Car Wars Internet Newsletter
Vol. 14, No. 1
January 18, 2011


Happy New Year autoduellists. Happy Anniversary to Car Wars. The Classic Game of Highway Combat celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The theatrical release Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Klaus Breuer's Medical Status: January 2011 Update

Klaus Breur announced on the Steve Jackson Games Car Wars Discussion Forum his brain surgery was successful. Additional radiation therapy is required. A high degree of recovery appears to be likely. Continue to heal quickly, Klaus. The Car Wars community is looking forward to having you return to work on your Car Wars Vehicle Designer.

Klaus Breuer
Munich, Germany

The Duellist

Canadian Car Wars player Perigryne has created a new Web site titled The Duellist. One of its first features is a mirrored archive of CWIN that is searchable. Thank you, Perigryne, and good luck with the further development of the site.

The Duellist: Resources for the Modern Combatant

New and Upcoming Games

Gearmageddon and Road Wolf are two new games now available. Junkyard Races Second Edition will be released in a few months. Boards & Bits is accepting pre-orders for Junkyard Races Second Edition.

Gearmageddon: The Turbo-Charged Game of Vehicle Combat!
Exploding Goat Games

Junkyard Races Second Edition
Gen42 Games

Junkyard Races Second Edition
Boards & Bits

Road Wolf: A Fast Tabletop Game of Highway Combat
Sean Patten and The Lost and the Damned Forums

OverDrive Arena Still Available

The 8X Car Wars scale automotive combat game OverDrive Arena, out of print for over five years, is still available from Napthyme's Roleplaying Den and Sci-Fi Genre.

OverDrive Arena
Napthyme's Roleplaying Den

OverDrive Arena
Sci-Fi Genre

SWAT Web Site Maintenance

I have performed a small amount of maintenance on the SWAT Web site. Most of the links, excluding ones in older issues of CWIN, have been confirmed as functional.

Seattle Washington Autoduel Team

If you have ideas for articles for CWIN or projects for a Web site, do not hesitiate to drop me a line.

Drive Offensively,



Autoduel FAQ/Walkthrough
Yahoo! Games U.K. and Ireland

Car Combat Games
Games Paradise

Car Wars Style Driving Rules for Chase Scale
d20 Modern Database

Death Race: The Game?

Death on Wheels Tournament - Meet the Drag Race of Doom's Contenders

Four post-apocalyptic games that should be remade today

Five Scifi Miniatures Games That Are Maximally Cool

Game most due for an update: Autoduel
Joe McKay's Web Page

Games That Should Be Remade Volume II - Autoduel

A Guide to the Jackson (Steve) Game Collection, 1980-1999
Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Review of Atomic Highway

Review of Road Kill Rally Board Game
Board To Death TV and Vimeo

Review: Roadwar 2000
Page 6 Magazine

Roleplaying Car Wars - a Targeted Review
RPG Geek

The 10 best combat racing games
Den of Geek

Video Demo of Warlands by Aberrant Games
The Screaming Alpha

UnBoxing: The Car Wars Card Game

Updates Keep Popular Hobby Going Forward

By Michael C. Neubauer
The Chicago Tribune
November 24, 1989

Car Wars, Steve Jackson Games, $25. Car Wars is self-descriptive: vicious combat takes place on the highways and waters of a future that is not a kindler, gentler America. Leading the pack in the recent Car Wars releases is the Car Wars Compendium, containing the complete rules to Car Wars Deluxe, Boat Wars and numerous additional modifications. It is not a complete game and requires ownership of Deluxe Car Wars, Boat Wars or other supplements to be played. The Car Wars supplements are becoming increasingly sophisticated and recent releases include City Blocks 3 and 4, which allow players to fight it out in futuristic combat arenas. Other supplements include Auto Duel Quarterly, a magazine for Carwars players, and Volume 7 of the ``Road Atlas and Survival Guide.`` Carwars is compatible with GURPS.


Car Warriors - Another Day at the Races
Flatlands Regional Association of Gamers
FRAG Con 2010

CAR WARS-athon!
Pocket Change Productions - Gamers of Winter Con 2009

Car Wars Amateur Night
Total Confusion 2010

DRAW Presents Amateur Night Car Wars with Bill Stevenson and Philip Bedard
Spo Con 2010


TSAR PBEM - Duel 11: Division 40 Chariot Racing Event


Australian Autoduelling Association Yahoo! Group

The Bristol Vanguard - Game Specific Board - Specialist Games

The Lost and the Damned Forums - Game Rules and Backgrounds - Dark Future


Amorphous Blob Games
Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan. Ohio and Pennsylvania

Australian Autoduelling Association
Brisbane, Australia

Boardgames, Wargames and Roleplaying Games (BWaRP)
Derby, United Kingdom

Central Florida Garrison Club
Winter Haven and Lakeland, Polk County, Florida

HQ The Club
River Edge, New Jersey

North Texas Autoduel Association
Denton and Dallas, Texas

Pocket Change Productions
Marysville, Pennsylvania

South London Warlords
London, United Kingdom


Car Wars MMORPG Project

Colonial Chrome - Miscellaneous - Dark Future

Curufea's Homepage - Board Games - Renegade Car Wars

Diceman's Car Wars PBEM Pages

The Duellist: Resources for the Modern Combatant

Markus Kruse's Car Wars Page (German Language)

Republic Fury's Game Page

Colin Stobbe's Web Page - RoboRally Variants

Topper's RPG Homepage - Dark Future

Thomas Weigel's Car Wars Maps

Vulcan MG's Duel Page


Death Race Interview IV: Paul W.S. Anderson: Blood on the Tracks 2

Darkwind War on Wheels Interview: How it all Started
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Sam Redfern (lead developer/designer)

Inside the Vault: Obsidian's Eric Beaumont
Bethesda Blog

An Interview with Kevin Kenney - Part II: Tunnels of Doom and Programmer Questions
Tunnels of Doom Tribute Page

Wilmark Dynasty; Lee McCormick Interview
Tome of Treasures


Axles and Alloys Files
Google Docs

Custom-made Magnetic Dashboard for Formula De

Custom Car Wars Turning Key with Reference Charts


Facebook - DiceFest Games


Car Wars
Television Tropes and Idioms

Ridiculous Future Inflation
Television Tropes and Idioms

Wacky Racing
Television Tropes and Idioms

KALI (laser)

Rage (video game)

Thunder Road (board game)


Advance Copies of Carnage
Amazon Miniatures
February 16, 2005

Air Wars
Bryant's Blog
January 07, 2011

Announcing the NEW Edition of Junkyard Races
March 31, 2010

Cthulhu 500 Promo Cards from Game Trade Magazine
Atlas Games
Game Trade Magazine #54, July 2004

Gearmageddon: The Turbo-Charged Game of Vehicle Combat!
Exploding Goat Games

Junkyard Races Second Edition
Gen42 Games

Junkyard Races Second Edition
Boards & Bits

Matthew Vincent

OverDrive Arena
Napthyme's Roleplaying Den

OverDrive Arena
Sci-Fi Genre

Road Wolf: A Fast Tabletop Game of Highway Combat
Sean Patten and The Lost and the Damned Forums

Solid State War: Air War Starter Pack
Dave Graffam's Models

Toybox Wars
Uncle Bear Media, Year of Living Free Wiki and Nuketown Blog


Aberrant Releases Warlands RPG Teams and Boss Bike
Tabletop Gaming News

Ground Set #5: Paved Roads
Lord Zsezse Works and DriveThruRPG

Ground Set #10: Desert Roads and Ruins
Lord Zsezse Works and DriveThruRPG

Lego World Racers
Official Online Lego Shop

Terra-Flex Flexible Terrain System - Broken Blacktop Gaming Mat
ZUZZY Wargame Miniatures

Who buys hot wheels toy cars?


Den Beauvais - Car Wars Painting


Death Race 2 Blu-ray (+ DVD + Digital Copy)

This title will be released on January 18, 2011.

Death Race 2 DVD

This title will be released on January 18, 2011.


Richard K. Morgan Official Web Site


Deep Woods Blues
Cappy Space

Highway Cowboys
Steve Jackson Games Car Wars Discussion Forum
August 04, 2010

The Vanguards of Darkwind


CarWars 2.5 Download
Operation Flashpoint: Resistance Addons;65433


Review: Blur for Xbox 360
Cape Cod Gaming Blog
September 16, 2010


'Race After 1977' - An Upcoming Post-Apocalyptic Racer


Road Wars: Death on Wheels


Auto Assault The Soundtrack
RPGFan Soundtracks

Death Race 2 Soundtrack
Internet Movie Database Boards

Mark Morgan's "Vault Archives" available again
No Mutants Allowed
January 06, 2011

Now that the legal issues between Mark Morgan and Bethesda have been resolves the remastered Fallout 1 and 2 soundtracks are available again to download. Lossless versions of the tracks in FLAC format should be coming soon.

Note that it now says "Original tracks © copyrights Bethesda Softworks LLC".

Thanks Ausir.

Aural Network - Music and Sound Releases - Mark Morgan's "Vault Archives"


20mm Future Wars
Lead Adventure Forum
February 02, 2008

Axle and Alloys Game Report
Lead Adventure Forum
February 25, 2010

Lead Adventure Forum
July 30, 2007

Car Wargames
Lead Adventure Forum
February 12, 2010

Dark Future
Lead Adventure Forum
December 04, 2009

Dark Future Roads
Lead Adventure Forum
November 21, 2008

Dark Future Scale Qs
Lead Adventure Forum
October 03, 2010

Matchbox/Hot Wheels conversion tutorial
Lead Adventure Forum
May 06, 2010

Road Rage: A Game of Automotive Combat
Lead Adventure Forum
May 01, 2010

What rules would you use?
Lead Adventure Forum
October 25, 2010

3D RoadWar: Rogue-like/Wargame Project - Any Interest?
RPG Codex Forums
July 22, 2006

Aberrant Warlands
Frothers Unite! U.K. Forums
September 21, 2010

Atomic Highway - A cinematic, fast-action, post-apocalyptic RPG
Circvs Maximvs Forums
December 24, 2009

Are There Any Games Like Autoduel?
RPGWatch Forums
January 10, 2010

Blood Bowl - PC
2000 AD Forums
July 07, 2009

TribalWar Forums
August 08, 2003

Car Wars Forums
March 29, 2008

Car Wars - anyone ever roleplay any with it?
Dragonsfoot Forums
September 11, 2008

(Car Wars) Downloadable car pieces?
EN World Forums
March 25, 2002

June 14, 2004

Car Wars (Steve Jackson)
Giant in the Playground Forums
October 01, 2010

[Carwars] Friday 24th April, Deathrace Styles!
The Guild Forums
April 23, 2009

Car Wars 2nd Ed. movement chart and control table?
My Sudoku Club Forums
November 2008

car wars type terrain / game in progress
Wamp Forums
March 12, 2010

Car Wars: Mad Max Opening Chase
Post Apoc Wargames Forums
June 21, 2010

Car Wars
Da Mek Shop Forums
May 18, 2009

Car Wars - which rules edition to start with?
Dragonsfoot Forums
August 17, 2010

Car Wars Forums
May 07, 2008

Car/Vehicle Combat Games?
Stack Exchange
October 23, 2010

car battles
Tactical Command Forums
November 26, 2010

Converted vehicles for Axles & Alloys
Reaper Message Boards
July 25, 2010

Custom Cars for Road Warriors of the Warlands
Mini Art of War Forums
March 09, 2009

Dark Future + Battlecars?
Cardboard Warriors Forums
May 31, 2009

Dark Future Cars
Warseer Forums
February 14, 2008

Dark Future on Specialist Games Web Site!
Warseer Forums
December 04, 2007

The Forum of Doom
April 23, 2007

Dark Future blew
Network54 Games Workshop Message Board
September 09, 2000

Dark Future Campaign Rules, Rather long....
The Bristol Vanguard Forums
November 30, 2006

Dark Future: More Model Ideas, Some plastic kits that might make work
The Bristol Vanguard Forums
December 02, 2007

Death Dealers miniatures game
Frothers Unite! U.K. Forums
August 13, 2009

Design your "Death Race" car Forums
November 23, 2010

Do you remember CAR WARS?
Game_Geeks Forums
July 27, 2008

Free Waterworld RPG
Citizens of the Imperium Forums
March 12, 2008

Game Idea "Car Wars" conversion
Matrix Games Forums
January 22, 2005

GDW-Dark Future
RPGnet Forums
April 02, 2009

Great post-apocalyptic car models
Lead Adventure Forums
December 07, 2009

Help me fill in the Car Wars shaped hole in my heart
RPGnet Forums
December 23, 2010

Hello everybody from Spain!
Post Apoc Wargames Forums
January 15, 2011

Hi All. What scale (for Post Apoc Miniatures)?
Post Apoc Wargames Forums
July 28, 2010

It do what it do
GU Forums
May 24, 2009

Looks like a good game for a car Wars\Deathrace 2000 fix
The Wargamer Forums
September 15, 2010

Mad Max
RPGnet Forums
May 18, 2003

[necro] Hot Wheels/Matchbox Car Wars?
RPGnet Forums
September 25, 2003

Post Apocalypse Resources
HERO Games Forums
January 13, 2008

Post apocalyptic goodness for the whole family!
Facebook - DiceFestGames
January 2010

Post Apocalyptic Vehicles
Bloody Discusting Forums
January 03, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic 1/24-1/25 Scale Model Vehicle Building Extravaganza
Minus1Modifier Forums
September 28, 2008

Post-apocalyptic Battlecars [PICS]; Inspired by Death Race
Post Apoc Wargames Forums
September 29, 2010

Questions about Dark Future...
Post Apoc Wargames Forums
January 15, 2010

Road Wolf
The Lost and the Damned Forum
Unlisted Date

Road Warrior Moment
Cool Mini or Not Forums
July 22, 2003

Rolling Weapons, Vehicle Armament, (Now w/pics)
Zombine Squad Forums
February 05, 2009

Space Opera: help me pick a title, please
Dragon's Landing Inn Forums
February 26, 2010

Tabletop Gaming With Hot Wheels/Matchbox Cars
RPGnet Forums
October 11, 2009

Taking a Drive in the Warlands
CharCon Forums
March 29, 2010

Thursday 5/6
HQ The Club Forums
May 03, 2010

Vehicular RPG
Game Axis Forums
January 04, 2003

Warlands Buggy Proxy
Table Top Gamers Forums
October 19, 2008

Whatever Happened to CarWars?
RPGnet Forums
April 22, 2008


Atomic Highway
UncleBear Blog
June 24, 2010

Axles and Alloys II Blog
FightingFantasist Blog
January 25, 2010

Battle Cars Reinforced!
Four Colour Super Minis Blog
December 05, 2010

Car Wars
Level 1 Gamer
November 28, 2009

Car Wars Reboot Design Goals
Attacks of Opportunity
August 26, 2009

Car Wars for real, baby
May 14, 2009

Car Wars
Chris Roberson's Interminable Ramble Blog
February 27, 2008

Car Wars Compendium - PDF
Merric's Musings Blog
October 26, 2009

Car Wars Reborn
Greg Howley's Blog
February 27, 2006

Dashboard Deity Decapitated! Trivial Vehicle Hit Locations
A Character for Every Game Blog
January 06, 2011

Don't be Afraid to Borrow From Other Systems
More Than Dice Blog
September 16, 2010

Dark Future - heard of it?
Librarium Online Forums
December 04, 2007

Dark Future Cars
Felix's Gaming Pages Blog
November 14, 2007

Download Dark Future
Felix's Gaming Pages Blog
December 12, 2007

Dark Future (Swedish Language)
StockholmsPunk Blog
January 09, 2009

Gamma World – The 50,000th Day After
Wielding a Bohemian Ear Spoon Blog
October 26, 2010

Get the Original Car Wars Game, for a Buck!
The Gaming Gang
December 17, 2010

How old is old school?
The Armchair Gamer Blog
December 26, 2010

Lions and Vultures, Bunnies and Mules in PotSM (Pirates of the Spanish Main)
The Captain's Logbook Blog
September 18, 2007

Man vs Genre: Autoduel
A Tonne of Feathers Blog
May 02, 2010

Now the Vehicle Battle RPG is called Blacktop!
Attacks of Opportunity
August 30, 2009

Old Game Review - Car Wars
Drake's Flames Blog
December 20, 2007

Origin Stories: MenothJohn
Lost Hemisphere
June 18, 2010

Playing Car Wars / Warmachine FREE online using Vassal
armasheddon's Blog
July 21, 2009

Pic of the Week - Battlecars
Darkside Science Fiction/Fantasy Fandom Site
November 06, 2010

Pocket Box Games
The Games Journal
June 2005

Post Apocalyptic Car Battles
Opposition Force Blog
April 16, 2010

A Racing RPG?
May 06, 2010

Rebooting Car Wars
Attacks of Opportunity
August 25, 2009

Saving My Own Game: Break Out of the Combat Rut Blog
February 03, 2010

Terrain Mat Photos
Gaming Terrain Blog
March 14, 2010

Thunder Road from Milton Bradley
Ronn's Big Pile of Stuff Blog
June 03, 2008

This Was What Axles And Alloys Was All About
FightingFantasist Blog
January 19, 2010

Tim's Formula De
The Lazy Blogger
November 19, 2008

Today in Swag, Classic Edition: Autoduel
Jason MacIsaac's Blog
June 25, 2010

Top 6 Classic Movies I Need To Play
How Not to Suck at Game Design Blog
June 23, 2010

Toybox Wars Playtest
Nuketown Blog
March 22, 2008

Twisted Metal Documentary Blog
July 02, 2007

We be rollin'
Opposition Force Blog
January 05, 2011

What a Wreck!
Combat Zone Chronicles
December 2006

Why the Chicken DIDN’T Cross the Road: A Review of Road Kill Rally
The Gaming Gang
October 12, 2010

Yes, I still own all my Pen and Paper RPG Games
Kevin James Breaux Author Blog
January 15, 2011

Give Me a Fulcrum Long Enough

By The Pathetic Earthling
A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago Blog
April 17, 2007

So, Mrs. Earthling and I are moving to a new house (just six miles away, no other lifestyle changes are involved), and we've frantically packing ahead of this Saturday's move. The best part of moving, of course, is lingering over old pictures, books and bits of miscellaneous crap. Highlights so far:

- My pile of old Traveller books. Traveller being the granddaddy of science fiction roleplaying games. Also, old Car Wars stuff, which included a submission from me to the Autoduel Quarterly, my first sale (and but one of three bits of nonlegal writing I've earned money for) at the age of 14. I earned $5, but never cashed the check, since I thought the check was cooler than the cash.

Betting on Cthulhu500's Success

By Michelle N.
Atlas Games Blog
July 26, 2004

Check out Game Trade Magazine's newest issue (July 2004) for a 3-page spread on Cthulhu500! Included on pages 14 - 16 are two new vehicle card sets for the game, and optional rules for wagering on your race. Cthulhu500 also made it as one of GTM's "Spotlight" products on page 19!

Larry Elmore Car Wars Art

By Cameron Barret
CamWorld Blog
June 02, 2003

How cool is this? Larry Elmore, one of my favorite fantasy artists is auctioning off one of the original paintings he did in the 1980s for the Steve Jackson role-playing game called Car Wars.


Big Photo Collection of 6mm Battlecars
6mmScienceFictionWarGames Yahoo! Group
May 15, 2007

Lead Adventure Forum
December 28, 2010

A Dark Future in My Attic . . .
Lead Adventure Forum
February 10, 2010

Dark Future Official Download Available
Lead Adventure Forums
December 04, 2007

Dark Future East Bloc Infantry
Lead Adventure Forum
June 22, 2010

Dark Future Sale Pending
Lead Adventure Forum
July 17, 2010

"Ghost Town" - The Dark Future Remake
3D-Palace Community Forums
May 16, 2007

The Lead Painters' League Season 2 - Nitro of the American Autoduelling Association
Lead Adventure Forum
March 08, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic Battlecars
Lead Adventure Forum
September 29, 2010

Wanted: Dark Future Miniatures
Lead Adventure Forum
October 13, 2010

Warlands ala Dark Future!
Lead Adventure Forum
March 07, 2010

Warlands 20mm Auto Combat: Added Truck and Crew
Lead Adventure Forum
May 24, 2010

Wreckage Racing
Lead Adventure Forum
April 12, 2010

"Mad Max" Black MFP Interceptor
Science Fiction Modellbau Forum (German Language)
November 14, 2010

1999 MIB Infiltration of JohnCon

Blair Reamy's Photos - Amorphous Blob Games - Carwars Dukes of Hazard run by Becky at Origins 2007

Displaced Miniatures - LeadAsbestos2010's Dark Future/ Warlands Gallery

Displaced Miniatures - Dark Future Santa

Enfield Gamers - Dark Future

Slashdot and Graphjam - Evolution of the Batmobile

SoCal Gallery - Automotive Combat Conversions by Chris H.

South London Warlords - Club Night Gallery

Team for historical Simulations - Car Wars

Flickr - Aberrant Tony's Photostream

Flickr - Jay Adan's Photostream

Flickr - adminfoo's Photostream

Flickr - alhazared's Photostream

Flickr - Jack Black's Stunt Double's Photostream

Flickr - blcahill99's Photostream

Flickr - Bostich's Photostream

Flickr - ClockworkGrue's Photostream

Flickr - Cokaigne's Photostream

Flickr - cronuskane's Photostream - Dark Future

Flickr - ellindsey000's Photostream

Flickr - Foucalt's Photostream

Flickr - Gameopolis's Photostream

Flickr - grodyslimeball's Photostream

Flickr - heath_bar's Photostream

Flickr - Imoritz's Photostream

Flickr - inrepose's Photostream

Flickr - knaverupe's Photostream

Flickr - lothartvni's Photostream

Flickr - nicknlauren4life's Photostream

Flickr - ona_psycho20's Photostream

Flickr - orkboi's Photostream

Flickr - Phil Gyford's Photostream

Flickr - Puffinslayer's Photostream

Flickr - road_dancer's Photostream

Flickr - Roll 2d6's Photostream

Flickr - Scopi's Photostream

Flickr - spookwarfare's Photostream

Flickr - sponng's Photostream

Flickr - sunny-highway's Photostream

Flickr - TomMartinArt's Photostream

Flickr - trialbyfiregames' Photostream

Flickr - WheatThin's Photostream

Flickr - WoodForSheep's Photostream

Flickr - worldnamer's Photostream

Flickr - yelahneb's Photostream

Photobucket - Terrain-Specialties's album - Ares Con 2010 - Axles and Alloys

Photobucket - ledfut3609's album - AADA Chevelle

Photobucket - schoon9953's album - Oakland Battleground Arena

Picasa - Norm's Public Gallery - Origins 2008 - Laminated Car Wars Vehicle Record Sheet


Craniac Entertainment - Software Projects

Dale Newcomb, Jr.

