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Science Technology

Breath Detector To Help Find Earthquake Survivors 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-nose-knows dept.
bazzalunatic writes "With all the recent earthquakes, this 'human-sniffing' device couldn't be more timely. Developed in the UK, the new machine detects the breath and sweat of survivors trapped in rubble. It's better than sniffer dogs, and could reduce the risk to them. From the article: 'The sensor technology was shown to accurately detect human-generated carbon dioxide and ammonia in air that wafted through gaps in the rubble during testing, something that previously only dogs could do, as other technologies focus more heavily on seeing or hearing a survivor.'"
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Breath Detector To Help Find Earthquake Survivors

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  • Late seems more appropriate. Wouldn't timely suggest it was available for use during the actual earthquakes? ...or perhaps san fran is next?
  • Perfect... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheMeth0D (182840) on Monday September 19, 2011 @11:47AM (#37444100) Homepage

    ...technology for skynet to use when hunting us in the future. Keep up the good work!

    • by a_hanso (1891616)
      Or for Precrime to to use when hunting runners in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So when a building falls on you, you are supposed to urinate in your pants so they can find you with this ammonia sniffer thing? Or is there really enough ammonia in sweat for this to detect it?
    • by Talderas (1212466)

      So when a building falls on you, you are supposed to urinate in your pants so they can find you with this ammonia sniffer thing? Or is there really enough ammonia in sweat for this to detect it?

      Well, given the choice between pissing yourself or retaining your dignity and dying which would you choose?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So when a building falls on you, you are supposed to urinate in your pants so they can find you with this ammonia sniffer thing?

      Okay now, do you really think that people trapped in rubble under collapsed buildings just hold it? Or walk down to the bathroom and use the urinals?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't know about the rest of you but if a building ends up falling on me i don't think pissing my pants is going to be a conscious decision I'm going to have to make, think that might just be automatic.

  • and since practically everyone nowadays carry sophisticated personal radio beacons (aka "cell phones") that periodically transmit uniquely identifiable (on a per device basis) signals, I'm surprised no one has jumped on using this as a way of sensing where the people are.

  • Summary Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Monday September 19, 2011 @12:01PM (#37444356)

    It's better than sniffer dogs

    Highly misleading. It eliminates dangers to the dogs/handlers and simplifies logistics; the article doesn't even imply that the device is more effective than dogs. It also points out that dogs are more agile and will still be more useful in areas where the machine or its human operator can't easily go (which I imagine will be a lot of places, considering that they're *digging through rubble*).

    There are dogs out there that can detect cancer, for Christ sake; don't be so quick to dismiss biology in favor of technology, especially considering that a merging of the two is probably our next great frontier.

    P.S. If any suspicious or sardonic person out there wants to argue that cancer dogs are some stupid myth, read the studies cited in this wikipedia article: they may be small studies, but I'm not inclined to doubt a study of a diagnostic tool showing a specificity >90% until I see a directly contrary scientific result or a damn good argument about the design of the original study.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_cancer_detection

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You forgot something, and that something is snakebots.

      Numerous labs are working on snake-shaped robots, some even have built them out of discrete modules that can detach and become smaller lengths. Now add in some sniffer modules, and suddenly you have robots that can go places dogs can't. Equip the modules with radio repeaters and now you can get a comm link even down into a collapsed building with a lot of metal in it. Come on, what year is it? Dogs, indeed. I'm allergic to dogs, so that's an extra reason

  • by v1 (525388) on Monday September 19, 2011 @12:18PM (#37444736) Homepage Journal

    accurately detect human-generated carbon dioxide and ammonia in air that wafted through gaps in the rubble

    I'd be willing to bet that there's a number of easier to smell things than CO2 "wafting" up out of rubble with a survivor that's been in there for days.

    Lets drop the PC talk and get down to brass tacks. By day 3 any survivor is going to be quite ripe in a number of ways and their bad breath is going to be the last thing you notice.

    • True; but if you are looking for survivors you want something that isn't also true of a slightly squished corpse that hasn't been exerting much sphincter control of late. Carbon dioxide isn't perfect(fires and microbial respiration also generate it); but there are reasons to choose it.
    • by abies (607076)

      I think that this is why 'ammonia' is mentioned. I can already see that Health&Safety instructions - "In case of being buried in the rubble, release as soon as possible".

      Still, for the first n hours, to find unconcious people who are not following H&S rule, CO2 marker is probably more important.

    • by Muad'Dave (255648)

      ...their bad breath is going to be the last thing you notice.

      Actually 48 hours of starvation can cause ketosis [wikipedia.org], which gives you fruity-smelling acetone breath and urine.

  • I bet dogs are a lot cheaper than snifferbots.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Considering you can train a dog from birth to be a sniffer in under 6mo, I'd say it's going to be cheaper.

  • by sgt scrub (869860)

    In Texas they would pull you out then give you a ticket for Dying While Intoxicated.

  • More like breath detector to help skynet find living humans to eradicate....
  • They invented a bigger mosquito. Just what the world needs.

  • by mossy the mole (1325127) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:31PM (#37448108)
    Sounds like an improved version of the detectors used to find illegal immigrants hidden in trucks. If it works It'll probably see much more use by customs that the rescue people.
  • Kudos to the team who produced this

  • by h5inz (1284916)
    Its a nice technology for a good purpose, though still couldn't resist...- now try reading it with "earthquake" replaced by "human extermination effort" !

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