Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Reason Not to Fear Monomolecular Wire

In a common science-fictional cliche (for example, in “Thin Edge” by Johnathan Blake MacKenzie), monomolecular wire is supposed to be an invisible, infinitely-sharp knife that will slice through flesh and bone with hardly any resistance. Any terrorist (or even an irresponsible twit) can loop it across a doorway and slice any passerby to ribbons. I criticized this a few years ago, but it still looked like it might still be dangerous at the thickness of dental floss. There's another reason it won't be the ultimate terrorist weapon. It can be detected by Silly String:

I'm a former Marine I in Afghanistan. Silly string has served me well in Combat especially in looking for I.A.Ds., simply put, booby traps. When you spray the silly sting in dark areas, especially when you doing house to house fighting. On many occasions the silly string has saved me and my men's lives...

When you spray the string it just spreads everywhere and when it sets it lays right on the wire. Even in a dark room the string stands out revealing the trip wire.

There are more possible uses of civilian technology

For example:

Webcams have been dotting the American landscape for over a decade now. They can be purchased for next to nothing and are supported by a host of software and hardware developments. At its heart a webcam is really only a few dollars worth of parts and a plastic shell.

With a little effort it would take a small company only a short time to integrate a host of intellectual properties to provide a robust and effective monitoring system to all of Iraq. Look at the typical cellphone today, possessing as it does camera, gps and dozens of other functions. Strip away the keypad, lcd screen and lighting; replace them with a mesh network transponder system and perhaps a MEMS motion/vibration detection chip. This energy efficient device could be packaged in a rugged inexpensive plastic shell injection molded to look like a rock, brick, tile or what-have-you.

Upon mass production it would cost only tens of dollars. For the price of a couple of humvees and a tank these things could be scattered out the backs of trucks, dropped from airplanes or emplaced by hand to literally blanket roadways, city regions or any place that needed it with video monitoring. The mesh network would feed video back to a central station or up to satellites via spread-spectrum broadcasting. With motion activation software built in, inactive sites could powerdown and use their resources to help pass signal.

But wait, there's more.

There's yet another possibility. Would it be possible to scatter “starved octahedra” reflectors in the war zone? The octahedra described here:

One every navigational bouey and nearly every boat that floats around in Puget sound there is a metal octahedron. Now these are no ordinary octahedra because they do not contain the usual triangular faces. Instead they contain the 3 diametrical squares. In an xyz-coordinate system with the origin at the center of the octahedron the squares are on the 3 coordinate planes (xy- xz- and yz-planes). I once asked what these were for, and was told that they were for radar. Apparently they show up very sharply on radar.
If those reflectors are small enough they might be overlooked. (In that case, it might be necessary to use lasers instead of radar.) Small reflectors can be expected to move slightly in response to sound waves. That motion might be detectable by the Doppler effect.

There's probably some kind of catch …


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