Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Benign Neglect; When High-Tech Science Kills

The furor over an Iraqi general purchasing some type of dowsing rod-like tool for his troops has the scientific internet community seething in righteous anger, calling for heads, and building gallows. Now slow down. Bad Astronomy, JREF, and hundreds of others have failed to ask some of the most basic questions. And in a bone-chilling sinister step they have totally neglected the progress [sic] JIEDDO, private companies, and universities have made in solving the problem. The Basic Question: OK, just why did that Iraqi general take the extraordinary step of purchasing some dowsing-rod like explosive detector? Why? If the answer doesn't immediately drill a hole in your skull, then you need to begin a review of the 7-year war in Iraq. Name 10 examples of landmine/IED technologies, developed in the US, that have provided the foot soldier a fighting chance against weapons and are in wide-spread use. Phrases like "under-development" or "to be shipped this Spring" do not count. Name several anti-IED robot companies, their products, and the amount of money they have received from the US DoD. I'll start you out: 1. The Future Combat System. 2. iRobot. 3. Foster-Miller 4. DOE. Now, let's open the door further to universities, who have received large grants to develop their own anti-IED technology. 1. University of Montana (bees) 2. MIT (robbies galore) 3. University of Missouri at Rolla 4. Stanford. Right or wrong, the money spent by that Iraqi general pales by comparison, and we hear nothing from our internet science leaders. It's a low-tech war, although you'd never know it. DARPA, several years ago, offered a $2 million prize for the first robot vehicle to cross a finish line. Oh, the joy of the winners. But we're not in a high-tech war. I offered DARPA a challenge, which they refused to accept. Too bad, it would represent the type of low-tech fighter they face in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here was the challenge. DARPA supplies me with: 1. One Model 1903 Springfield, 25 rounds, fitted with a 6x scope. 2. $250 to buy materials available at any store in any city. 3. Allow me to put up $250 of my own money for the same. Bet me how many robotic vehicles would cross the finish line. Complain about the Iraqi general if you must, but clean up your own house first. taffy

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