD ALERT! ..then have the dogs sent on me because I have a trace amount of THC on my clothes.

When/if these things become ubiquitous, it's not going to be so funny. And it wont be limited to pot heads and bomb makers either.

Thz triggers anyone? (1)

macz (797860) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388315)

Since the farthest this appears to work is 600 meters (for nuclear devices) an enterprising terrorist will now have to include a trigger that senses T-ray frequencies and detonates.

Something more passive, or functional from greater distances, might be safer for the operator... Otherwise you will need an expensive robot.

Re:Thz triggers anyone? (1)

rahrens (939941) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388762)

RTFA: "with instruments located 9 km from a nuclear power plant ..."

That's a bit farther than 600 meters!

Why don't you trying to RTFA? (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390043)

FTFA:
Identified chemicals related to defense applications, including nuclear weapons, from 600 meters away using passive sensing at the Nevada Test Site.

Passive, as in detecting THz radiation naturally emitted from a target, not projecting THz radiation at the taget you were refering to. That is, unless said enterprising terrorist builds a trigger that goes off whence it detects the THz radiation emitted by his/her bomb. We could only be so lucky.

heck, with this tech... (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388319)

you can get the fingerprint of every type of material in the known universe and use it for lots of different applications from hunting for gold and other metals, to finding the optimum soil conditions for growing vegetables, to finding cancer in humans (maybe - i hope)

i can see lots of good this can do...

Star Treck - sounds like the tricorder device Spock used to use analizing the local environment when they land on some strange planet...

Looks similar to NIR (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388334)

This teqnique looks similar to Near-InfraRed spectroscopy, or may be that's it - the article does not give any details. Nothing really new - you need to collect "fingerprints" from pure substances first and then you can identify it in a mixture.Wikipedia articles of interest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_infrared [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemometrics [wikipedia.org].

Re:Looks similar to NIR (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388989)

If the wavelength is in the millimeter range, then this is actually an example of far-infrared spectroscopy- it's on the (arbitrary) border between infrared and microwaves. At this range, as the article notes, the spectrum is generated by absorption and emission of radiation caused by molecular rotations. In contrast, mid-range IR spectra is based on molecular vibration- bends and stretches of the bonds between atoms- and near IR is based on overtones of vibrations.

One issue with far-infrared spec is that rotational transitions are quenched in most solids and liquids, so that it's really only applicable to gaseous samples- though most chemical explosives are of course rather volatile, and generously shed molecules covered with nitro groups (easily recognized on an IR spectrum) wherever you take them. Infrared spectroscopy has some key advantages that would make it attractive for screening items- it's fast, it's nondestructive, and the instrumentation is more suitable for field work (both in terms of robustness and in terms of the training required to operate it)than comparable techniques like gas chromatography or mass spec.

Thanks Star Trek (2, Funny)

karrot (785000) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388345)

Isn't this what the Tricoder from Star Trek did?

Re:Thanks Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388448)

It was actually a basic scan, allthough the tricorders DID have this functionality. The starships long range sensors also had this. As well as medical scanners (which I guess WERE called medical tricorders)

Re:Thanks Star Trek (0, Troll)

Locus Mote (307298) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388467)

Um... no.

The tricorder on Star Trek was a prop. The actors just waved it around and went "wee oooo weee oooo weee oooo..." followed by proclaimations of discovery. "It's life Jim, but not as we know it!"

This is a real, functioning scientific instrument.

Re:Thanks Star Trek (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388544)

Isn't this what the Tricoder from Star Trek did?

It is in the same realm of that technology, but, it still cannot predict if the planet's women were hot enough to be 'Kirk-worthy.'

Brain scanner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388359)

I wonder if this technology is sensitive enough to detect Bush's brain cell?

How long before... (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388368)

We have walk-through drug screening as you walk into work? As with the concerns about RFID chips in passports and other devices, I am concerned about remote sensing of personal information (and that includes your internal biochemistry) without adequte protection of informed consent. And, no, I don't trust the government. Why should I?

nuclear plant detection? satellite install? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388381)

TFA gives a couple of weird things:

1) they have a picture 9 km away, from ABOVE, of a nuclear plant taken with the imager. So, is it hooked up to a satellite, or a very high-flying plane?

2) I have a method that can detect a running nuclear plant from miles away - it's called "look". If I "look" and steam is coming out of the cooling towers, then it's running!

Re:nuclear plant detection? satellite install? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388442)

1) they have a picture 9 km away, from ABOVE, of a nuclear plant taken with the imager. So, is it hooked up to a satellite, or a very high-flying plane?

Good luck getting a satellite to orbit at 30,000 feet.

Re:nuclear plant detection? satellite install? (1)

Phroon (820247) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388941)

I have a method that can detect a running nuclear plant from miles away - it's called "look". If I "look" and steam is coming out of the cooling towers, then it's running!

I happen to live about 10 miles (~ 15 km) from a running nuclear plant, and I don't remember ever see steam coming from the cooling towers. There's been fog on the cooling lake from time to time, but not continuously. Now, this is one of the more modern plants (on line in 1987), so that may make a difference.