Jim Holloway's Artistic Credits

Kyle Miller


Megaforce B-Movie Review

Rules of the Road
Ramblings from the Marginalized

TRR FUNtainer Food Thermos
Cafe Press,487880601

Four Loko Being Turned Into Auto Fuel

Associated Press and Fox News
January 06, 2011

Richmond, Virginia - Truckloads of Four Loko and other alcohol-laced energy drinks are being recycled into ethanol and other products after federal authorities told manufacturers the beverages were dangerous and caused users to become "wide-awake drunk."

Wholesalers from Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and other East Coast states started sending cases of the high-alcohol, caffeinated malt beverages to MXI Environmental Services in Virginia after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a crackdown on the sale of such beverages in November.

Brian Potter, vice president of operations at MXI's facility in Abingdon, Va., said about a couple of hundred truckloads of the drinks would be coming to the plant. Each truck holds 2,000 cases of the 23.5-ounce cans.

MXI Enterprises is one of three facilities in the U.S. that recycle ethanol, according to the American Coalition for Ethanol, an industry group. Potter said Thursday that his competitors also are taking shipments of the drinks.

"We're equipped to process four truckloads a day, and we're at full capacity," he said. "There are about 30 different products involved, and we've only seen a couple of them at this point. It could go on for several months."

The FDA issued warning letters to four companies on Nov. 17 saying the beverages' combination of caffeine and alcohol can lead to a "wide-awake drunk." The agency called the caffeine an "unsafe food additive." Warning letters were sent to Phusion Projects, Charge Beverages Corp., New Century Brewing Co. and United Brands Company Inc.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at the time that consuming the drinks has led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

Health experts have raised concerns that the caffeine can mask a person's perception of intoxication, leading them to drink more than they typically would before passing out. Many of those who consume the drinks are college-age and underage drinkers.

The four companies decided to pull their beverages from stores or reformulate them to remove caffeine or other stimulants after the FDA's ruling. Under pressure from states' attorneys general, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors removed their Bud Extra, Tilt and Sparks drinks from the market two years ago.

In Virginia, wholesalers have been buying back the canned drinks from retailers to get them off the market, said Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokesman Philip Bogenberger.

In addition to accepting the drinks from wholesalers, MXI has a contract to take Phusion Projects' discontinued Four Loko beverages.

MXI distills the alcohol from the drinks, then sells the fuel to be blended into gasoline, Potter said. It sells the aluminum cans to a recycler. Potter estimated it takes "30 days until it's back on the shelf as another beer can." It also recycles the drinks' water, cardboard packaging and shipping pallets.

"These are actually things that could go directly into a landfill or incinerator or some other waste process that's not as environmentally friendly, so I think it's a good thing," he said.

Get an AK-47 With Your Truck Purchase at One Florida Dealership

Fox News
November 11, 2010

A truck dealership in Florida has found a new way to drive sales: When you buy a truck, you also get a free AK-47, reports.

It’s not a joke.

After purchasing a truck from a Sanford, Fla., dealership, customers get a voucher for a gun shop, which will fill out the required federal and state forms and perform a background check. If you pass, you’ll be entitled to a gun. And if you’re not in the market for a gun, you get $400 off your truck purchase or vouchers for other stores.

The gimmick appears to be working.

“People are calling us, don’t believe it. They want to come in and see it,” general sales manager Nick Ginetta said.

The Sanford Police Chief said he is not concerned about the deal as long as the rules of gun ownership are followed, according to

Ginetta said he’s offering the truck-and-gun deal, which runs through the end of the month, in honor of veterans.

Buy a truck get an AK-47 rifle

By Mike Syan
Fox 35 TV Orlando
November 12, 2010

Seminole County, Florida - The headline really isn't a joke. A Sanford truck dealership is offering a free AK-47 with the purchase of a truck.

General Sales Manager Nick Ginetta tells FOX 35, the weapon won't be sitting in the passenger seat or a gun rack when you sign the paperwork and get the keys, instead you get a voucher. "Now you take that voucher, you go down to Shoot Straight. You present the voucher. They will fill out all federal and state forms, and a background check. If you are eligible for that weapon, you'll be entitled to it."

Ginetta says if guns aren't your thing, you can have 400 bucks off the truck or vouchers for other stores. Will it work? "People are calling us, don't believe it. They want to come in and see it. We have some people that don't believe it. In fact, as I told them, listen; you can do this on your own. You don't need us."

Already there's been a bite. Craig from Longwood heard about the deal and came on down. "I'm getting ready to buy a truck because I need it for pulling my race cars. I figured this is a beautiful selection. I come here and I'm getting a free gun!"

Ginetta told me they're doing this as a salute to veterans, but maybe they should have asked a guy next door at the VFW hall.  "Them guys next door that are giving away AK-47. I was shot 14 times by that rifle. It's a hell of a rifle. Kills a lot of people. They've got no business giving those rifles away."

A little research shows truck owners just happen to like the 2nd Amendment. The deal runs through the end of the month.

FOX 35 talked to the Sanford Police Chief about it and he says as long as the rules of gun ownership are followed, they're not concerned about because legal gun owners rarely give them trouble. The only worry they had was that a crook might steal an AK 47 and use it in a crime.

Genius Creates Flamethrower Wrist Gloves
January 14, 2011

Despite its obvious and immediate danger, fire has always fascinated man, and we've got a collection of idiotholes playing with it to prove our point.

But sometimes, our fascination turns into awesomeness. To wit: This genius created flamethrower wrist gloves. Finally.

It's all thanks to J&M Special Effects, and no, you can't have a pair. Why? Well they are for trained special effects professionals only, and they're only a prototype.

These ones are, anyway. We've been told the "final system will be more streamlined with hoses, cables and gloves reduced in size and integrated into the performer's costume." Which makes this video below even more impressive.

J&M Special Effects


India To Weaponize World's Hottest Chili

Military To Create Tear Gas-Like Hand Grenades

By Wasbir Hussain
Associated Press and KIRO TV 7 Seattle
March 23, 2010

Gauhati, India - The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chili.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.

The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the
crippling summer heat.

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.

"The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization," Col. R. Kalia, a defense
spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press.

"This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs," R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences
Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO said.

Srivastava, who led a defense research laboratory in Assam, said trials are also on to produce bhut jolokia-based aerosol sprays to be used by women against attackers and for the police to control and disperse mobs.

Former BP Exec Sets Her Sights on Algae as the Fuel of the Future

By RP Siege
July 1, 2010

CJ Warner was at the top of her game when she saw the writing on the wall. Twenty years into a glass-ceiling-busting career at BP, she had risen to the rank of Head of Global Refining for BP, making her one of the highest ranking executives in the oil industry. That was when she realized that she was running towards a dead end. “I had a slow but growing realization that the industry was maturing, the current fields were falling off in volume more quickly than anticipated, and the feats required to find new oil were becoming more and more heroic.”

Prophetic words perhaps for someone who left BP a year before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but she wasn’t so much running away from something bad as she was running towards something better.

Warner became president of Sapphire Energy, a well-funded upstart in algal bio-fuels in 2009. Sapphire produced what it says were the world’s first drops of 91 octane gasoline made from a renewable resource in May 2008.

“I had an epiphany that if I was going to put so much personal energy into making something happen, it was a lot better to create the key to the future than to nurse along the dying past. What I want to do is leave a legacy for my kids — I don’t want to leave them a world where we’re fighting for the last slice of the pie, but one where we’re baking new pies.”

Algae pie, anyone?

According to Cynthia Warner, speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in 2009, algae is 40 times more efficient at photosynthesis than any other plant, which makes it the potential king of bio-fuels.

Last year, 4% of the US transportation fuel supply came from corn based ethanol. It took 23 million acres to achieve that. Warner says that if we had committed the same land area to growing algae instead, it would have produced 50% of our supply. This suggests that less than 50 million acres, an area about the size of the state of Nebraksa, would be sufficient to grow enough algae to power our current transportation fleet. That’s a little over 2% of the total land area of the US.

The second great thing about algae, Warner tells us, is the fact that it is a “drop-in fuel,” which means that it can directly replace gasoline without any modification to the cars, the pipelines, pumps, refineries, etc. That’s a pretty big deal. Our current fossil fuel infrastructure represents a $12 trillion investment.

As for the cost, Warner says that they are projecting that commercial algae-based oil will be available for $80 per barrel, a price that is competitive right now and will only become more so, as oil supplies dwindle.

“When I heard about algae,” Warner said in an interview with Fast Company, “I had that state of readiness that enabled me to recognize that it was the solution. It’s not going to compromise food production, it’s not going to compromise potable water, it doesn’t require land that is in high demand for alternative uses, and it’s very low carbon, so it’s not creating a negative environmental footprint.”

Is it sustainable?  Warner says it is. Algae requires CO2 to grow productively, thus becoming an effective source of carbon sequestration, capable of pulling 14-15 kg of CO2 per gallon of algae-based fuel produced. While this scenario is not carbon-free, it does represent, on a lifecycle basis, a reduction of as much as 70% in greenhouse gas emissions when compared mile for mile with conventional diesel fuel, or 61% when compared to gasoline.

While this sounds like a tremendous opportunity, the folks at Energy Justice are concerned about the prospect that this might encourage continued use of fossil fuels like coal, which, even if stripped of its substantial CO2 emission, still represents major environment challenges in its extraction and waste disposal. Additionally, the CO2 must be much purer than what comes out of a smokestack, which means that elaborate and expensive processing will be required. This sounds to me like a significant hurdle, but not a showstopper.

But don’t bio-fuels compete with the production of food for land and water?  More good news here: algae likes to grow in the desert, where other crops won’t grow, because it gets the most sun there. It also prefers salty water, which means it wouldn’t necessarily compete with other water uses.

Sapphire’s Pilot program, due in 2011 will be capable of producing one million gallons of algae oil per year. That will grow to 100 million gallons by 2018 and a billion gallons by 2025. That sounds like a big number, and it certainly is, though to put it in perspective with our enormous appetite, Americans currently consume one billion gallons of gasoline every two and a half days.  Still, it’s a good start, and the ten million tons of CO2 eliminated annually by substituting this fuel for gasoline would be significant.

Another advantage of algal fuels over oil, is that it is hard to imagine a scenario where it could spew out of containment for months at a time, discharging hundreds of millions of gallons into the ocean (though super tanker ships might still be used to transport it).  It could potentially be grown in numerous locations, though, somewhat reducing the need for transportation.

Other concerns about algal bio-fuels raised by Oilgae tend to be more cost implications than anything else:

    * Harvesting algae is much more difficult and energy intensive than most people realize.
    * Random natural algae tend to start taking over from artificially seeded algae fairly rapidly unless the pond is covered, and covering ponds costs money.
    * Ponds often have to be lined to meet groundwater regulatory requirements, which adds quite a bit to cost.

