Boffins to develop bullet-proof vests made of cement

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Leeds University’s School of Civil Engineering has received a £100,000 grant to work on a bullet-proof vest that is made out of cement.

The vest uses ultra-strong cement mixed with recycled carbon fibres and could work out to be up to 90% cheaper to manufacture than the current alumina-based vests.

The British army has been widely criticised for not providing the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan enough armour and protection.

Dr Philip Purnell, who is leading the research team said: “Cement-based body armour would not only create a whole new market but it would also take some of the pressure off the demand for hi-spec alumina models so that people like soldiers, who really need this kit, can get it.”

I’m glad I’m not in the army. I wouldn’t fancy lugging a cement vest around in the desert.

(via The Yorkshire Evening Post)

VIDEO: Working Wolverine claws demonstration


Real Working Homemade Wolverine Claws – X-MenClick here for the funniest movie of the week

Really tricky one, this. Yes, the claws are a mighty impressive piece of work. Yes, the quick release action is almost as good as the real thing and, if it weren’t for the whole retracting inside his body part, they’d be perfect. The trouble is that this guy comes across as a bit of a psycho.

Not quite sure what he has against cardboard boxes and I’m a little concerned as to what his plans are beyond destroying paper-based goods. Full marks for construction but perhaps it’s time to flog them once the novelty wears off, as in, now.

(via CrunchGear)

US Army creates cyborg beetles to fight future wars

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The University of California is undertaking research, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that will allow the creation of remote-controlled beetles. The beetles remain alive, but unable to control their bodies as the chips take control of their wing muscles via their optic nerve.

I don’t know what it is about this story that terrifies me most. It could be the fact that beetles are so easy to mind-control that you can just stick a chip on them and they’ll do your bidding. It could be that it would be incredibly cheap and easy to build a vast cloud of evil cyborg beetles and send them at your foes.

I might even be that there’s these poor beetles in California, alive, and unable to do anything but passively observe the remainder of their pitiful existence as their muscles spasm upon commands from military generals. I think it’s a combination of all three, so how about we end this post right about now, before I start shivering helplessly.

Remote Controlled Beetles (via Hackaday)

More beetle news: Forest fire fighting beetle-like robots in development | Scientists invent human gills after studying beetles

USA orders Sequoia – "the fastest supercomputer in the world"

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Not content with owning the fastest computer in the world, the USA wants to keep its title, so it’s ordered one fifteen times faster. The current fastest, IBM’s Roadrunner, is designed for 1.7 Petaflops, whereas the new one should be able to crank out 20 – that’s 20,000 trillion floating point operations per second. Impressive.

It’ll be packing 1.6 million processor cores, putting my quad-core to shame, and will be based on IBM’s Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. What are they going to use it for? Managing their nuclear weapons stockpile. Yes, they’ve still got that many. It’ll occupy 96 server racks over an area the size of a tennis court, and use 6 megawatts of power.

While they’re building it, they’re building a smaller supercomputer to build the applications that’ll run on the big one. “Dawn” will run at 500 teraflops. The only thing unspecified? How much the whole project’s going to cost. I suspect it won’t be cheap.

(via PC World)

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How to clear landmines in 2009

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Landmine clearance is a dangerous, time-consuming job. It used to involve tools like flail trucks, plows and the simple metal detector, but none are good enough to hit the 99.6% standard set by the United Nations for humanitarian demining.

A Canadian company, Mine Clearing Corp, is trying to change all that. It’s got a helicopter-mounted detection system that uses a ground-penetrating radar and metal detection system to detect buried objects from as high as 200ft up in the air. The location can then be pinpointed to as close as 20cm.

Once that’s accomplished, minesweepers on the ground can use a tool called the Fig8 to locate the mine. Quite niftily, the swinging back-and-forth motion generates kinetic energy which powers the device, so it doesn’t need batteries – useful in the third world. Considering that the UN estimates that someone dies every 20 minutes from a landmine, this should help step up the de-mining procedure.

(via CNET)

Related posts: Ultimate Minesweeper Cheat | Spider landmine: six legs, not necessarily as deadly as a black widow

Man gets bored, builds trebuchet, launches 7kg fireballs


This was a candidate for YouTube video of the week tomorrow, but it was so awesome that I just had to post it today. A man’s built a TREBUCHET and it throws FIREBALLS. Oh, and it’s called “Mongo”. That’s all you really need to know. Skip to 2:55 for the best bit. Have you built a siege weapon in your back garden? Take some photos and send them to us, and leave a comment below.

Geeks are Sexy (via CrunchGear)

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SHINY VIDEO: Shooting guns down the Las Vegas Gun Store

It’s not all work, work, work when you travel to Las Vegas for CES and if the show floor disappointed in any way, shooting my first sawn-off pump action shotgun certainly didn’t. It may not be a big deal if you’re from the US but as an Englishman, the first time I cocked that sucker and heard the echo of the empty cartridge against the shooting range floor…

DEADLY GADGETS: Sniper-rifle mounted iPod dock

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We’ve seen deadly iPod accessories before, but this is the first iPod accessory I’ve seen for killing people that aren’t you. It’s a handy iPod Touch mount for your sniper rifle. What do you mean you don’t have a sniper rifle?

On the App Store, there’s some matching ballistics software, called Bullet Flight. Though if you live in Washington DC, I wouldn’t recommend buying it until tomorrow, unless you want a visit from the FBI. You can choose to correct for distance, wind direction, elevation and temperature. No coriolis effect, sadly.

In the meantime, it gets boring on a rooftop for hours on end – so what would be on a sniper’s playlist? I’ve started making a Spotify playlist here. Let me know your suggestions in the comments.

(via the Firearm Blog)

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