Re:nuclear plant detection? satellite install? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389643)

was that in a hot climate?, in Michigan water vapor was visible most the time, and made huge clouds into the sky in the spring/fall/winter. Of course, that was 500 feet from my desk window, not 10 miles.

what about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388409)

What if we wrap the materials we want to hide in thick lead, and wrap that inside a farraday cage?
then what?

does this still work?

Don't forget the Maguire Seven (2, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388444)

Nitroglycerine was detected on their hands and they were imprisoned on this "evidence". One of them died in prison before the conviction was quashed.

The application of these technologies needs to be used carefully, especially they are far more sensitive than the technologies employed in the 70s. Perhaps good for screening, but we must careful in trusting them when it comes to the courts.

nice (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388454)

If it works out then goodbye surprise car bombs, land mines, and explosive belts.

Make it work and i'll buy you a Coke :)

False Positives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388708)

FTFA:
>
Other tests can detect these agents, but may take four hours or longer. "While this method may not be as precise as other methods, such as bioassays and biochips, it can be an early warning to start other tests sooner," said Raptis.
>

New technology is great and successful identification tests are good, but they only mention looking for conditions not the absence of those conditions. None of it matters much if you get frequent false positives, just ask the border patrol what they think of their current sensor systems and all the wasted trips they make to investigate wandering cattle or curious foxes.

Thank god I'm an american (2, Funny)

Acy James Stapp (1005) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388890)

I can rest assured that this technology will only be used to catch terrorists and certainly never to infringe on my constitutionally protected right to be secure in my person, house, papers, and effects. Unless I'm at an airport. Or a public street. Or looking suspicious. Or sitting in my house.

Re:Thank god I'm an american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15391118)

I can rest assured that this technology will only be used to catch terrorists and certainly never to infringe on my constitutionally protected right to be secure in my person, house, papers, and effects. Unless I'm at an airport. Or a public street. Or looking suspicious. Or sitting in my house.

Or you voted Democratic...

Crap joke. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15388924)

So it's a kind of Eye Of Argonne ?

And in unrelated news.. (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389105)

In an unrelated story, television psychic Miss Cleo has died and come back reincarnated in robotic form. Film at 11.

Is it similar in principle to TRIMprob? (1)

Big Nemo '60 (749108) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389393)

Is this similar in principle to TRIMprob by Galileo Avionica [wired.com]?
The baton houses an antenna that produces microwaves that vary in frequency from 400 MHz to 1,350 MHz. When the microwaves hit a tumor, the tumor resonates at about 400 MHz, producing a signal that interferes with the original signal from the baton. [...] Information on this interference is sent to a computer that uses a set of algorithms to translate the information into a readable image.

(TRIMprob stands for Tissue Resonance InterferoMeter Probe)

Sick of homeland defense (1)

infolib (618234) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389706)

I'm really tired of always hearing how something can be used for anti-terror this, national security that. THz spectroscopy is an impressive (relatively) new technique with applications for drug analysis, food chemistry, pollution detection, health assessment and just about any chemical or biochemical sensing you care to mention.

Yeah, I know they must hype it this way in the press releases to get their crumb from the DHS quadrillion-dollar table, but I'd really like to see some greater perspective every now and then. Terrorism has killed what, 400 americans/year over the last decade. Even measured in human lives THz sensing is probably going to save half that without relation to national security at all. Well, I guess as long as they're just funded it'll be ok. Just don't ask me to write the PR.

To put it succintly... (2, Interesting)

vuo (156163) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389919)

They have created the radar equivalent of the widely used IR spectroscopy. There is a technique for an isolated, single sample - IR spectroscopy - which requires you to dissolve the sample in a solvent and place it on a salt crystal. The new technology gives this literally new dimensions - two, as you can see should you RTFA, by using terahertz frequencies. Terahertz frequencies are difficult to generate experimentally and their behavior is largely unknown to science, unlike IR (can be created by a lamp) or radio (can be created by an oscillator). This application is truly revolutionary.

This invention is comparable to MRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging), which is tomography with NMR, which also was a "dissolved sample only" kind of spectroscopy. Introducting gradients to the field allowed you to locate the resonating nuclei in two dimensions, enabling tomography in three dimensions.

Expect a Nobel Prize in physics for this.

OT - Does anybody have an idea? (1)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390032)

I commented on this article in response to another's comment regarding the Chilean Robot that he thought might work this way - both mine and his comments were modded up (+3), but neither appear in this thread anymore - anyone know what is going on, or has an idea? Weird...

FWIW, here is a link to this missing thread [slashdot.org]...

not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15390163)

This technology really isnt new. One of my profs at michigan tech was working on a similar technology to detect land mines, but the extremely weak radio frequincies and interference from surronding radio waves presented a huge huge problem...i wonder how that was solved...NRQ is basically the same thing as what an MRI is (close anyway)
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