As bio-fuel technology continues to develop, a distinct advantage will go to companies with the capability to rapidly optimize the organisms used to produce the fuel. Stay tuned for an upcoming piece on just such a company, Colorado-based OPX-Bio.

To learn more about algal biomass you can also visit the Algal Biomass Organization.

RP Siegel is the co-author of Vapor Trails, a story about an oil company, a spill and the awakening of a man who had the power to do something but never used it.

Follow RS Siegel on Twitter

Aptera's 200 MPGe 'Car'

Its name means "wingless flight", but will the ultra aerodynamic Aptera 2e two-seat electric car get off the ground?

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
September 24, 2010

“If you finish second, then you’re the first loser.”

That motto may have served Dale Earnhardt well as he racked up seven NASCAR championships, but for the team at California startup automaker Aptera, the opposite could turn out to be true.

At the finals of the recent Progressive Automotive X-Prize – a $10 million competition to design and build a commercially viable, 100 mpg car – the company’s ultra-aerodynamic three-wheeled electric vehicle lost its class in a tie breaker to an ultra aerodynamic four-wheeled electric car.

Aptera chief engineer, Tom Reichenbach, maintains that his entry came up short only because its battery pack wasn’t designed to meet the specific requirements of the final event and he wasn’t interested in putting in a different one. That’s because, unlike the winning one-off Wave II from electric car conversion specialists Li-ion Motors, Reichenbach says the Aptera 2e was designed for production, not just to win a contest. This from a guy who used to work on Formula One cars for Ford Racing.

Resembling the cockpit section of a cartoon airplane in search of a pair of wings, the teardrop-shaped coupe is unlike anything currently on the road. At a recent test drive event, one onlooker described it as “from the 22nd Century.” In appearance that may be true, but much of the technology behind it is from today. The electric motor that propels it is a modified version of the one found in a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid.

What makes it different is obvious, and less so. The complex, teardrop-shaped body has a very low aerodynamic drag coefficient of .15, which compares to around .30-.35 for most cars and .25 for the best on the road today. Just as vital in the quest for fuel economy, the 2e weighs only 1,800 pounds, 300 pounds less than an electric Smart Fortwo. The designers were able to achieve both of these goals through the use of a lightweight composite honeycomb monocoque structure similar to that of an aircraft. It’s cheaper than the carbon fiber used in racing cars, but still three times stronger than steel.

The result? According to Aptera, the 2e is four times more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Using a measurement known as Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe), which compares the amount of energy used by a vehicle regardless of its source – gasoline, hydrogen, electric, etc. – the 2e delivers close to 200 MPGe. Its 486-pound, 20 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion phosphate battery pack giving it claimed range of 120 miles per overnight charge on a 110v outlet.

It should also be as safe as any other car, which is important because its three-wheel layout means that the 2e is technically a motorcycle in the eyes of the federal government and most states including California, where it will initially go on sale. Nevertheless, Aptera CEO Paul Wilbur says that it was designed to meet the same safety regulations as an automobile, and he’ll be more than happy to submit it for crash testing. Better yet, since it has three wheels you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive it, and the roof means a helmet is not required.

The 2e that competed in the X-Prize is actually the second iteration of a vehicle that has been in development since 2005. Although it looks almost identical to the original, it’s larger inside and out, having been scaled up better to accommodate passengers and luggage. The wide flip-up doors make entering it easier than is the case with many conventional cars, while the cabin offers tons of head and legroom for two passengers.

As it is now, the interior is very simple, and reminiscent of the one in a Lotus Elise -- another car that values lightness, and is the basis of the electric Tesla Roadster. The fit and finish, if not the design of it, should change some before the 2e goes on sale, but isn’t too far off the mark now.

There’s no mechanical key or start button, just a wireless smart key and a four-way transmission selector topped by a knob that you twist to change the strength of the brake regeneration, which can be adjusted from 0 to 100 percent. Other than that, if you didn’t know the car was an electric three-wheeler, you wouldn’t know the car was an electric three-wheeler.

Even as you put it in drive and pull away, there’s no immediate indication that there’s anything dynamically odd about the configuration of the 2e. Driven at the speed limit, its handling is surprisingly conventional. Only once did I manage to get the single rear tire to skip out a little bit when I took a 90-degree turn much faster than anyone normally would, but the ensuing skid was probably no worse than if the car had four wheels. At the speed I was going, only one of the rear tires would’ve been on the ground anyway. I also clipped a few corners due to the deceptively wide spacing of the front wheels, which is on par with a full-size pickup truck.

I only drove the car for a few miles, so I can’t vouch for the claimed range, but the 82-kilowatt motor driving the front wheels gives it the performance of a typical economy car. Electric motors can produce maximum torque at zero rpm, and this one has 232 pound-feet on tap, which is twice as much as you get in something like a Ford Fiesta.

What is very apparent is how heavy the unassisted steering is, especially when trudging through parking lots, and how hard you have to push on the manual brakes if you’ve got the regeneration dialed down low. With it set to max you rarely need to use the brake pedal, and Reichenbach says that it can recapture 80 percent of the energy that was used to get the 2e up to whatever speed you’re slowing down from. Ideally, both the steering and brakes will remain without power assist because any extra electricity wasted on them will decrease the vehicle’s range, but further testing and consumer feedback could lead to some changes.

Wilbur sees a limited, but sizable market for this type of car of about 20,000 to 30,000 units per year. Aptera’s factory in Oceanside, Calif., will have an annual capacity of 22,000 vehicles that he hopes to sell at a base price of $25,000. That is, if it gets the money to start production.

The company is waiting to hear if it will receive a $184 million dollar loan from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. One of the requirements for it is attracting matching funds from private investors, which Aptera is actively pursuing. Cleverly-named New Jersey-Based electricity company NRG is one of the first major investors to come on board.

And while this may suggest the beginnings of a plug-in version of the mythical conspiracy between big oil and the world’s large automakers that has kept us addicted to oil and out of water-powered cars all these years, after talking with NRG President and CEO David Crane, you get the feeling that its more like a grape farmer opening up a winery. Crane drives a Tesla. He appreciates the good things electricity can do in a car. If it turns out to be a conspiracy after all, so what? At least this one has the potential to be less polluting and get us off imported oil.

If the money comes through, Wilbur says that he can get the 2e on the road in less than a year, and he’s already planning for what happens after that. If the market wants it, a hybrid version known as the 2h is on the drawing board, and would work much like the Chevy Volt, carrying a small internal combustion engine to produce electricity on long trips so you don’t need to stop for several hours every couple of hours to recharge. After that a second factory with an annual production capacity of 130,000 vehicles is planned for an undisclosed location in the United States. Since that far outstrips the projection for 2e demand, it’s pretty obvious that another vehicle is in the works.

That one will have four seats, and, sadly, more than three wheels, but Wilbur will say no more about it than that. Considering that he once worked on another groundbreaking aerodynamic car, the 1986 Ford Taurus, one hopes he’s not already thinking about taking Aptera mainstream. Then again, he is trying to make his company a winner.

Porsche 911 GT3 R race car joins high-tech and green tech

By Chris Woodyard
USA Today
September 22, 2010

Imagine tearing through the turns of a racetrack, fighting for every extra inch among other closely matched cars, knowing that you have a secret weapon.

It's a little red button.

Push it, and the Porsche 911 GT3 R hybrid race car leaps ahead of the pack with a six-second burst of extra energy. And it's as high-tech as it comes.

Porsche showed off its hybrid racer Tuesday in Washington, D.C., as proof that high performance and green technology can go together like a racing glove and a steering wheel. The car is yet another riff on the idea of combining conventional engines with electric power in a way that adds speed or increases fuel mileage — or both.

More cars are getting hybrid technology — Hyundai's Sonata and Infiniti's M are among the next — but none so far have also added extra energy storing with flywheels, which spin at high speed like a child's top.

The Porsche racer has two electric motors on the front axle that bolster the car's 480-horsepower rear engine. When the car is braked on tight turns, regenerative brakes transfer energy to the flywheel rather than waste it all as heat. As the driver accelerates out of the curve, he pushes a button to send the flywheel energy to the front wheels.

It's "just a tremendous car," says Porsche racing team driver Patrick Long, interviewed last month in Monterey, Calif. "It's cool to be efficient."

Making the most of the car's extra speed bursts is tricky, but Long says he figured it out during the Nürburgring 24-hour race in Germany. The hybrid led for eight hours during the race, though it didn't win.

"After the 911 GT3 R hybrid's fantastic performance ... we are now eager to gain more experience with the hybrid technology at a variety of racetracks," Hartmut Kristen, Porsche's motorsports chief, said in a statement.

Photo Gallery: Check out pictures of the Porsche 911 GT3 R hybrid,A7600

Air Force invests in 'Batman' technologies for Special Forces soldiers

By Adam Hadhazy
TechNewsDaily and
September 14, 2010

A military program named for and inspired by the superhero Batman is bringing together advanced technologies to equip U.S. Special Forces soldiers for the 21st century.

Started by the Air Force in 2004, BATMAN — short for Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided kNowledge — aims to modernize the gear that commandos take with them on covert missions.

"In the earliest stages when we were coming up with a name for the program, we were perceived as having a lot of gadgets," said Reggie Daniels, BATMAN program engineer at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. "[Batman's] devices allow him to have an advantage. That is what we're trying to do."

Fittingly, the motto of the program is "lighter, smarter, deadlier."

Regarding the first objective, elite Air Force soldiers often must lug up to 160 pounds (73 kilograms) of equipment during a mission, Daniels said.

This equipment includes communications gear, helmet displays, a headset and a computer, plus a host of batteries to keep all these electronics juiced in the field.

Special ops missions include setting up runways and landing zones as well as retrieving injured people from aircraft down behind enemy lines. "They have a very dangerous job," said Daniels.

Yet in many cases, Special Forces' outdated gear has overly burdened them, impeded their time-critical decision-making, or simply not been up to the task at hand, he added.

Before recent battlefield incidents spurred reform, Special Forces "were basically using paper and pencil and calculating [their positions in the field] and they had to hobble equipment together that wasn't supposed to be together," said Daniels.

In one particular disaster in Afghanistan, an improperly reinitialized piece of equipment essentially called in an airstrike on the Special Forces' position, killing a number of troops, said Daniels, though he demurred on the details.

The Department of Defense wanted to ensure that this sort of incident would never happen again, and thus BATMAN was born.

To the Batcave

The military version of Bruce Wayne's Batcave is a laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. This is where Daniels and his colleagues devise, test and integrate technologies to boost Special Forces' effectiveness.

Although there is no "Batsuit" per se, the BATMAN program does center around what Daniels called the "human chassis," or the idea of the body as a scaffold for all of a mission's appropriate gear.

For example, components such as communications antennas have been placed closer to the torso rather than at distances that can tax a soldier's balance, Daniels said.

A key BATMAN achievement has been reducing the weight of carried batteries by 25 percent. New fuel cells powered by methanol actually get lighter as the methanol is consumed, Daniels said, so instead of toting drained batteries, a soldier's load decreases over time.

BATMAN has additionally pioneered the use of a small, chest-mounted computer to provide warriors with real-time logistical and tactical information. Speech recognition, or telling one's equipment what to do – which is arguably more Inspector Gadget than Batman — is also in the works.

Fancy gizmos

Other technologies brought to bear in the BATMAN initiative include a device that soldiers throw over low-voltage, overhead power lines to draw electricity.

