All humans have a TRPM8 – a neurological pathway that senses when you are cold. TRPM8 converts the feeling of coldness into electrical signals; it kick-starts the symptoms of the cold including, chattering teeth, shivering, and decreased blood flow to your extremities. All these responses to the cold are your body trying to warm itself up. The problem for a soldier that is shivering is that it can be difficult to hit their target in a firefight.
However, a neurobiologist by the name of David McKenny may have the solution to that problem. McKenny has finally located the TRPM8 receptor and knows how to shut it off, making it where you no longer feel the cold. It has only been tested on mice, but they were able to stay in 41 °F (5 °C) room after their TRPM8 was switched off. The military is the obvious choice for this technique after it is tested on humans; I mean who doesn’t want actual super-soldiers?
Yes, I am talking about Luke Skywalker of Star Wars, though I am just going to guess that they will look a bit more advanced than his did. The binoculars are officially named the Cognitive Technology Threat Detection System, but even the people making them (DARPA) have started to call them “Luke’s binoculars.” The technology is still in development so as of right now it is just a high megapixel camera mounted on top of a tripod. It is able to see UV and regular light up to 6.8 miles (10 kilometers) as long as nothing is blocking its field of view.
If you are going to give something a nickname that relates to something as iconic as Star Wars, then your better damn well get it right. The system will link into the brain with an EEG cap. It will then use the brainwaves of the soldier using it to detect threats. The thought behind it is that our minds can perceive patterns before we are consciously aware of them. The binoculars will then use it’s CPU to pull the raw data from your brainwaves and tell you “Yes, that is a threat, shoot it.” The difference is only milliseconds but even that tiny amount of time is all it could take. The real struggle for DARPA is figuring out how to program it to know the difference between friend or foe.
Dr. Miguel Nicolelis brought down the hammer on what we knew about the world in 2012, he created a cyborg rat with an extra sensory organ, giving it the ability to see and feel Ultraviolet light. Nicolelis and his team developed a neuroprosthesis consisting of two parts. The first is a UV sensor that’s attached to the rat’s head like a hat. The second is a plug that wires directly into the rat’s brain. It connects to the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain responsible for processing tactile sensations.
The rat is able to “feel” UV light when these two pieces are connected. It took almost a month to train the rats to understand what this new sensation was. After the 30 days, they were able to know exactly where a source of UV light was coming from over 90 percent of the time. What is even more incredible is that the rats began to change their behaviors to accommodate their new sense.
Human’s, on the other hand, is a whole other beast to tackle when it comes to this matter. Nicolelis sees this technology being tested on humans in the near future. For example, it could help amputees to actually feel their prosthetic limbs like it was a real limb. What is even more promising is that the UV sensor is interchangeable, meaning you could put any sensory device on the outside as long as the connection is there.
Nuclear-powered Insect Drones
What do you get when you combine machinery, nuclear power, and living insects? Mini-Mothra anyone? Nah, just kidding, but you wouldn’t be that far off. DARPA has been working on a project to implant electronic controls into beetle larvae. As they mature, the electronic parts basically become a part of their growing body, and it can be controlled wirelessly by stimulating its wing muscles.
Surprisingly there have been cyborg insects for years now. But the problem isn’t the technology, it’s finding a way to power it. An insect like a rhinoceros beetle can fly carrying around 30 percent of its weight (around 2.5 grams), give or take. That’s not a lot at all, and between the battery and the electronics, there isn’t really any room left for anything useful, like a camera or a microphone. So what scientists are doing now is taking out the battery in favor of sprinkling radioactive isotopes onto something called a micro-piezoelectric generator.
The isotope, (nickel-63) isn’t radioactive enough to put humans at risk, but it still emits plenty of beta particles. These particles power the piezoelectric generator and make it move back and forth, generating a few milliwatts of power with each stroke and powering the steering controls on the robo-bug. And since nickel-63 has a half-life of 12 years, the “battery” works for the insect’s whole life.
A military report in 2010, was released containing some shocking statistics. Between 2001 and 2009, only 19 percent of evacuations from the Middle East were due to “battle-related injuries,” while 56 percent were evacuated because of sickness. Even if it’s not a fact that makes it to the news very often, it is very true. Historically speaking, most casualties in times of war have been caused by disease, not the enemy.
So DARPA began working on a solution. Their answer? Nano-bots that live inside soldiers and can diagnose diseases. And once the disease has been detected, the Nano-bots will start to treat it, curing the soldier before they get even a sniffle. Known as “In Vivo Nano-platforms,” work began on the diagnostic side in 2012 and then went into the treatment phase in early 2013. Different Nano-bots are needed for each phase of treatment. The bots hitch a ride on a natural protein known as a lipoprotein, and watch the soldier at the molecular level, preventing diseases, but also chemical attacks, before they have a chance to harm the soldier.
