Here’s how ‘invisible armor’ could defeat bullets and blades

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The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Ever wonder if there was such a thing as transparent armor? It sounds like something straight out of a comic book, but it’s something the Navy has actually created.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists have created a remarkable transparent armor that is lightweight and still provides excellent protection.

Nearly as transparent as glass, the armor is essentially invisible protection from bullets. And if the armor surface is damaged, warfighters could fix it on the fly with something as simple as a hot plate and the armor will meld itself back together.

Think about how “bulletproof glass” (a misnomer since it is often only bullet resistant) works – you can see through it and it stops bullets.

Now what if you could do that for body armor and helmets? That’s the idea here.

This next-generation armor advance could also amp up transparent bulletproof walls to protect tourist attractions from the attacks we’ve seen in Paris and most recently, in London.

What’s the armor made of?

The transparent polymer armor gets its transparency from something known as tiny crystalline domains. The armor itself is made up of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer combined with a harder material substrate.

NRL scientists conducted tests using polymeric materials as a coating to try to enhance impact resistance.

By applying layers of the special materials to body armor and helmets, the result was better protection for warriors against bullets.

The armor also helped reduce the impact of blast waves caused by something like an IED explosion, which could potentially help prevent brain trauma.

When a bullet hits the armor

If you picture a windshield that has been struck by a rock kicked up while driving, the rock’s impact may cause damage that makes it difficult to see through the windshield.

One of the amazing things about this see-through armor is that when it’s struck by a projectile, such as a bullet, it still retains its lucid nature. There’s virtually no impact on visibility and the damage is limited only to the spot where the bullet connected with the armor.

Repair vs. replace 

The possibility exists that this futuristic body armor could be ironed back into shape after it sustained some hits, because of the material used to create it.

The material needs to be heated to around 100 degrees Celsius, which then causes it to become hot enough to melt the tiny crystallites. By heating the material, any impact from the bullet can be melded back together and returned to its normal state. Scientists believe that this sort of repair will not impact how the armor performs.

Easy, fast repairs can be a great advantage for warfighters operating in remote locations and it can save money by repairing rather than replacing.

Implications for protecting against global terror attacks

In a scenario like the recent London attack, lightweight body armor approaches like the aforementioned can be very useful to protect armed officers from bladed weapons, bullets and other threats while the reduced weight can improve their speed, agility and flexibility of response.

Like the Capitol building in the US, armed officers protect the building and those working in and visiting the building. Based on the information provided publicly thus far, the terrorist wielded a bladed weapon and attacked British officers. One officer was tragically killed.

Guns and explosive devices are not the only methods of attack used by Islamic extremist terrorists. In Europe, terrorist plots and attacks have increasingly involved bladed weapons on foot as well the weaponization of vehicles.

Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State group have been actively promoting these sorts of attack methods.

Just last month in Paris, a terrorist tried to launch an attack with machetes at the popular tourist site of the Louvre museum. A French soldier stopped him before there were any casualties.

In 2013, two terrorists drove at British Army soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was walking a street in England. The terrorists then exited the vehicle, attacked him with blades and murdered him by hacking him to death.

Invisible Walls?

Ultimately, advances like NRLs in transparent armor could play a vital role in amping up “invisible” walls could be used to stop both people and vehicles from storming sites and areas. By enhancing protection, it could help prevent attacks and casualties.

Paris recently announced they are building an eight-foot bulletproof glass wall around the Eiffel Tower. Why? Tourist sites are attractive targets for terrorists. The goal is to stop not just bullets but prevent vehicles loaded with bombs from gaining access.

Transparent armor-ed up walls mean tourists can still enjoy an uninterrupted view while benefiting from enhanced protection.

Advanced armor like this can also become a deterrent to future attacks.

 

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

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Scientists discover world’s most ancient fossils

Scientists have discovered tiny fossils that are thinner than a human hair and are an astounding 3.7 billion years old, making them the oldest known fossils on Earth, University College London announced on Wednesday. They could even be as old as 4.2 billion years.

The fossils were likely created by bacteria that lived near hydrothermal vents and consumed iron. Those ancient critters lived an incredible 3.8 to 4.3 billion years ago.

“Our discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed,”  Matthew Dodd, a PhD student at the University College London and the first author of a new study about the fossils, said in a statement. “This speedy appearance of life on Earth fits with other evidence of recently discovered 3,700 million year old sedimentary mounds that were shaped by microorganisms.”

The scientists found the fossils in a part of Quebec, Canada, known for having ancient sedimentary rock. The little fossils are much older than their closest competitors.