"The time spent by [Special Forces] in the field is limited by how long their batteries last," said Dave Coates, lead test engineer at Ohio-based Defense Research Associates (DRA). "When those batteries die, they've got to come back in."

The DRA-developed device, the Remote Auxiliary Power System — though better known as the Bat Hook – was similarly inspired by the Dark Knight.

A Special Forces soldier working with DRA said, "'You know what would be really cool?'" recalled Coates. "'Something like what Batman has on his belt that he can take out and wing it up to a power line and get power.'"

The black, stereo remote-size Bat Hook has a notch that catches onto a power line and then a tiny razor cuts into the wire's insulation. The Bat Hook slurps down energy into its cable's housing, where the alternating current is converted into the direct current fed into electronics. Coates said he weighted the device such that it easily pops off a wire as well once charging is done.

Another DRA technology, a so-called KeCo switch, allows soldiers to manually toggle between "line of sight" and satellite-enabled communications on their tactical radios. Pre-KeCo, soldiers had to physically swap out an antenna when switching from talking to nearby compatriots over to contacting command headquarters.

Building a better Batman

Some BATMAN technologies have already debuted while others continue making progress as prototypes, Daniels said.

Down the road, he looks forward to eliminating many of the wires that link elements of BATMAN technology, such as the ones that run from the wearable computer to the helmet display and to an operator's rucksack.

A San Diego-based company called Torrey Pines Logic is developing a non-radio frequency, light-based mode of wireless communication that could make these snag-hazard wires disappear.

The deployed technology will be both "eye-safe" and compatible with the low-light levels required of equipment used clandestinely at night, Daniels said.

Daniels envisions a time when in the most hostile and remote areas, Special Forces troops will feel as connected and informed as anyone using a smartphone or a computer does in a non-warzone.

Sometimes the problems facing Special Forces are as simple as "knowing where you are in the world accurately and knowing where the good guys are at and the bad guys are at," Daniels said.

Army Turns to Lasers for Copter Defense

By Spencer Ackerman
September 07, 2010

Some jerk has fired a heat-seeking missile at your Black Hawk. You’ve got a few options. You can try to dodge the thing, but good luck with that. You can fire off a flare in order to fool the missile into no longer following you as you maneuver. Or you can shoot off a laser from on board your bird to do the same thing. Not really a choice, is it?

OK, so Black Hawks and other military copters don’t have lasers yet. But a University of Michigan professor with a million dollars in Darpa and Army money is building a highly portable laser to keep U.S. helicopters protected from insurgents wielding shoulder-fired missiles. “It’s a jamming laser, not a knock-it-out-of-the-sky laser,” explains its creator, Mohammed Islam, a little sheepishly.

Islam’s Mid-Infrared Supercontinuum Laser (MISL, get it?), pictured below, is still in the prototype stage, so its effectiveness isn’t yet proven. But it’s got some advantages over existing military laser tech. Namely: You can fit it onto a helicopter, it won’t break, and it’s cheap.

Gene Roddenberry promised us energy weapon firepower in the form of a sidearm. But it turns out lasers are tragically heavy. The Airborne Laser might be able to shoot a ballistic missile out of the sky, but it’s so corpulent that it barely fits into a Boeing 747. It’s just “too large and expensive to field in large numbers on many operational airborne platforms,” sighed the Missile Defense Agency. The Pentagon is still stumped for portable alternatives.

Enter Islam’s MISL. It’s about the size of a DVD player, meaning you can screw it onto an onboard console. We’re not talking about needing a separate laser-equipped jet to pop out from behind the Afghan mountains on-demand and zap Taliban. Not that that happens anyway.

Then there’s another problem. Most lasers from the big defense firms consist of dozens of tiny pieces of bulk optics to generate their blasts. That means a lot of fragile moving parts. Add to that the pitch and roll of a wobby helicopter and your laser is practically calling out to be smashed.

But Islam used commercial, off-the-shelf materials that go into fiber-optic telecom lines to create a laser platform without any moving parts. “With our all-fiber integrated design, the laser is much more robust to environmental variations,” he brags. The industry-standard materials that go into the MISL are supposed to last for up to 25 years in a typical office setting. “Combine the no moving parts with parts from the telecom industry, and we get the potential for higher reliability,” Islam adds. That also means it should be cheap to manufacture, owing to Moore’s Law.

How’s it work? Heat. Islam’s laser shoots out longer wavelengths than your typical visible laser, so no columns of (invisible) red or white light. The emission from the MISL wouldn’t be visible to your limited eyes. But if he shot you with it, you’d get a burning sensation, from as far away as 1.8 miles. Shoot that thing off when a heat-seeking missile comes at your helicopter and the missile should chase the heat ray, not your engine.

And because of its broad array of wavelengths — that’s the “supercontinuum,” the S in MISL — Islam’s laser should be able to beat sophisticated heat-seekers that flares can’t deceive, since it burns as hot as a copter engine. “We have the entire spectrum of that engine,” Islam says. “We become much harder to fool.”

Sure, the ancient surface-to-air missiles used in Afghanistan against U.S. troops may not have actually downed any helicopters. But there is never a good reason not to put a laser on something.

Get set for invisible war machines

Defense contractor BAE Systems is working on an optical camouflage technology that will make tanks and other vehicles blend in with their surroundings.

By John Roach
January 14, 2011

Within a few years the Brits may deploy invisible armored tanks onto the battlefield, a breakthrough in stealth technology that Harry Potter would certainly applaud.

Defense contractor BAE Systems is working on the technology, which uses a "display system within the structure of the vehicle" to display images captured by cameras on one side of the vehicle on the opposite side so that the vehicle "blends in with the background scenery," company spokesman Mike Sweeney explained to me today.

"We also have a way to protect that structure from battle damage and that's obviously key," he added.

The images would be constantly updated, keeping the tank camouflaged as it rolls through the landscape.

Optical camouflage

The concept of wrapping a vehicle or person in real-time images of its surroundings has been worked on for years. An optical camouflage jacket developed by Susumu Tachi and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo, for example, made the Internet rounds in the mid-2000s.

"Pretty much all the systems that have been cooked up so far all use a projector that picks up the background," Sweeney said. "Where they differ is in how the image is then displayed."

He is tight-lipped on the details of BAE's display system, called eCamouflage, but said to think in terms of something like a flat screen television. This would make displays work relatively easily on flat surfaces, such as depicted in the concept image of the tank above. "I honestly don't know how we are doing it on other areas" such as the front of the tank, Sweeney added, though he noted that is indeed the plan.

Invisible subs?

When the invisible tanks start rolling on the battlefield, the Navy, too, may be deploying submarines outfitted with technology that makes them invisible to sonar, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. In the journal Physical Review Letters, they reported the successful testing of a prototype acoustic cloak.

The device is made up of a specially engineered material molded into a series of concentric rings that looks similar to a record or compact disc. When an object is placed in the center of the cloak and submerged under water, sound waves hit the cloak and travel around to the other side, completely bypassing the object.

"The acoustic wave will travel through the channels because it's easier to travel through there," mechanical engineer Nicolas Fang explained to Medill Reports. "So if we use an array of those channels, the moment sound hits the cylindrical structure, it will travel around the shell instead of traveling through."

The next step is to make this cloaking structure flexible — a fabric or even a paint that refracts sound waves. The paint could then be used to coat a submarine, making it invisible to sonar.

"How can we make it a paint?" Fang asks. "I would consider this more of an engineering issue than a fundamental challenge."

Stay tuned.

Lasers could 'sense' vapours released by explosives

Scientists believe robots might soon replace people in the search for landmines

By Katia Moskvitch, Science reporter
BBC News
June 07, 2010

UK scientists claim to have developed laser technology able to sense hidden explosives.

The technology could help to detect landmines and roadside bombs and to improve airport security.

The team from University of St Andrews produced a laser by "pumping" a type of plastic called polyfluorene with photons from another light source.

They found the laser reacted with vapours from explosives such as TNT.

The work was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Graham Turnbull, a physicist at the University of St Andrew's in Fife, UK, is one of the authors of the study.

He explained that the researchers created a mechanism able to sense TNT-like molecules frequently used in explosives at extremely low concentrations - less than 10 parts per billion.

"Floating above a landmine in Iraq or Afghanistan, there's a very weak, dilute cloud of vapours of explosive molecules that the bomb is made from," said the Dr Turnbull.

"A small number of these TNT-like molecules comes into contact with a plastic film that the laser is (produced) from, interacts with the light-emitting molecules in the laser and switches off the light emission."

The scientist explained that this interaction of TNT-like molecules with the polymer chain provides a totally new way to stop the laser from working.

Ifor Samuel, Dr Turnbull's colleague and a co-athor of the study, said that once developed, such mechanisms could sense any kind of explosive device - including roadside bombs - a major issue in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This technology is important because polymer lasers, since they're made of plastic, could be made very easily and because it's a very new property for a laser to have," he said.

This sort of technique has been looked at in the past. But this is the first time researchers have used a polyfluorene plastic laser, said Dr Turnbull.

This allows the detection of much lower concentrations of explosive vapours, he added.

The scientist believes that one of the ways to use this type of laser would be to have it on a robotic, perhaps remotely controlled, vehicle that would be able to "sniff around" in a mine field, looking for vapour clouds.

"On a dusty road in Afghanistan there are relatively few things that might give you a false positive and it certainly could have potential in that area. Essentially it's making an artificial nose for a robot dog," said Dr Turnbull.

He also suggested using the system as a means to improve airport security, to detect explosive vapours coming from people's luggage.

One of the selling points of plastic lasers is that they're expected to be relatively low cost, as polyfluorene is widely available, added the scientist.

Military, gov't increase investment in algae fuels

Photo: Sailors assigned to Riverine Group 1 conduct maneuvers aboard the RCB-X, which is powered by an alternative fuel blend of 50 percent algae-based and 50 percent NATO F-76 fuels.

By Jason Dearen
Associated Press and KOMO 4 TV Seattle
Oct 27, 2010

South San Francisco, California - The forest green algae bubbling in a stainless steel fermenting tank in a suburban warehouse may look like primordial pond scum, but it is a promising new source of domestically produced fuels being tested on the nation's jets and warships.

In a laboratory just a few steps away from the warehouse, white-coated scientists for a company called Solazyme are changing the genetic makeup of algae to construct a new generation of fuels.

These "bioengineered" algae are placed into tanks, where they get fat on sugar beets, switch grass or a host of other plants. The sun's energy, which is stored in the plants, is transformed by the hungry algae into oil, which can be refined into jet fuel, bio-diesel, cooking oil or even cosmetics.

While it may sound far-fetched, the U.S. Navy in September ordered more than 150,000 gallons of ship and jet fuel from Solazyme and the company received a $21.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy last year to build a new refinery in Riverside, Penn., to help push production to commercial levels.

"Most of the planet is producing some kind of plant matter, even in the oceans," said Jonathan Wolfson, the CEO and co-founder of Solazyme. "(Our) unique microbial conversion technology process allows algae to produce oil in standard industrial fermentation facilities quickly, efficiently and at commercial scale."

The U.S. military hopes to run 50 percent of its fleet on a mixture of renewable fuels and nuclear power by 2020. As part of this drive, the Department of Defense has been investing in companies like Solazyme to help jump-start the young industry.

The military as a whole uses more than 90 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, officials said. The federal government uses about 2 percent of the energy consumed by the U.S.