When the disease isn’t a factor, you’re left with a much more obvious threat to your soldiers — gunshot wounds. Another report that came from the Iraq war was just as startling. One in four of the combat deaths between 2001 and 2011 could have been prevented if the soldier had been able to get medical care faster than they did. In other words, 2,700 people died somewhere between the actual act of being shot and a hospital, and the military is working hard on the problem, by developing uniforms that sense a wound and transmit the information to a nearby medic.
And we’re talking full diagnostic capabilities here. The clothing is made from cloth mesh with sensors embedded in them that will detect the location of a bullet, how deep the bullet went, and if any vital organs were hit. There will be other sensors that monitor blood and urine and can detect any other type of damage, be it chemical, nuclear, or biological.
The goal is to give this suit the ability to immediately identify any attack on a soldier. When an attack happens, that information is stored on a mini-CPU in the uniform, which a medic can then scan to decide what kind of treatment is needed. The information is also sent to the nearest military HQ so that commanders can keep track of their soldiers in real time.
Railguns aren’t only restricted to “sci-fi” like you might think. The original railgun was built during World War II, and they’ve popped up here and there ever since. Hell, you can build one yourself with a disposable camera and a few minutes on Google (do not look up how to create a railgun, I do not have the money for the lawsuits). Railguns work by sending an electrical current through two parallel rails. When a metal object is placed on the rails, it completes the circuit and creates an electromagnetic field. That field produces a Lorentz force, which shoves the projectile down the rails at a speed of 4,500 MPH (7,240 KM/H).
Railguns are incredibly powerful, but since they take so much electricity for each shot, they haven’t been able to be used as an actual weapon. That didn’t stop the Navy from building one, though. It is capable of firing a shot at over seven times the speed of sound. It can shoot targets up to 100 miles away (160Km) away, and will hit with the force equivalent to “32 times the force of a car crash at 100 mph.” Although the Navy claims that the railgun is fully weaponized, they are still having issues with the power consumption. The general plan is to use the railgun on warships and power it with rechargeable batteries. The Navy can’t even test it with real projectiles yet since they might accidently level a small town in any direction they fire at the full range, so instead they’ve been firing the most un-aerodynamic objects they can find. And it still looks awesome.
The High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (H.E.L.L.A.D.S.), is the combination of a dozen different technologies for one awesome purpose: freaking laser weapons mounted on aircraft and military vehicles. The H.E.L.L.A.D.S. program is managed by DARPA and aims to produce a laser that’s light enough to fit aboard a small plane like a B-1 Lancer, which means it has to be around ten times lighter than any similar laser already in existence. In times before, a megawatt (1,000 kW) laser was mounted onto a Boeing 747, but now they are looking for something a little different and easier to move.
In order to make that happen, DARPA has been working on developing a line of smaller solid-state lasers that can be put together to make a singular, more forceful beam — a goal which has been completed. The project is currently in Phase 3, which has to include controlled testing. Their plan was to test it in early 2014 on a surface-to-air missile
When a gecko climbs a wall, it uses tiny hairs that exert a van der Waals force on the wall’s surface — their feet are actually attracted to the wall at the molecular level. Millions of tiny hairs line the bottom of their feet, and at the ends of those hairs is even smaller hair-like pieces called spatulae. The spatulae create an electric attraction to the molecules in whatever wall they’re climbing. The force is so strong that a gecko can hang upside down to a piece glass by one of its fingers.
Based on years of studying geckos, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts developed Geckskin, a fabric that uses the same van der Waals force to stick to any surface. Geckskin is strong enough to hold 700 pounds(310Kgs.) on a strip about the size of an index card.
What possible capabilities could that have in war? As it turns out, it was DARPA who commissioned the research in the first place, through their Z-Man program, which aims to create suits that allow soldiers to scale walls like Spider-man.
It’s one thing to be prepared for war with a range of weapons and technologies, but what if we could predict when wars were going to happen even before a single shot was fired? There is already a system that is being used by the U.S. Government to forecast wars as we speak. It was developed by Lockheed Martin and is called the Worldwide Integrated Crisis Early Warning System. Since 2001, the Worldwide Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (W-ICEWS) has been monitoring and collecting over 30 million pieces of data from news reports around the world. Using this data, along with knowledge from political unrest that has occurred already, they have put together an algorithm called iTRACE that searches for warning signs in the world’s media. As they put it, iTRACE takes and converts “news reports into structured indices that reflect the character and intensity of interactions between key leaders, organizations, and countries—who is doing what to whom, when, where, and how around the world.” In laymen terms, the system finds patterns in the world news, and decides if those patterns are indicative of war. Let’s just hope nobody gets the great idea to connect iTRACE directly to our nuclear weapons. You know, in case they want to save a few extra minutes.