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By Chloe Diggins and Clint Arizmendi
December 14, 2012 “Wired” — It’s been fashionable in military circles to talk about cyberspace as a “fifth domain” for warfare, along with land, space, air and sea. But there’s a sixth and arguably more important warfighting domain emerging: the human brain.
This new battlespace is not just about influencing hearts and minds with people seeking information. It’s aboutinvoluntarily penetrating, shaping, and coercing the mind in the ultimate realization of Clausewitz’s definition of war: compelling an adversary to submit to one’s will. And the most powerful tool in this war is brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies, which connect the human brain to devices.
Current BCI work ranges from researchers compiling and interfacing neural data such as in the Human Conectome Projectto work by scientists hardening the human brain against rubber hose cryptanalysis to technologists connecting the brain to robotic systems. While these groups are streamlining the BCI for either security or humanitarian purposes, the reality is that misapplication of such research and technology has significant implications for the future of warfare.
Where BCIs can provide opportunities for injured or disabled soldiers to remain on active duty post-injury, enable paralyzed individuals to use their brain to type, or allow amputees to feel using bionic limbs, they can also be exploited ifhacked. BCIs can be used to manipulate … or kill.
Recently, security expert Barnaby Jack demonstrated the vulnerability of biotechnological systems by highlighting how easily pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) could be hacked, raising fears about the susceptibility of even life-saving biotechnological implants. This vulnerability could easily be extended to biotechnologies that connect directly to the brain, such as vagus nerve stimulation or deep-brain stimulation.
Outside the body, recent experiments have proven that the brain can control and maneuver quadcopter drones and metal exoskeletons. How long before we harness the power of mind-controlled weaponized drones – or use BCIs to enhance the power, efficiency, and sheer lethality of our soldiers?
Given that military research arms such as the United States’ DARPA are investing in understanding complex neural processes and enhanced threat detection through BCI scan for P300 responses, it seems the marriage between neuroscience and military systems will fundamentally alter the future of conflict.
And it is here that military researchers need to harden the systems that enable military application of BCIs. We need to prevent BCIs from being disrupted or manipulated, and safeguard against the ability of the enemy to hack an individual’s brain.
The possibilities for damage, destruction, and chaos are very real. This could include manipulating a soldier’s BCI during conflict so that s/he were forced to pull the gun trigger on friendlies, install malicious code in his own secure computer system, call in inaccurate coordinates for an air strike, or divulge state secrets to the enemy seemingly voluntarily. Whether an insider has fallen victim to BCI hacking and exploits a system from within, or an external threat is compelled to initiate a physical attack on hard and soft targets, the results would present major complications: in attribution, effectiveness of kinetic operations, and stability of geopolitical relations.
Like every other domain of warfare, the mind as the sixth domain is neither isolated nor removed from other domains; coordinated attacks across all domains will continue to be the norm. It’s just that military and defense thinkers now need to account for the subtleties of the human mind … and our increasing reliance upon the brain-computer interface.
Regardless of how it will look, though, the threat is real and not as far away as we would like – especially now that researchers just discovered a zero-day vulnerability in the brain.
Chloe Diggins and Clint Arizmendi are research & analysis officers at the Australian army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre. The views expressed are their own and do not reflect those of the Australian Department of Defence or the Australian Government.
This article was originally posted at Wired
Wired.com © 2012 Condé Nast
As it turns out, walking on water is not that difficult. The success of this undertaking depends on how much corn flour starch you have. If you have enough of this substance, you can easily impress your friends with a simple but a very effective trick that can be a highlight of any pool party.
Strictly speaking, it was a pool party that started it all. A video posted on YouTube showed people walking on water in a pool. Nevertheless, scientists from the University of Chicago unraveled the trick at once. They paid attention to the fact that the people walking on the pool were moving in a strange way. They were not actually walking – they were moving in small jumps, as if they were trying to hit the water surface with their feet.
A closer look at the video also revealed that the water itself was acting strangely too. The water was like a trampoline, tossing the people up after every jump. This led researchers to suggest that the “magicians” somehow turned the water surface in the so-called non-Newtonian fluid.
The non-Newtonian fluid is a suspension that includes large particles (common dirt is an example). Due to the presence of large particles, the fluid may exhibit unusual properties and behave like an elastic solid body, for example. This is exactly what happened to the water surface in the video.
The researchers conducted a simple experiment. They added a certain amount of cornstarch in a bowl of water. After the paste evenly distributed over the surface, they hit the surface several times with a metal rod. The effect was strange, but quite predictable: the suspension was actively pushing the rod away. Afterwards, the scientists lowered their hands in the solution several times. In this case, the human hand was passing through the surface – it was drowning. “If you tried to hit the suspension, you could simply break your wrist,” Scott Waitukaitis, a physicist with the University of Chicago said.
Once the hypothesis was confirmed, the researchers decided to find out why the suspension of water and cornstarch behaves this way and not another. To do this, they repeated the experiment, but used X-rays to analyze the structure of the solution.
It turned out that an impact on the water surface causes the particles of starch suspended in the liquid come together very quickly. The phenomenon occurs because of the influence of tension forces. This process is very similar to the formation of a snowdrift in front of a to snowplow. The сondensation that occurs on the water surface is so strong that can repel objects with the force of stiletto heels pressing on the asphalt.
When the impact on the suspension is soft and smooth, the particles simply do not have time to quickly stick together to create condensation. This is the reason why the hand passes through the surface.
Based on the X-ray analysis, the researchers designed a computer model of the process, which showed: the sharper the attack on the surface of the suspension, the harder it will push away “the offender”. In other words, a safe walk on the surface of the mixture of water and cornstarch will not work even on high heels, but a skipping run is quite possible.
The researchers say the discovery of the mechanism of behavior of starch and water may help engineers create “liquid” body armor. It should be a suspension consisting of liquid and poly-parafenilen terephthalamide (better known under the name Kevlar). The properties of this vest will make it superior to all modern body armor – it will be several times stronger and lighter.
At the same time physicists say that experiments with Kevlar suspensions may not be successful. After all, the properties that can be observed in some solutions may not appear at all in the other suspensions, especially when it comes to non-Newtonian fluids, the properties of which are unique. For example, no one knows why cornstarch begins to thicken as a result of an impact, but the suspension of peat in swamps, or ketchup, on the contrary, resolve.