The U.S. Navy has already tested Solazyme's algae fuels on part of its fleet, with promising results, and plans to have its entire non-nuclear fleet tested by the end of 2012.

Focusing on making fuels for the military was an easy choice for Solazyme - the biofuels market for passenger cars has taken a backseat to electric vehicles as the focus of the future consumer market.

However, billions of dollars of military aircraft and ships will not be replaced anytime soon, so finding a cleaner, domestically produced source of fuel compatible with the current generation of equipment is the best way to decrease reliance on foreign sources of oil.

"These alternative fuels provide some strategic advantages," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy for Energy Tom Hicks.

"We purchase fuels today from some parts of the world that are not very friendly to the U.S. Having sources to replace those unfriendly fuel barrels with domestically grown fuel barrels is (important)."

Fuels made from algae oil burn cleaner than fossil fuels and require no drilling to acquire, which means fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the beginning to the end of the fuel's life cycle. Wolfson said Solazyme's diesel fuels can reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 85 percent versus petroleum diesel, when you take into account the drilling, shipping and refining required in traditional fuel.

Currently, only about 1 percent of the fuels used by the Navy would be considered renewable by most standards. Sixteen percent of the Navy's energy and fuel needs are achieved through nuclear power, with the rest from traditional sources.

For the Navy to achieve its 50 percent goals alone, production of algae and other renewable fuels will have to increase exponentially. Hicks said the Navy will need 8 million barrels of renewable fuels in 2020 to achieve its goals.

The U.S. government's interest in algae fuels is nothing new. The first spike in attention to algae's potential for making oil spiked in the 1970s as a response to the energy crisis.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been researching algae oils and fuels since the 1980s, but in the 1990s the effort was curtailed as petroleum prices dropped and algae fuels were considered too costly to compete.

However, this decade's rise in petroleum prices and an increased interest in moving the nation away from foreign sources of oil has brought algae back.

Initial efforts at converting algae to oil required large ponds, where algae were exposed to sunlight to create oil. By replacing sunlight with plants, which have already processed the sun's energy through photosynthesis, Solazyme does not need large ponds. The algae and plants put together in a vat and placed in a dark room will create oil faster and cheaper than ponds, Wolfson said.

Solazyme's use of plants to create its algae based fuels have raised some concerns from environmental groups. The sustainability of other biofuels like ethanol or bio-diesel encountered the same problem because each rely on a specific crop, such as corn or soy beans, which can take a lot of energy to grow.

"Solazyme still faces all of the same landscape challenges that traditional biofuels face," said Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Today they are using sugar cane or beets, so they need the same plant matter that today's biofuels do."

CEO Wolfson said the company's research has shown that Solazyme's algae don't rely on a specific crop to make oil, which means a host of different plants can be used, providing a flexibility that other biofuel types do not.

"We've demonstrated that the process works, and you end up with exactly the same oil off of all of these different (plants)," Wolfson said.

Looking for a car? Try 007's Aston Martin

By Gregory Katz
Associated Press and KOMO 4 TV Seattle
October 27, 2010

London - For the discerning driver, it's got an ejector seat, machine guns and a world-class pedigree. Problem is, it's going to cost a truckload of dough.

One of the world's most famous James Bond cars - the specially equipped Aston Martin first driven by Sean Connery in "Goldfinger" - will be auctioned off in London on Wednesday evening, and it's likely to fetch one of the highest prices ever paid for an automobile.

The unique car, which also has rotating license plates and other spy gear, is expected to go for more than 3.5 million pounds ($5.5 million).

"This is the only genuine, 007 James Bond car," said Mick Walsh, Editor-in-Chief of Classic and Sports Car Magazine. "You know the reputation of James Bond. The bidding could go mad."

He said the fact the iconic Aston Martin has never been auctioned before means it will have tremendous appeal to collectors.

"It's never been on the market before, and with the classic car scene it's very important to see something new," he said. "There's going to be some serious action tonight."

He said it is likely the car will end up on public display, perhaps as the centerpiece of an upscale office complex in a city like Los Angeles or Moscow.

Bond's creator, newspaperman and novelist Ian Fleming, had originally placed Bond in a Bentley, which was his own personal car of choice. But the filmmakers put him in the Aston Martin, which then competed mainly with the Jaguar E-type for the lucrative British and American sports car market.

Aston Martin was seen as a heady mix of Italian design and British engineering.

The silver Aston Martin DB5 coupe up for auction was used by Connery to elude various villains in both "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball" - generally regarded as early classics in Hollywood's longest running and most successful film franchise.

It is closely associated with the Connery-era Bond films, which are often preferred by aficionados, who rate him above George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and the current 007, Daniel Craig.

The use of the Aston Martin, with a rear bulletproof shield that could be activated with the push of a dashboard button, provided a major boost for the British carmaker, which received worldwide publicity when the car was featured in "Goldfinger" in 1964.

It was the Bond movies that made Aston Martin a household name, even though its handmade cars remained far too expensive for most.

The street version of the Aston Martin DB5 was released in 1963 and had a top speed of 145 miles (233 kilometers) per hour.

The car being auctioned by RM Auctions Automobiles of London is one of two Aston Martins factory-modified for use in the early Bond films, and it is the only surviving example.

The car, which contains an early version of the modern-day navigation system, is described as being in excellent condition. The other 007-modified Aston Martin was reported stolen in 1997 and has never been recovered. Many believe it has been destroyed.

Even though the price tag will be staggering, the buyer Wednesday will get a few perks: A signed photograph of Connery standing with the Aston Martin on location in Switzerland during the filming of "Goldfinger," and several other bits of film memorabilia.

View photos

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 sold for £2.6m

BBC News
October 27, 2010

An American car enthusiast has paid £2.6m to buy James Bond's most famous car - and then vowed to take it for a spin around the streets of London.

The 1964 Aston Martin DB5, which boasts revolving licence plates, ejector seat and bullet-proof shield, featured in the films Goldfinger and Thunderball.

The silver model is still capable of 145mph and 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds.

It was bought at a London auction by collector Harry Yeaggy, who will display it at a car museum in Ohio.

It was previously owned by a US broadcasting boss who paid $12,000 in 1969.


After his winning bid was accepted, Mr Yeaggy revealed that it has been "a last-minute decision" to fly into London for the auction and that he had spent a little more than he had planned.

He explained: "I thought a European would buy it. But I guess they didn't appreciate Bond as much as we do."

New owner, Harry Yeaggy, says he will take the car for a spin in London before it goes to a private US museum

And having paid out such a sum, he said he was determined to get his money's worth: "We're going to fire the car up and drive it around the streets of London tonight. We're going to have a bit of fun with it."

The car is said to be in excellent condition and, as well as its other spy accessories, contains an early version of the modern-day satellite navigation system.

It is the only surviving example of two Aston Martins used in the early Bond films, after the other was reported stolen in 1997.

Bond's creator Ian Fleming had originally envisaged his British spy in a Bentley, but the Aston Martin was preferred by film-makers for its enthralling combination of Italian design and British engineering, analysts say.

A less sophisticated version of the car was released in the UK in 1963. It had a top speed of 145 mph (233 km/h).

The proceeds of the sale will go to previous owner Jerry Lee's charitable foundation supporting education and anti-crime projects internationally.

Photo: Bond's gadget-packed DB5 is the only surviving example used in the spy films

Giant Lane-Straddling Bus Set to Take Over Urban Roads

Fox News
October 28, 2010

People are calling it a straddling bus, but tiptoe train is more accurate.

The hovering people-mover is being developed by Song Youzhou, chief executive of Chinese design firm Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment, who hopes to bring the behemoth to the streets of Beijing next year, and has his eyes set on the American market.

Essentially a large trolley with eight feet of ground clearance that runs on rails separated by two lanes of traffic, the vehicle is designed to travel between elevated stations while cars and trucks drive under it as if it was a moving tunnel. Sensors and alarms located within the passageway will warn drivers if they are getting to close to its support structures, which the company says can withstand impacts at the speeds the vehicle will travel at, up to 50 mph. In the event of a disaster, it is equipped with airplane-type inflatable slides if passengers need to be evacuated quickly.

Cheaper to build than a subway or standard elevated train, the company's website says that the infrastructure needed for it can be constructed at a rate of 24 miles per year. The futuristic craft is envisioned to run on electricity, generated in part by roof mounted solar cells, and can be configured to carry up to 1,400 people.

Song has established a company called U.S. Elevated High-Speed Bus to find local manufacturing partners and pitch the transportation solution to cities across the United States. Company spokesman Mark Shieh tells that "an ideal partner for us would be a RV, motor home, aircraft, train or bus manufacturer with production facilities in the U.S. who is looking to diversify.

If it comes to fruition, it certainly would be different.

X-ray Vans: Security Measure, or Invasion of Privacy?

Photo from October 13, 2010: The Z Backscatter Van uses detects contraband like explosives, drugs or people in hiding with an X-Ray mechanism that has no need for a detector on the far side of an object, allowing it to be extremely mobile, versatile and built into a commercially available van.

By Diane Macedo
Fox News
October 22, 2010

Privacy advocates worried about x-ray scanners making their way around U.S. airports may be surprised to know the technology is also making its way onto America's streets.

The Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. military and even local law enforcement agencies are buying and deploying mobile X-ray vans that can see into the interior of vehicles around them.

The Z Backscatter Van (ZBV), manufactured by American Science and Engineering (AS&E), can be used to detect contraband such as car bombs, drugs and people in hiding.

But the vans, which can also see through clothing and into some buildings, are raising privacy concerns as well as questions about health risks -- and what might happen if the technology gets into the wrong hands. was given a rare ride-along in a ZBV at a U.S. seaport in Elizabeth, N.J.

Like airport scanners, the ZBVs use Z Backscatter technology to detect materials that contain low atomic numbers. This allows them to detect organic matter that doesn't show up well in traditional X-ray images -- including explosives and plastic weapons – in addition to metal and other materials.

The technology also works in such a way that the X-Ray mechanism has no need for a detector on the far side of an object, allowing it to be extremely mobile, versatile and capable of being into a commercially available van.

Once equipped, the van -- which looks like a standard delivery van -- takes less than 15 seconds to scan a vehicle; it can be operated remotely from more than 1,500 feet and can be equipped with optional technology to identify radioactivity as well.

The Z Backscatter vans range in cost from $729,000 to $825,000. The DHS says they have been a huge asset at the nation's ports and borders, and at major crowd events like the Super bowl.

"Using the ZBV vans over the past couple of years, we've gotten over a thousand seizures and 89,000 pounds worth of narcotics, approximately $4 million worth of currency, and we've also uncovered 10 or 11 undeclared aliens within vehicles," said Patrick Simmons, Director of Non-Intrusive Inspection at Customs and Border Protection. "Again, we don't purposely scan for people, but if they're in there hiding, the ZBV will be able to spot them."

But according to the AS&E website, ZBVs also can peer through clothing and into "lightly constructed" buildings, raising serious concerns among privacy advocates.

"A van that can drive down the street and look through people's clothes, look into vehicles and even peer into your home? I think that's an invasion of privacy and not what we should be doing," Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz told

AS&E says the system's primary purpose is to screen vehicles and containers for contraband and security threats, and it doesn't violate a person's privacy in the rare event an individual is scanned.

