Main | Monday, September 29, 2008

Nuke Detectors For Everybody!

Scientists at Purdue University are lobbying Congress to require that radiation detectors be installed in cell phones, allowing the government to instantly triangulate the location of a potential dirty bomb.
"We have to fight this American knee-jerk toward the highest tech," says Andrew Longman, a project leader. The Purdue team is designing a detection system that's so small it could fit into cell phones. The project, known as Distributed Nuclear Detection by Ubiquitous Cell Phone, would help locate dirty bombs or nuclear weapons by "triangulating" the source of radiation when people carrying mobile phones pass by. (The greater the number of equipped cell phones, the greater the precision: phones closest to radioactive material would register stronger signals.) The Purdue project and others like it represent a "major shift" in combating radiation terrorism, says Rita Colwell, a former director of the National Science Foundation and now a professor at the University of Maryland.

The most effective system, says Longman, will be as inexpensive as possible, so hundreds of thousands or millions will carry sensors inside their cell phones. The Purdue team is lobbying Congress to require cell-phone users and telecoms, which will have to collect the data, to participate. Yet legislation mandating participation may not be necessary. Government agencies could simply pay mobile owners and telecoms that agree to opt in. Deploying detectors in mobile phones is promising, experts say, because the greatest concentration will be in cities, precisely where dirty bombers are most likely to strike.
The technology is expected to soon cost less than $100 per phone and might require larger handsets than those currently in vogue; one company has provided the government with sample $50 detector chips that are only one cubic centimeter in size, but that's still too large for your average iPhone or Razr.

Homeland Security has promised to support the most promising system and some expect that many citizens will willingly opt in so they can take personally take part in national security. The key to the technology's success will be its ability to ignore everyday "background" radiation like that emitted by some cancer patients.

(Via - Gizmodo)

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