The hi-tech prison in Lelystad (The Netherlands) opens, and locks, its doors to low-risk inmates this week.

In the 150-capacity prison, inmates wear electronic bracelets and are divided into cells of six - where they eat, sleep and do their own washing and cooking. The tags and touch-screen computers at the end of their beds allow them to organise their own daily schedules - with a choice of sports, recreation, personal development, education and outdoor activities.


The tag sends a signal every two seconds, so if a prisoner is not where he should be, an alarm will sound and he will lose out on credits for good behaviour. These can be used towards privileges such as extra phone calls, visiting time or the chance to swap cells.

Camera surveillance in the prison is only in public spaces. However, cells are equipped with microphones that relay information to the prison’s control centre for analysis by emotion recognition software. The software uses a combination of sound volume and rhythm to alert guards when a violent confrontation between inmates may be taking place.

"If they are watching a football match and there is a goal and they are shouting, it will not react," says Justice ministry spokesman Hans Janssens. "But if there is an intense discussion or fight, or aggressive screaming, the system will detect this."

Via BBC News. Image.

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Germany's first gated community is ready and desperately waiting for the well-off to move in. Located in Potsdam close to Berlin, the project insinuatingly called Arcadia, which was heavily fought over in the past has a lot to offer. A crew of "doormen" and your personal mobile screen ensures that the marauding hordes of Berlin-Kreuzberg will be kept at bay: "doormen and gardeners describe how service is professionally lived and creates a peaceful atmosphere that wouldn't be possible on the other side of the fence".

Related: Kendell Geers' Suburbia at Documenta XI.

Via Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Scientists at a Georgia laboratory have developed trained wasps that could check for hidden explosives at airports and monitor for toxins in subway tunnels.

Joe Lewis and others at the University of Georgia developed a handheld Wasp Hound to contain the wasps while they sniff out chemicals and other substances.

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Scientists started working with a type of parasitic wasp called Microplitis croceipes, decades ago.

Biological engineer Glen Rains says the wasps can be trained --with sugar water by using the Pavlov's conditioning techniques-- to detect fungal diseases on crops while the damage is still below ground. This method would help farmers avoid having to spread toxic fungicide over an entire crop after the disease spreads.

The wasps may also be trained for medical uses, including detecting cancer or ulcers by smelling someone's breath. They probably can also be trained like dogs to find bodies buried in rubble.

Five wasps are placed in a plastic cylinder that is 15 inches tall. This Wasp Hound has a vent in one end and a camera that connects to a laptop computer. When the wasps pick up an odor they've been trained to detect they gather by the vent — a response that can be measured by the computer or actually seen by observers.

The scientists say their device is ready for pilot tests and could be available for commercial use in five to 10 years.

Via las insolitas aventuras del pez < USA Today.

General Electric merged computer and scanning technologies into a remotely-monitored system that promises to get airport passengers through an automated checkpoint in 20 seconds.

"In our vision for the checkpoint of the future, no one will have to take shoes or coats off, or take anything out of pockets or take laptops out of bags," said Steve Hill from GE Security.

First travellers would press a finger to an explosive-sensing touch pad while checking baggage or getting a ticket.


CAT scan devices would replace X-ray technology to scan carry on bags. Passengers would then step through a transparent "wave portal" capable of detecting "threat anomalies" such as weapons or bombs. Passengers would then step on a scanner that detects dangerous chemicals or other hazards.

The checkpoint was put together to test at San Francisco International during the past few weeks by GE technicians.

Via PhysOrg.

BlastWrap is a blast-dampening material made out of volcanic glass and sealed in food-packaging plastic. The material already lines the insides of 192 trash cans in the Washington Metro system.


The cans can withstand the explosive force of more than 12 pounds of high explosives without coming apart.

BlastWrap is filled with grains of perlite, a volcanic mineral much like pumice. When perlite is heated, water trapped in the grains makes them expand, "popping" them like popcorn. When crushed, expanded perlite yields a bit but still stands up to more crushing.

The other component of BlastWrap is a flash-suppressing substance like boric acid. The materialcan be bought as roach killer at the hardware store for $5 a pound. It contains water but loses it when heated, a reaction that absorbs energy very quickly.

Made of cheap materials and produced on meat-packaging machines, a one-inch layer of BlastWrap costs just $16 per square foot.

Via Popular Science. More info in MSNBC.

Related: Pucchin Sukatto, a pack of 15 square sheets of bubble wrap, created for the sole purpose of bubble popping.

The i-garment project aims to develop smart garments for for the Portuguese Civil Protection. The suits will be equipped with sensors to monitor position, vital signals (temperature and heart beat) of the firefighters. The information will be sent via a wireless link to Civil Protection Officers in the HQ, processed and returned to the field officers equipped with PDAs and/or TabletPCs.

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Tightly integrated with the fire-fighting garment, sensors, telecommunication, localisation, alert and processing hardware collect the status and position of the fire-fighter and transmit it wirelessly and in real time to a data collecting computer installed in local Operational Field Vehicles (OFV).

Besides, the system will allow the data to be transmitted from the local OFV to the main servers via satellite transmission, making the data available from virtually anywhere there might be a fire situation, without the need for further communication infrastructure.

Thanks Antao.

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