"If a person, such as an illegal stowaway, is present in the vehicle or container being scanned, the system creates only a silhouette with no facial or body detail," the website says. "The system cannot be used to identify an individual, or the race or age of the person."

But Chaffetz, who is working on legislation aimed at limiting the use of the backscatter body scanners in airports, says the vans need restrictions.

"There's an appropriate use for these machines -- at ports for instance, coming across the border and inspecting vehicles, hostage situations. But the company that develops these vans says they've sold more than 500 of these roving vans and I don't know who's purchased them," he said. "I think we need to know."

But it's hard to know exactly who owns ZBVs, because AS&E has never fully disclosed its buyers.

"Due to the highly sensitive nature of the markets that our products serve, AS&E respects the individual requests of our customers to be confidential," the company says on its website.

In a June 2009 press release the company said it sold 400 ZBVs to 85 customers in 46 countries. The company has since raised that number to 500, saying some of those purchases are now going to local U.S. law enforcement agencies.

A search of the site and additional company press releases showed that its clients include:

- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. Transportation Security Administration
- U.S. Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
- U.S. Department of Defense, including U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marines
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- Royal Thai Police
- HM Customs & Excise (U.K.)
- New Zealand Customs Service
- Hong Kong Customs
- Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority
- National Customs Agency of Bulgaria

Other releases are more vague, however, identifying the purchasers only as "the U.S government," a "Latin American customs agency," an "international government agency," "U.S. law enforcement officials," a "South American government," a "Middle Eastern country," a "Middle Eastern government," a "Middle East government agency," a "Middle East law enforcement agency," a "South American law enforcement agency," a "new African customer," a "European Union (EU) and an Asia Pacific (APAC) client," and a "Middle Eastern customer."

That ambiguity has Chaffetz worried.

"In a hostage situation you want to be able to peer into the house, I buy that," Chaffetz said. "But in the hands of a private individual? That scares the living daylights out of me.

"It was cute when Superman had these powers, but now that it's reality we need to think through how we're going to do this. I don't want a stranger peering through the walls of my home watching my kids."

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU, says knowing the vans are being used on the streets, even by local law enforcement agencies, is troublesome.

"We don't know who all those agencies are or what they're using them for," he said. "…This technology has the potential to be a tremendous invasion of people's privacy." asked police departments in the Department of Homeland Security's five highest-ranked terror risk areas -- New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago -- if they use ZBVs. The New York Police Department confirmed it does but wouldn't say how.

"Yes, we do utilize this technology; however, we're unable to divulge any specifics of the use due to confidentiality concerns," Det. Cheryl Crispin of the NYPD told

San Francisco PD said they do not use the vans. The other departments did not respond.

Constitution Attorney Noel Francisco says most, if not all, state privacy laws would prohibit individuals or private companies from abusing the vans, while the Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement agencies from doing the same.

"If you take this thing and point it at somebody's house or point it at somebody's car, you're engaging in a search of that individual," Francisco said. "You can't do that without a warrant or probable cause."

But since it's virtually impossible to detect a ZBV search, Francisco said the law would be harder to enforce, raising the need for more guidelines.

"It's certainly very useful for certain types of things, like anti-terror detection, but we may want to put into place some kind of guidelines on where and when they can use that. Much like wiretapping," he said.

Another issue with the machines is their potential health hazards.

"So long as a person is somewhere away, like tens of feet, the dose isn't that high, it's very, very low indeed," Arizona State University Professor Peter Rez, an expert in radiation physics, told But if a person were to walk next to the van while it was scanning, Rez said, "Then I would start getting worried."

AS&E says the system is safe for operators and subjects, and that "one scan of the ZBV is equivalent to flying in an airplane at altitude for two minutes."

Rez says the levels would be fine in most cases, but in certain circumstances they could pose a small risk.

"Let's assume a pregnant woman pushing a stroller slowly walks by this van and is quite close to the side of the van, maybe within one to two feet. This woman and her baby could receive a few micro Sv, still not a high number but more than the NS 43.17 standard allows," he told

Kevin McCabe, Chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Antiterrorism Contraband Enforcement Team, says DHS takes all the proper precautions when it comes to safety.

"When we utilize these machines we actually have people deployed around our perimeter to ensure that no one is radiated inadvertently… and my general understanding is even if you were exposed to a dosage from one of these machines, it would be equivalent to a chest x-ray or less," McCabe told

Simmons adds that given the limited image the ZBVs show of a person, the only reason to scan someone would be to detect contraband, and given the limited image it would show of a home, there's little use for them outside their intended security purposes.

"You'd have to be inches away from the house, you'd be better off just looking into the window," Simmons said. "And, again, a house has a pretty thick foundation. If it was brick or something like that I'm not sure the ZBV's even powerful enough to get through that."

Rez says one of his students reported using a ZBV at the U.N. while he was serving in the military.

"It was a secondary screening mechanism for trucks going into a loading dock, but it was on a public street and they were just scanning people and nobody was being told this was going on," Rez told "That kind of shocked me. …I think they're being used in a more widespread manner than people would have one believe."

Regardless of whether regulations are passed in relation to the vans, McCabe says the benefits far outweigh the risks.

"If local law enforcement had intelligence information that something was going to happen, there was going to be some sort of an attack and they have identified an area… it would be very useful to know where a problem might be before it happens," he said.

American Science and Engineering - Z Backscatter Van

Military orders less dependence on fossil fuels

Photo: Oil tankers that were set on fire in Pakistan. The convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters.

By Elisabeth Rosenthal
The New York Times and MSNBC
October 05, 2010

With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.

The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters — in the latest attack, oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early Monday. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.

Fossil fuel accounts for 30 to 80 percent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as risk. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

“We had a couple of tenuous supply lines across Pakistan that are costing us a heck of a lot, and they’re very dangerous,” said Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Col. Robert Charette Jr., director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that Company I’s equipment would prove reliable and durable enough for military use, and that other Marine companies would be adopting renewable technology in the coming months, although there would probably always be a need to import fuel for some purposes.

While setting national energy policy requires Congressional debates, military leaders can simply order the adoption of renewable energy. And the military has the buying power to create products and markets. That, in turn, may make renewable energy more practical and affordable for everyday uses, experts say.

Last year, the Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, a Wasp class amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island, which at speeds under 10 knots runs on electricity rather than on fossil fuel, a shift resulting in greater efficiency that saved 900,000 gallons of fuel on its maiden voyage from Mississippi to San Diego, compared with a conventional ship its size, the Navy said.

The Air Force will have its entire fleet certified to fly on biofuels by 2011 and has already flown test flights using a 50-50 mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel; the Navy took its first delivery of fuel made from algae this summer. Biofuels can in theory be produced wherever the raw materials, like plants, are available, and could ultimately be made near battlefields.

Concerns about the military’s dependence on fossil fuels in far-flung battlefields began in 2006 in Iraq, where Richard Zilmer, then a major general and the top American commander in western Iraq, sent an urgent cable to Washington suggesting that renewable technology could prevent loss of life. That request catalyzed new research, but the pressure for immediate results magnified as the military shifted its focus to Afghanistan, a country with little available native fossil fuel and scarce electricity outside cities.

Fuel destined for American troops in landlocked Afghanistan is shipped to Karachi, Pakistan, where it is loaded on convoys of 50 to 70 vehicles for transport to central bases. Smaller convoys branch out to the forward lines. The Marines’ new goal is to make the more peripheral sites sustain themselves with the kind of renewable technology carried by Company I, since solar electricity can be generated right on the battlefield.

There are similar tactical advantages to using renewable fuel for planes and building hybrid ships. “Every time you cut a ship away from the need to visit an oiler — a fuel supply ship — you create an advantage,” said Mr. Mabus, noting that the Navy had pioneered previous energy transformations in the United States, from sail power to coal power in the 19th century, as well as from coal to oil and oil to nuclear power in the 20th century.

The cost calculation is also favorable. The renewable technology that will power Company I costs about $50,000 to $70,000; a single diesel generator costs several thousand dollars. But when it costs hundreds of dollars to get each gallon of traditional fuel to base camps in Afghanistan, the investment is quickly defrayed.

This spring, the military invited commercial manufacturers to demonstrate products that might be useful on the battlefield. A small number were selected for further testing. The goal was to see, for example, if cooling systems could handle the 120 degree temperatures often seen in current war zones or if embedded solar panels would make tents more visible to enemy radar.

This summer, renewable technologies proved capable of powering computers, residences and most equipment for more than a week at a test base in the Mojave Desert — though not enough to operate the most sophisticated surveillance systems.

Much more is in the testing stages: one experimental cooling system uses a pipe burrowed into the cool earth eight feet underground that vents into tents; a solar fan on the tent roof evacuates the hot air and draws cool air from underground. The Marines are exploring solar-powered water purification systems and looking into the possibility of building a small-scale, truck-based biofuel plant that could transform local crops — like illegal poppies — into fuel.

“If the Navy comes knocking, they will build it,” Mr. Mabus said. “The price will come down and the infrastructure will be created.”

This article, " U.S. military orders less dependence on fossil fuels," first appeared in The New York Times.

BMW Turbocharged Police Cars

BMW has struck a deal with Carbon Motors to supply turbocharged diesel engines for the company's new patrol cars.

Dale Jewett
AutoWeek and MSN Autos
April 17, 2010

BMW has agreed to supply turbocharged diesel engines to Carbon Motors Corp. to power Carbon's purpose-built police cars.

In a deal signed on Monday, Carbon ordered more than 240,000 units of BMW's 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel — the same engine used in the X5. In the X5, the diesel is rated at 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque.

The deal calls for BMW to deliver the diesel engines complete with a cooling system, exhaust gas recirculation and an automatic transmission.

Carbon is developing the E7, a purpose-built patrol car that will be sold only to police agencies. The E7 is expected to launch in 2012, and the company says it currently has 12,500 reservations for cars. The company is based in Connersville, Ind., where it plans to build cars in a former Visteon plant.

According to the Carbon Web site, the E7 will use an aluminum spaceframe structure, will be built to survive a 75-mph rear impact and designed to last for 250,000 miles. It lists the performance targets at 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, a top speed of more than 150 mph and combined city/highway fuel economy of 28 to 30 mpg, which is where the BMW diesel comes in.

Photo: Carbon Motors is shopping its E7 police car prototype to law enforcement agencies. It signed a deal to buy diesel engines from BMW.

Tests of Army dirigibles to use drones, missiles

Proving the capability of high-tech military balloons will require buzzing drones, jets and an occasional unarmed surface-to-air missile.

Mike Stark
Associated Press and Seattle Times
April 30, 2010

Salt Lake City, Utah - Proving the capability of high-tech military balloons will require buzzing drones, jets and an occasional unarmed surface-to-air missile.

Most of the tests will be conducted in military air space above the Snake Valley in Utah during the next several years. Some test flights are scheduled over the northern part of Great Salt Lake.

The military held a series of public meetings this week about the project.

The work is an effort to prove the abilities of unmanned radar-bearing dirigibles - known as aerostats - to give field commanders a bird's-eye view of cruise missiles and other threats.

Balloons have been used for military surveillance in the U.S. at least since the Civil War. Today's version uses the same basic concept - tethered balloons flown high to provide intelligence to troops on the ground - but with a few high-tech additions.

From more than a mile above the ground, radar-equipped aerostats will provide sweeping 360-degree views of the landscape for more than 100 miles.

