- Whenever there is
danger and we need information, we
usually send in humans: at crime
scenes, during nuclear accidents, in wartime.
It is human life we risk
to gain intelligence. But why not use "smart
right, smart dust.
- Incredible as it seems, scientists for the first time
creating tiny computerized sensors the size of specks of dust that
be scattered into the air and send back information - in the future,
even pictures - as they float back to Earth.
- "It's a question of having
it be light enough and
having a large enough surface area that the air
currents can keep it aloft,"
explains Professor Joseph Kahn at
University of California, Berkeley. Researchers
at the University of
California have built a prototype the size of a matchbox
temperature, barometric pressure and humidity sensors, and
has the same
computing power as an IBM desktop did 15 years ago.
- "There's nothing in this
thing that we can't shrink
down and put into a cubic millimeter of
volume," says Professor Kristofer
Pister at U.C. Berkeley.
- An Even
- The new prototype is about the size of an aspirin tablet
and will get even smaller.
- "In the time frame of a year," Kahn predicts,
"we should have out first working prototypes that are the size of
a grain of sand."
- Smart dust particles could send back information using
a minute laser that has already been tested, transmitting data 13 miles
across San Francisco Bay.
- Because the Pentagon is paying for the research, smart
dust might at first have mainly military uses:
- "Distributing a network of
these sensors all around
the desert in Iraq, for example, and looking
for SCUDs [missiles], or looking
for biological weapons," Pister
- Smart dust might have confirmed whether the Sudanese
pharmaceutical plant the United States bombed two years ago really was
making chemical weapons. But the dust could also be scattered from planes
to check the weather inside storms, warn jetliners of air turbulence and
discover almost anything where humans can't risk going.
- It's the power of a
PC, in a speck of dust.