Gunshot Detector and Other "Ideas"

The New York Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas" issue is out today. And I wrote up three of the ideas inside:

* "The Crawl" Makes You Stupid* Microblindness* Sonic Gunman Locator, The
Unfortunately, the online versions of these articles all cut off the last paragraphs of what are already short stories. The stories have been fixed. So I'll paste the full text of the "Sonic Gunman Locator" below. (And yeah, I know the thing came out in 2004. But the Times didn't feel like quibbling over details.) Let me know if you guys want to see the full texts of the other ones.11sonic.650.jpgThe bombs get all the headlines, but gunfire is also a constant threat to American troops in Iraq. Between the shattered buildings, the rubble piles, the swirling dust storms and the roaring Humvees, shooters can be very hard to find. The Pentagon's response: start equipping Humvees with technology that can automatically pinpoint where the shots are coming from.One system, known as Boomerang, uses a bundle of seven microphones, each facing a different direction, mounted on top of an 18-inch pole. (Imagine a giant bouquet, with all the flower petals gone.) When a bullet flies by, creating a shock wave, each microphone picks up the sound at a slightly different time. Those tiny differences allow the system to calculate where the shooter is. (Boomerang also listens for the blast from the gun's muzzle, which reaches the system just after the bullet's faster-than-sound flight.) Inside the Humvee, a recorded voice buzzes through a dashboard speaker, announcing the shooter's position - "Shot 10 o'clock! Shot 10 o'clock!" - and an analog clocklike display indicates the direction. Other information, like the shooter's G.P.S. coordinates, range and elevation, are also provided. "We're now accurate way beyond 500 meters," says Dave Schmitt, Boomerang's program manager at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass.The Army has 25 Boomerangs in Iraq right now, and the Marines are readying an equal number for their next rotation of troops. Schmitt sees a domestic market for the devices, as well. Already, Chicago is coupling gunshot detectors to security cameras, which are hung in some of the citys toughest neighborhoods. The idea is that when shots are heard, the camera will automatically turn in the direction of the gunfire -- giving police and ambulance dispatchers a glimpse of the scene before cops or EMTs are sent out. G.I.s wont get that kind of advance warning, of course. But theyll settle for a little information, just after the fact.
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