“The microfossils we discovered are about 300 million years older than the previously thought oldest microfossils,” Dominic Papineau, a lecturer at University College London and the study’s lead researcher, said in a video announcing the find. “So there are within a few hundred million years from the accretion of the solar system.”

In the statement, Papineau described these tiny fossils— they’re less than a millimeter long— as “direct evidence of one of Earth’s oldest life forms.”

Planet Earth itself is believed to be 4.5 billion years old.

One of the most exciting ramifications of the find is that since it shows that life began on Earth so long ago, perhaps the same thing could have happened in other places in our solar system— like Mars.

“These discoveries demonstrate life developed on Earth at a time when Mars and Earth had liquid water at their surfaces, posing exciting questions for extra-terrestrial life,” Dodd said, in the statement. “Therefore, we expect to find evidence for past life on Mars 4,000 million years ago, or if not, Earth may have been a special exception.”

The discovery was reported in a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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Rabbit hole leads to incredible 700-year-old Knights Templar cave complex

Four4Four Science: 700-year-old Knights Templar cave complex hidden beneath U.K. farmer's field; Jeff Bezos plans moon deliveries, mind-controlled robot, mold sells for $15,000
Hidden caves of the mysterious Knights Templar revealed

A rabbit hole in the UK conceals the entrance to an incredible cave complex linked to the mysterious Knights Templar.

New photos show the remarkable Caynton Caves network, which looks like something out of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” The shadowy Knights Templar order is said to have used the caves.

The Sun reports that the caves are hidden beneath a farmer’s field in Shropshire. The site was visited by photographer Michael Scott after he saw a video of the caves online. “I traipsed over a field to find it, but if you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it,” Scott said.

Once inside, Scott encountered arches, walkways, and carved niches. He described the caves as cramped, noting that anyone nearing six-feet tall has to bend down inside the complex. “I had to crouch down and once I was in it was completely silent,” he said. “There were a few spiders in there but that was it.

Said to be 700 years old, the caves have been long been linked to the Knights Templar – a Catholic military order that played a key role during the Crusades. Named after Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where the order was based, the order was founded in 1119 protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.

With the loss of the Holy Land, the Templars’ military influence waned, although they still held great economic sway in medieval Europe. In 1307 the French King Philip IV, who wanted to wipe out his debts to the order, launched a plot to bring the Knights Templar down. Many Templars were arrested on charges including heresy and dozens were later burned at the stake.

Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312.

The caves had been closed for a number of years before Scott’s visit. Black magic ceremonies reportedly forced the owners to seal up the entrance to the caves in 2012.

While some people believe the caves are 700 years old, others think that the complex was carved out by followers of the Templars in the 17th century.

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Chinese researchers announce designer baby breakthrough

embryopic

Science has taken another step toward delivering the perfect newborn – or at least a bouncing baby free of certain genetic defects.

Chinese researchers used a genome editing technique called CRISPR to rid normal embryos of hereditary diseases that cause blood disorders and other ailments, according to New Scientist. Experts who reviewed the project told the publication that, even though it involved just six embryos, it carries promise.

“It is encouraging,” Robin Lovell-Badge, a human genome expert at the Francis Crick Institute in London, told New Scientist.

“It is encouraging.”

– Robin Lovell-Badge, Francis Crick Institute

 The acronym stands for “Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” and the technique is a method of disabling genes by introducing small mutations that disrupt the code of a DNA sequence. Prior to the Chinese experiment, studies involving the CRISPR technique have focused on its use in abnormal embryos that could never fully develop. For bioethics reasons, it was not previously used on healthy, or normal embryos.

The experiment successfully repaired just under 10 percent of genetic mutations, a rate too low to be practical, but high enough to be encouraging.

The Chinese team working at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University first worked with abnormal embryos, with little success, according to the report. But when they tried to repair mutations in normal embryos from immature eggs donated by people undergoing IVF, they had a breakthrough.

The eggs presented less of a bioethical dilemma, as they are usually discarded by IVF clinics. But healthy children have been born from such eggs. The team fertilized each egg by injecting sperm from one of two men with a hereditary disease, then used the CRISPR technique on the single-cell embryos before they started dividing.

In one case, the technique zapped a mutation that causes favism, a condition in which consumption of fava beans causes destruction of red blood cells.

In another case, it fixed a mutation that causes the blood disease beta-thalassemia, a group of inherited blood disorders that affect about one in every 100,000 people.

Another expert told New Scientist the results were compelling.

“It does look more promising than previous papers,” Fredrik Lanner, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the publication.

The study could lead to wider experimentation with using CRISPR to edit the genomes of normal human embryos. But experts cautioned the technology is far from the point where it could be safely used for editing embryos.

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues!

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March 13, 2017 · 7:00 am

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