Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Footnote to the preceding

You ain't seen nothin' yet. DARPA is the Defense Advanced Reseach Projects Agency. It's job, essentially, is to consider ideas that may seem far out or kooky and see if there's anything to them. As I expect many know, what was originally known as ARPANet grew into the Internet. The TIROS weather satellites, which became the basis for NOAA's global weather reporting system, began as a DARPA project. DARPA-initiated work on antenna booms made the Hubble Space Telescope possible. On a less happy note, a host of military applications, including stealth technology, have come out of the agency - which does, admittedly, have that D as its first initial.

On the other hand, some of the projects just seem, well, hare-brained. Your tax dollars at work, via Engadget.com:

From June 21: DARPA will spend $15 million to research one-way-invisible, self-healing, shoot-through shields for use in urban combat. The agency acknowledges there are "significant technical obstacles" in the way. I'll bet.

From July 2: Laser-guided bullets. That's right, bullets that can be guided by laser to a target and can change direction in flight. Which would involve putting "new guidance technologies" inside the bullet, which would apparently have to be traveling slow enough to allow the shooter time to react to a moving target in order to guide it.

Also from July 2: Apparently, after dumping $100,000 into the idea, DARPA at some point gave up on the idea of a non-lethal "laughing bullet," which would collapse and release laughing gas or some other chemical agent when it hit the target. According to Engadget.com, the bullets "were ultimately shelved -- at least, that's what they're saying 'officially.'"

Footnote: I was tipped to the third item by another blogger (and then found the first two when I checked it out) but now I don't know who it was. If anybody want to claim credit, let me know.

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