Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mission Impossible Gadgetry Source for Military?

Click here for referenced story - Washington Post

There's a symbiotic relationship between Hollywood and the Military these days, which is a good thing.

The writers let their imaginations run wild and build movies around the new gadgetry -- and presto chango there's a new idea for the Military to research and develop.

In reality, the Military has had research centers for decades to follow up on "what if" questions or "Blue Sky" concepts.  There was even a program during the 1970s/80s to examine and exploit the paranormal -- headed up by MG Al Stubblebine -- it actually had some degree of success.

While I was in Central America in the 1980s, our research center was at Ft Lewis, WA, which shipped us all kinds of new technological equipment to test and evaluate, to include the predecessor of Skype [to transmit classified videos], portable satellite transceivers [in a briefcase], and UGS [unattended ground sensors] shaped like tree or a rock.

When I managed the DOD Clandestine Services program in the 80s, we had our own Skunk-Works linkage; if we could think of a gizmo, we'd meet with the engineers, tell them the functionality and size we wanted and the circumstances in which we would employ it, and they would design and deliver it.  One of the products we requested in portable size was a document scanner built around the CCD [charge- coupled device] technology -- the predecessor of what you now have built into your printer.

Ultimately, the source of much new technology derives from science fiction, the true "what if" crowd that wrote stories ignoring the limitations of known science and physics.  Isaac Asimov wrote about a pocket computer back in 1957.  Jules Verne wrote about submarines in 1896.

As my favorite engineer, Bob Hayden, responded once, "You describe it, we'll build it."