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Robotics

Ethical Killing Machines 785

ubermiester writes "The New York Times reports on research to develop autonomous battlefield robots that would 'behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans.' The researchers claim that these real-life terminators 'can be designed without an instinct for self-preservation and, as a result, no tendency to lash out in fear. They can be built without anger or recklessness ... and they can be made invulnerable to ... "scenario fulfillment," which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas.' Based on a recent report stating that 'fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents,' this might not be all that dumb an idea."
The Military

USAF Considers Creation of Military Botnet 440

sowjetarschbajazzo writes "Air Force Col. Charles W. Williamson III believes that the United States military should maintain its own botnet, both as a deterrent towards those who would attempt to DDoS government networks, and an offensive weapon to be used against the networks of unfriendly nations, criminal groups, or terrorist organizations. "Some people would fear the possibility of botnet attacks on innocent parties. If the botnet is used in a strictly offensive manner, civilian computers may be attacked, but only if the enemy compels us. The U.S. will perform the same target preparation as for traditional targets and respect the law of armed conflict as Defense Department policy requires by analyzing necessity, proportionality and distinction among military, dual-use or civilian targets. But neither the law of armed conflict nor common sense would allow belligerents to hide behind the skirts of its civilians. If the enemy is using civilian computers in his country so as to cause us harm, then we may attack them." What does Slashdot think of this proposal?"
Robotics

Electronic Warfare Insects Coming Soon 187

Mike writes "British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives, and they claim that prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year. A fascinating development to be sure, but who thinks this won't be misused domestically for spying and evidence gathering?" Included in the story is a link to a creepy little (scripted, rendered) demo video of these robots in action.
Power

US Plans "Disposable" Nuclear Batteries 297

holy_calamity writes "A US government program is in the works to design small nuclear reactors for use by developing countries. The work continues despite fears about security and nuclear proliferation. Plans include having reactors supplied with fuel by the US and other trusted nations, or to build reactors with their whole lifetime of fuel packaged securely inside — like a giant non-user replaceable radioactive battery.' '"
Medicine

A Virus that Attacks Brain Cancer 131

Ponca City, We Love You writes "In the past few years, scientists have looked to viruses as potential allies in fighting cancer. Now researchers at Yale University have found a virus in the same family as rabies that effectively kills an aggressive form of human brain cancer in mice. Using time-lapse laser imaging, the team watched vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) rapidly home in on brain tumors, selectively killing cancerous cells in its path, while leaving healthy tissue intact. 'A metastasizing tumor is fairly mobile, and a surgeon's knife can't get out all of the cells,' says Anthony Van den Pol, lead researcher and professor of neurosurgery and neurobiology at Yale. 'A virus might be able to do that, because as a virus kills a tumor cell, it could also replicate, and you could end up with a therapy that's self-amplifying.' It's not yet clear why VSV is such an effective tumor killer, although Van den Pol has several theories. One possible explanation may involve a tumor's weak vascular system. Vessels that supply blood to tumors tend to be leaky, allowing a virus traveling through the bloodstream to cross an otherwise impermeable barrier into the brain, directly into a tumor."

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