Last night I took a picture of a blooming tree and something enlightening occurred to me. That the smell is mine only, while the image for others to see… Oh wait. I’m rhyming. Well the point is this: chemical compositions exhibiting informational content as perceived by the sense of smell, do not have any remotely close technology that is comparable to what is being done in the EM spectrum. There is no high definition cameras to photograph the smell of a rose or cherry. But it is of utmost importance that such technology be developed as soon as possible. To illustrate how inapt humans are in their appreciation of smell I’ll take the liberty to mention a garbage anecdote:
In a recent chat I’ve come to notice, while reflecting upon experiences earlier in the day, that a certain dog’s affinity for garbage need not be looked down upon as something appreciative of the entire cacophony of the chemical composition of the smell. Much like the human ear is able to discern and intently zero in on a particular sound within a piece of music… say the rhythm guitar in a U2 song, so can dogs zero in and thoroughly immerse themselves in a particular smell in what to a much less sensitive human nose appears as a disgusting cacophony of revulsion.
Dogs are trained and used for a variety of smell related tasks. Security purposes: such as searching out explosives are just one. Recent studies indicate that the smell of a breath can diagnose a plethora of illnesses with extreme accuracy. So can the smell of an ass (not a donkey but a rectal reference and not a pun intended). Point here is this: detection of specific smells is extremely useful and life saving in a wide range of fields but from what my layman’s knowledge tells me, the technology is in an infantile stage of black and white print film analogue: be it a smoke detector or a bomb smelling robot. What is needed is the versatility and cognitive ability that improves the nose and brain of a dog.
Allow me the liberty to stretch the visual analogy further: instrumentation for recording, storage, resolution and multi-bandwidth recognition, analysis and programmed utilization of thus acquired data is immensely complex. It surpasses the natural ability of the human eye to observe and the brains’ capacity to calculate and remember. The mastery of the electromagnetic spectrum allows space telescopes to see planets thousands of light years away and nanotechnology to use individual atoms for drawing and animation. Not so for the mastery of chemical recognition or smell. Clearly this has to change. Much like digitization of photography and video encompassing extreme sensitivity to the entirety of the EM spectrum that allows its storage, computational analysis and application of thus derived information, has been mastered… so we must master the sense of smell and recognition of chemical markings of compounds of all kinds. Something for DARPA to look into.
OK. Now black boxes for motor vehicles. That limo fire got me thinking. The driver wasn’t able to communicate clearly with the passengers… if he was he’d stop. Then he was panicked which resulted in confusion: call 911 or try to help? Here is a proposed solution: a technological one, that removes the need for human intervention in a call for help on the part of the driver. First of all, in many instances accidents happen in secluded areas and the incapacitated passengers or driver can be saved but are neither able to make the call, nor are visible from the road because they’ve ended up in a ditch, or a marsh, or a forest, or down a ravine… you get my drift. It is a rather simple technology for a fixed black box to recognize the accelerations that mark an accident. It is just as easy to recognize if the vehicle has been turned upside down or to its side. Both are clear indications that law enforcement presence is necessary, and it is nearly certain that fire department will need to remove the occupants, the vehicles or both. Likely an ambulance will be needed as well. In addition to such a black box that automatically calls 911 with GPS location of the vehicle involved in an accident… the passengers should have an emergency panic button available. This in cases where the driver is incapacitated or is acting as a kidnapper allows the passengers to stop the bus or limo. For instance if the women in the limo that burned had such an emergency button - the driver would have to stop - or the vehicle’s engine be cut off and it would stop on its own. Both technologies will save lives and property. They would also reduce crime. As to how is a devise supposed to call 911? Well, it can have its own wireless modem like data transfer recognized by the 911 phone system that then sends help to the GPS location of the emergency without the involvement of a dispatcher… or can use a pre-recorded message with GPS data afterwards. It can also act as a homing beacon. Solutions are only limited by one’s imagination, what’s important is that the need is recognized and that this societally beneficial and economically viable technology is possible.
As usual we were prepared for both contingencies. I have a strong feeling that the brains of such a black box device can be smaller than a penny: