WASHINGTON—Many of the greatest advancements in technology get their start on the battle field. The Department of Defense and other government agencies showcased some of their developments at the 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
Carbon nanotubes are extremely tiny, but they find great strength in numbers. A single nanotube is 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. Weave a bunch of them together, and you have a light-weight, ultra-tough material used for aircraft construction.
Scientists at Harvard and MIT recently discovered that these nanotubes may be used to create perpetual solar power. Nanotubes are coated with a substance called azobenzene, which can store the energy from sunlight indefinitely. The key to tapping into this ability is to pack azobenzene molecules together in the right form; attached to nanotubes, the azobenzene molecules form interlocking teeth optimal for mass energy storage.
The possible uses of carbon nanotubes in the future are many and varied.
Hundreds of thousands of lasers are used to scan the ground before sending troops in. This imaging technology allows the military to see right through foliage, to scope out the lay of the land in great detail and thus to prepare before charging ahead.
3-D laser scanning is being used in a variety of fields. It can be used to monitor geological changes over time, to measure the rise and fall of lava lakes, and more. North Carolina was the first state to scan the whole state, thus creating detailed maps.
Integral in identifying enemies of the state, facial recognition is a practiced skill and science. Festival goers could test their skills as facial recognition by playing a game in which a person’s face is shown alongside a row of similar-looking faces. One of the similar-looking faces is actually a photo of that person that may be hard to recognize because of photo quality, aging, lighting, or other superficial changes.
A CIA booth at the fair used the example of a famous National Geographic photo. The photo of a little girl in Afghanistan with startling blue-green eyes became iconic when it appeared in the magazine decades ago. A hunt for the little girl began 17 years after the photo was taken, with many women claiming to be the girl in the photo.
National Geographic asked for the help of the FBI. A woman was confirmed as a match, based in part on a mark on her nose and moles on her face. Some features that seemed to have changed could be explained. For example, her nose had become pointier, which can happen because it is cartilage and thus not fixed as some other features are. Her eyes had become darker, which can happen with age and sunlight exposure.
These techniques were important in identifying Osama Bin Laden, making sure the man captured and killed wasn’t just a look-alike or relative, explained a spokesperson at the booth.
Computer programs are becoming more advanced in their ability to detect the key similarities in images, whittling down a mass of images to a few for a human eye to then analyze.
The 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., is taking place April 26–27. Epoch Times is a media sponsor of the festival, so expect more great coverage to come!