Project HARP (not to be confused with HAARP, the perennial favorite of conspiracy theorists) was a joint project between the US and Canadian defence departments to develop a non-rocket spacelaunch system, one designed to fire vehicles above the atmosphere in order to study their re-entry. [more inside]
Rediscovering WWII's female "computers". While researching a documentary in Philadelphia, filmmaker LeAnn Erickson came across two women with a story she'd never heard before: thousands of women with advanced mathematical skills employed as "computers", working day and night during WWII to supply soldiers in the field with precise ballistics algorithms. Some of those women also went on to program ENIAC, the first general-purpose computer (previously). Erickson turned their stories into Top Secret Rosies, a documentary released to theaters last year and to DVD this month. One of those programmers, Betty Jean Jennings Bartik, spoke at length to the Computing History Museum in 2008. [youtube, 1:07:19] [via]
I've never really had a clear understanding of how mechanical computing worked, until today when I watched these US Navy training films from 1953. Part 1 focuses on shafts, gears, cams and differentials. Part 2 explains mechanical component solvers, integrators and multipliers. More information about ship gun fire-control systems here.
The American National Academy of Sciences recently released a report that punched a few holes in the credibility of the forensic sciences: often seen (and portrayed) as infallible, in practice they're non-standardized, subjective (warning: pdf with gory image), accepted without rigorous testing (pdf), and lousy with dilettantes. A Canadian inquiry into the work of a pathologist whose testimony wrongly convicted a man of anally raping his four-year-niece to death says that forensic science is useful, but that we're doing it wrong. It's beginning to dawn that what we used to think of as a few bad apples may actually be symptoms of a deep rot in the field itself. [more inside]
Catapult Kits. Big or small, classic or modern, no matter their taste, you'll find something to drive everyone on your holiday shopping list ballistic. It's all fun and games (audio), but be sure to plan ahead so no one gets hurt.
Large scale ballistic fingerprinting of guns doubtful. The California Attorney General's Office has said that large scale ballistic fingerprinting of all weapons is not yet practical. Ballistic fingerprinting spawned much discussion earlier on MeFi. I couldn't find the complete report online yet.
Bush skeptical of ballistic fingerprinting. This article talks about Bush's (and the NRA's) reluctance to set up a national ballistic fingerprinting system to trace bullets back to the guns which fired them. Some feel this technology could be helpful in finding the DC sniper. Apparently, legislation to set up this system has been in the works for about 2 years, but this is the first I've heard of it. Any MeFi people know more about this?
Washington, D.C. Killing Linked To At Least Three Of The Montgomery County, Maryland Shootings The ballistics tests reported last night established the connection between the District shooting [Thursday night]and three of the Thursday morning attacks in Montgomery. and in the same story: Man Tied to Militia Groups Sought for Questioning, N.C. Police Say . . . The Raleigh News & Observer said a bulletin from the ATF said the man had once lived in North Carolina and had been affiliated with militia and white supremacist groups. I can't find out why the authorities want to talk to this man, just that he isn't a "suspect" yet, but is wanted for questioning.
The US army selects MIT for $50 million superhuman exoskeleton project. Includes nanomaterials, invisibility, superhuman strength, protection from ballistics, and a built in kit for autonomous treatment. Will this be the soldier of the future?