The information will be fed to a ground station and quickly integrated into battlefield decisions, the military said.

"It's a great mix of old and new technologies," said Lt. Col. Steve Willhelm, manager of the program known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.

The aerostats, which are 242 feet long, were flight-tested in North Carolina last year but limited to a height of 3,000 feet.

The program moves to western Utah where Dugway Proving Ground and the Utah Test and Training Range provide nearly 4,000 square miles of remote, sparsely populated landscape. There's also restricted military airspace up to 58,000 feet.

The military plans to fly the helium-filled airships up to 10,000 feet above the ground.

The first Utah flight was conducted earlier this month about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The more intensive tests will get under way in March 2011 and last through the end of 2013.

To test the radar capabilities, the military plans to fly up to 50 drone missions as well as tow targets behind jets.

The military plans up to six live-fire intercepts of drones over Snake Valley.

It said ground-fired missiles won't have warheads, and the drones will break up upon contact and fall to the ground. The exercises will be done at Dugway in an area already used for training operations, the military said.

"We're not going to be do anything that's unsafe out there," Willhelm said.

The dirigibles are tethered to processing stations on the ground, with each aircraft capable of staying aloft for a month.

Officials said the aerostats will be less expensive to maintain and operate than conventional aircraft-based radar while providing battlefield commanders a comprehensive aerial view of threats.

They'll be particularly important for picking up cruise missiles, which fly low and slow, Willhelm said.

Raytheon Co., based in Waltham, Mass., was awarded the development contract for the system.

The military's environmental review of the Snake Valley tests predicts only negligible impacts on wildlife, air quality and other natural resources. A similar review for operations above Great Salt Lake has not been completed.

Batmobile Inspires Real-World Tank Design

Photo by BAE Systems: An experimental tank design from BAE Systems may remind you of the latest Batman movies -- because its designers were inspired by the caped crusader.

Fox News
December 27, 2010

Fighting crime may just get easier, thanks to comic books.

In the movies, Batman fights crime with a collection of great gadgets. And one military supply company was recently inspired by those fantastical, comic-book ideas to create some real-world vehicles.

According to technology blog The Engineer, project leader Hisham Awad, who heads BAE System's future protected vehicles group, liked a fighting tank the Caped Crusader drives in the latest Batman movies so much that his group used it into one of its latest concepts.

"Yes, we liked the look of that, so we designed something similar," Awad told a group of journalists as he presented a series of seven new conceptual vehicles intended to boost the effectiveness of lightweight armored vehicles.

"In all seriousness, we decided that we didn’t have a monopoly on inspiration, and if we saw something in a film that we thought might be a good idea, why not take a look at it and see if there’s something practical we can develop?" Awad said.

The BAE Systems team made a point of gathering ideas from as wide a spectrum as possible, the company said, starting a series of panels to identify ideas for further study in a manner similar to a British TV series, and calling on students in a British school to participate in design classes to stimulate interest in engineering as a career.

Futuristic ideas the group deemed worthy of further exploration are as bizarre as the Batman tank: The group described, for example, "sweating" vehicles that could use water from a diesel or fuel cell propulsion system to reduce their thermal signature (by "sweating" it out through pores in the vehicle's skin). That same water could also be reclaimed to enable soldiers to stay in the field for longer, the group said.

Another concept: eCamouflage that could allow a vehicle to match its camouflage to its surroundings by using electronic ink, rather like a squid. And integrated biometrics that could ease the workload on soldiers in complex crowd situation such as roadblocks and riots by running video surveillance through facial recognition and behavior modelling software to spot potential troublemakers.

In addition to the Batman-inspired vehicle, the future protected vehicles group introduced six other concepts. The seven concept vehicles unveiled are:

  *   Pointer: an agile robot which can take over dirty, dull or dangerous jobs, such as forward observation to support the dismounted soldier;

  *   Bearer: a modular platform useful for protecting troops, air defense and as an ambulance;

  *   Wraith: a hard to detect scout vehicle;

  *   Safeguard: an infantry carrier or command and control center;

  *   Charger: a highly lethal and reconfigurable attack vehicle;

  *   Raider: a remotely or autonomously controlled unmanned reconnaissance and skirmishing platform; and

  *   Atlas: a convoy system that removes the driver from harm's way.

Read more at the Engineer.

Electric sportscar completes Alaska-Argentina trip

By Michael Warren
Associated Press and KOMO 4 TV Seattle
November 16, 2010

Photo: Alexander Schey and Toby Schulz, of the British eco-adventure Racing Green Endurance (RGE) team, drive the SRZero electric sports car as they arrive to Ushuaia, Argentina, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010. The SRZero became the first electric car to travel from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay to the world's southernmost city of Ushuaia. (AP Photo/Alejandro Madril)

Buenos Aires, Argentina - An electric sportscar finished a remarkable road trip Tuesday on the Panamerican Highway, traveling from near the Arctic Circle in Alaska to the world's southernmost city without a single blast of carbon dioxide emissions.

Developed by engineers from Imperial College London, the SRZero sportscar ran on lithium iron phosphate batteries powering two electric motors with a peak output of 400 horsepower during its 16,000-mile (26,000-kilometer) journey. (View photos >>>)

Powering up was a joy at times, the team said - such as in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, where they started their trip July 3 after charging the batteries using geothermal energy.

"The SRZero was literally being charged from energy taken straight out of the earth with absolutely zero CO2 emissions," Alex Schey, a mechanical engineer who organized the trip, wrote in his blog that day.

Finding places to plug in along the way became a major challenge as the team passed through 14 countries in 70 days of driving.

But every time the driver hit the brakes - and there was plenty of that as the team made its way through the Rocky Mountains, Mexico and Central America and then through South America - the car recovered kinetic energy, extending its capacity to drive as much as six hours and more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) on a single charge.

This was no clunky science project - all that horsepower enabled the car to reach 60 mph (96 kph) in just seven seconds and reach top controlled speeds of 124 mph (200 kph), the team said.

It pulled into the city of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, on Tuesday afternoon.

"WE HAVE MADE IT - WE ARE IN USHUAIA!!!!!!! so many emotions, so many people to thank. It has been two absolutely incredible years. ...," the team tweeted, posting a picture of the car outside the local customs office.

"The success of efforts like this should motivate us to follow this road that we believe is as possible as it is necessary: that of searching for progress for our societies without putting at risk the environment," the governor of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province, Fabiana Ros, said as she greeted the team.

Andy Hadland, the team's spokesman, said he hopes the trip will change the image of electric cars and inspire young people to become engineers and develop their own projects.

View photos

Former Oil Exec Predicts $5-a-Gallon Gas by 2012, Energy Shortages by Decade's End

Fox News
December 27, 2010

Photo: In this Nov. 23 photo, gas prices are displayed at a Chevron gas station in San Francisco.

Regular $3.55 9/10
Plus $3.59 9/10
Supreme $3.65 9/10

The former president of Shell oil is predicting that the United States will face 1970s-style energy shortages and rationing by the end of the decade, accusing the federal government of turning its back on the country's domestic oil supply.

The dire prediction comes as energy analysts toss out a string of frightening predictions about the rising price of oil in the short term. Oil has topped $90 a barrel, and JP Morgan Chase & Co. earlier this month predicted oil could hit $120 a barrel by the end of 2012. At the same time, the national average gasoline price is about $3 a gallon for the holiday season

But former Shell executive John Hofmeister offered a more aggressive estimate, saying Americans could be paying $5 a gallon in two years. And he predicted that sometime between 2018 and 2020, supply and demand will become so out of balance that gas stations in several regions of the country will simply start to run out.

"I think it's going to be a cumulative problem that won't happen suddenly," Hofmeister, who now heads Citizens for Affordable Energy, told He predicted the problem would start with "stockouts" at select gas stations during the summer and during bad weather and then spread. He said those states farthest from refineries would get hit the worst and that in order to maintain some consistency, local and state governments might resort to the kind of rationing they employed in the early '70s -- when drivers with even-numbered license plates would buy gas on even days, and vice-versa.

With this kind of possibility on the horizon, Hofmeister, who earlier aired his concerns in an interview with Platts Energy Week, criticized the administration for cracking down on domestic oil drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is pure politics that keeps us from drilling more of our own resources," he said.

The Interior Department announced earlier this month that it would not pursue any new drilling off the East Coast or in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years. Planned lease sales would be pushed off until late 2011 or early 2012.

"As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill we learned a number of lessons, most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a written statement at the time, calling the new plan a "careful, responsible path."

The April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and opened up a leak that gushed oil into the Gulf for months. The decision to tighten Gulf drilling regulations was cheered by environmental groups. The Sierra Club said the BP disaster showed how "dirty, deadly and dangerous offshore drilling is," applauding the administration for heeding those lessons -- the group praised the administration for moving to support alternative-energy investment like wind power.

While clamping down on domestic energy production, the Obama administration has invested billions in renewable energy sources via last year's stimulus bill and has pushed improved energy efficiency for a range of products in a bid to at least keep demand a bit lower in the long term. New emissions standards for cars and trucks will soon mandate an average fuel economy of just over 35 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2016.

In addition, the Interior Department is continuing to honor leases for oil drilling in the Arctic.

But government-fueled investment in alternative-energy research takes time, while other options, like nuclear energy, are slow and costly to get off the ground. Hofmeister, noting that domestic oil production has dropped from 10 million barrels a day just a few decades ago to about 5 million a day, said the United States could address its short- and medium-term energy needs by expanding drilling at existing sites and exploring new sites. He said that could help bridge the gap toward ultimately implementing alternative energy sources on a wide scale, as well as improving mass transit.

Oil industry organizations joined together this month in predicting the new regulations on domestic oil production would hurt the economy and increase dependence on foreign oil. The president of the American Petroleum Institute plans to deliver a speech next week in Washington, D.C., on how domestic oil and natural gas production can help stabilize the country.

Oil and gas magnate T. Boone Pickens is likewise pushing for U.S. production of both those energy sources in his high-profile campaign to pry the country off foreign oil. But that's just one component. His Pickens Plan organization argues that while the U.S. needs every ounce of domestic energy it can muster, there's not enough oil in all the potential U.S. deposits combined to make up for the 12 million barrels the United States imports every day.

State official wants to make jet fuel from wood waste

By Gary Chittim, KING 5 TV News Environment Specialist
January 13, 2011

Olympia, Washington State - In every stump, branch and bough left over after a timber harvest on Washington State Forest lands, there is stored energy. The residue left behind from the million processes of that timber goes through also contains caged energy.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says it's time to unleash the power of forest biomass to make jet fuel.

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark proposed legislation this week to begin a DNR pilot program to gather, process and convert timber harvest leftovers on state lands into jet fuel for Boeing and other aerospace companies.
“Aviation biofuel is a product that can provide a renewable, locally grown energy source combining Washington’s forestry heritage and our technology future,” said Goldmark. “The Forest Biomass Initiative has a unique opportunity to help new, efficient technologies get to the marketplace in a pragmatic and sustainable way. Finding a higher use for residual forest biomass will help maintain our working lands that provide so many other benefits to the public, like habitat and clean water.”
Scientists have already tapped the energy in plants and algae to make biofuels, Boeing has already successfully test flown jets fueled by those products.

The next step is to see if mass production of the bio-jet fuel from timber slash is an effective concept.

Next Issue Release Date: February 2011