Pocket-sized spectrometer:
NASA plans to launch their next mission to Mars in 2009, and onboard will be the Mars Science Laboratory, a bigger, better incarnation of the two Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2004. On board will be a tiny laser device about the size of a cell phone, which will be able to fingerprint minerals in the Martian soil and rocks. [...]

I know that Miami Police Department has about 220,000 spectra of all the illicit drugs that are out there in the world. You just take these things; you can shoot them and ten second later you know what they're holding: is it baby powder, is it cocaine? Really easy to tell. [...] He takes a bottle of Tylenol, a white plastic container and the pills are inside. You can shoot the Raman and a laser goes through that white plastic, it identifies the three parts of Tylenol and it tells you what the plastic is made out of. It works on leaves. I can identify the species of trees by shooting their leaves. [...] I have a friend who collects snakeskins, I shot the snakeskins and I can identify the species of snake. Last month researchers in Switzerland showed that with the Raman instrument they could detect breast cancer.

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7 Responses:

  1. zorblek says:

    I can't wait for the Paramount lawsuit...

  2. zebe says:

    Wow, neat. In college, I took a physical science class taught by Robert Downs (the interviewee in that story).

  3. drhoz says:

    ah, Raman spectroscopy - I did that in university... about the only thing from the applied science first-year stuff I remember, in fact.

    hey ho - only 32 and already the memory is going...

  4. dossy says:

    The interview was missing a vital quote:

    "I pointed the Raman at Chuck Norris and I it identified that he was about to round-house kick me in the face."

    I wonder if the Raman gadget can let you discreetly answer the question, "wow, are those real?" ... point it at boobies and see if it tells you it's all white-meat breast or not.

    • nelc says:

      Don't they tuck the implant behind the breast tissue these days? What you'd need would be a hand-held T-ray scanner.

      In fact, put these into the same housing, and you'd have yourself a real tricorder....

  5. fgmr says:

    I want one. TFA mentions prototypes on the market in June, $2k to $5k, so reality is probably not too much further out.

  6. saltation_lj says:

    this is less scifi but still brilliant so you might like it: a "pocket planetarium" -- you point it at a star and it tells you which one it is. or you choose a star, and it puts little arrows on the viewfinder telling you how to move it to find the star.

    The SkyScout