From left to right, Oliver C. Wells, Thomas E. Everhart and R.K. Matta gathered in 1963 around the first successful scanning electron microscope that they developed. AP Photo In 1993, Charles Smithart was convicted of the murder of an 11-year-old girl in the town of Glennallen, Alaska. Prosecutors suspected Smithart after he was spotted at the scene of the crime, but they had no evidence directly linking him to the murder. That's where a scanning electron microscope (SEM) came in. Using the X-ray spectroscopy detector of an SEM, a forensic scientist analyzed bits of iron found at the scene of the crime. He found that they had a globular shape that only welding or grinding produces. As it turned out, Smithart had a welding rig in his shop and would sometimes repair bicycles for the local children. Thanks to the tremendous capabilities of scanning electron microscopes, prosecutors had the evidence they needed to link Smithart to the crime. Why was an SEM, rather than a regular … [Read more...] about How Scanning Electron Microscopes Work
Electronic Medical Record Privacy If someone's seen your medical record, you'll have the right to find out. Seth Joel/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images Electronic health records are already subject to federal standards of privacy. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) created rules for who may access health records and set criminal penalties for privacy breaches. HIPAA also included a ruling that patients must be notified whenever there has been an improper breach of a medical record. The new electronic medical records will be subject to these HIPAA guidelines, and some guidelines have already been strengthened and clarified under the new legislation. Under the shadow of HIPAA, however, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports that 5 million people were subject to breaches of their medical records in a period of 18 months [source: Pear]. Laptops stolen from medical offices, paper records that weren't disposed properly and overly curious … [Read more...] about Will your electronic medical record be safe?
Voting Image Gallery Diebold AccuVote-TSx voting machine with printer attachment. See more voting pictures. Photo courtesy Wikipedia Photographer: User Joebeone The November 2006 elections that decided the make-up of the U.S. Congress and state and local governments faced more uncertainty than any election to date. Instead of "Democrat or Republican," the more pressing question became "accurate count or complete debacle?" More than 60 million Americans cast their votes on electronic voting machines for the first time in 2006. Some feared human and machine error, both of which have occurred in almost all electronic voting since the machines were introduced in limited scope in 2002. Others feared a darker foe, and it's not just conspiracy theorists: For the past three or four years, computer scientists have been tampering with voting machines to prove it can be done. And they say it's actually pretty easy. With electronic voting, the entire setup is electronic, not … [Read more...] about How can someone tamper with an electronic voting machine?
Image Gallery: Car Safety A man dressed as a crash test dummy promotes Electronic Stability Control (ESC) at the booth of auto supplier Continental in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 12, 2007. See more car safety pictures. AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle Driving safety took a big step forward in the mid-1990s when electronic stability control was introduced. The German auto supplier Bosch developed the first system, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-series were the first cars to use the new safety and regulatory devices. It's been more than a decade since electronic stability control was first introduced, and it goes by many names, depending on the company. Audi calls it the Electronic Stability Program, or ESP; at Ford, it goes by Advance Trac. GM has Stabilitrak, and Porsche puts its stamp on the system by dubbing it Porsche Stability Management. But all of these systems, no matter their names, use high-tech sensors, the car's central computer and mechanical actions to assist in … [Read more...] about How Electronic Stability Control Works
Sure, if you can, it's not a bad idea. But if it's a matter of you getting to safety or fussing with your electronics, head for safety stat! John Foxx/ThinkStock The family pet might have the right idea when a thunderstorm approaches: Hide under the bed and wait it out, whining nervously. That's not just acceptable behavior; it might, in fact, be quite safe. If a real squall is coming in fast and strong, the last thing you need to do is run outside to move the lawn chairs or take that kite out of the attic and give it a good run around the backyard. Of course, there are a few things to do around the house if you want to make sure you're keeping yourself safe and sound during a storm -- but be warned that they're not foolproof, and there isn't tons of evidence that they'll protect you much. But let's put our fingers in the socket and see if we're struck with any brilliant ideas. First off, let's understand what's happening if your electronics get fried with a bolt of lightning. … [Read more...] about Should you unplug your electronics during a thunderstorm?