The ability to defend one's self and one's family and community require more than just weapons and ammo; more than an adequate supply of food and potable water. As the old Army maxim goes, you must be able to "shoot, move, and communicate." These recent articles are critical for the third: communicate.
In military-speak, communicate is more than just talking to someone else, but having the information (intelligence, in Army-talk) to talk about. One of the current significant advantages of modern "First-World" state militaries is their elaborate and complex data-transfer and processing abilities, including such things as spy satellites, the global positioning system (GPS), multiple long and short range communications means, extensive mapping, and complex reference materials.
The advent and widespread use of such devices as FRS (family-band radio), cell phones, cheap "backpacker" GPs receivers, and of course the Internet have already begun to eliminate this advantage. However, civilian gear often has many more restrictions on their use than military ("milspec") equipment. Sometimes as with small handheld radios, the restrictions can be easily overcome. In cases such as the Internet and field-portable computers, it is much more difficult, both because of expense (a mil-spec, field-hardened laptop computer can run as much as 10 times the cost of an off-the-shelf Dell, for example, with the same internal specs) and because of limits on private ownership (the data-war equivalent of the assault weapons ban). And frankly, PDAs and "Internet-enabled" cell-phones are a far cry from either civilian or military data processing needed to track bad guys (or good guys) on the ground, determine observation limits of satellites, carry small-scale topographic maps of large areas, handle properly-encrypted message traffic, and other tasks necessary for a conflict.
In case of massive civil unrest or other disasters, even if individual homeowners can provide emergency backup power for their computers and cell-phones and radio battery recharge, if they are forced to evacuate their homes and flee to other locations, they will likely be forced to abandon all these things, necessary for fighting against potential enemies able to seize intact military facilities and key infrastructure. (The same problem is faced by people living or operating in wilderness areas and most third-world areas.) Even the amount of solar panels necessary to keep a laptop powered up, or recharge a cell-phone or radio battery might be more than a fleeing family can take, in addition to weapons, ammo, food, water, and basics of shelter.
Just as cheap LEDs are in the process of revolutionizing another important item, the pocket flashlight, so the approaching advent of cheap, micro-LEDs as discussed in the first article, and the pocket screen discussed in the second article, will solve much of the "communications gap" between the thug military and the private citizen. The idea that these devices may be able to be mass-produced and may even be able to be made in fairly small and relatively unsophisticated "kitchen labs" and workshops is a tremendous encouragement.
FROM KSU, MANHATTAN -- With the help of Kansas State University researchers, microdisplays are among the potential future applications of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. A team of researchers, led by K-State professor Hongxing Jiang and K-State associate professor Jingyu Lin, have created blue micro LEDs that are more efficient than conventional LEDs. Basically, putting hundreds of interconnected miniature LEDs in the same space one conventional LED used to take could boost the efficiency by 60 percent. "We can make very small images, Lin said. "The diameter we've made of an LED is as small as a human hair."
Conventional LEDs are small lights used together to make up a variety of large lights and screens, including traffic signals, neon billboards and sports stadium screens. A very energy-efficient light source, LEDs don't emit heat and have a long duration. By comparison, a 15-watt LED stop light can last, on average, 20,000 hours, while a 100-watt house light bulb lasts only about 1,000 hours, Jiang said.
"Most microdisplays, like cell phone screens, are made of liquid crystal or LCDs, which require an external light source," Lin said. "What we've made is a miniature semiconductor display. Basically, they are self-luminescent, resulting in both space and power saving." Blue LEDs, however, are not available at this time in micro-sizes, Lin said, making it virtually impossible to use in smaller items, such as heat-mounted microdisplays and cell phone displays. Particular to K-State's research is the creation of miniature blue LEDs. K-State is able to make and fabricate these blue LEDs, Jiang said. The blue LEDs are created from research and laboratory-grown LED wafers, each 2 inches in diameter. Each wafer can produce about 10,000 conventional LEDs. "There are only a few universities that can get the light out," Lin said. "Some major companies can make the blue LEDs, but only a few universities have the technology to make these lights, especially micro-size lights." "It's a very tiny LED," Jiang said. "What we can do with this is also display the image. By putting 100 tiny LEDs in a .5 millimeter by .5 millimeter space, we have turned each light on and off individually and displayed different images," he said.
By combining red and green LEDs -- which are readily available -- with blue LEDs, semiconductor LEDs have paved the way for full-color displays and raised the possibility of mixing the three colors to create white light for general lighting applications. "With white light, you can create so much," Jiang said. "If all household lights were replaced by these white LEDs, about $100 billion in energy costs a year could be saved worldwide, in addition to significant decreases in pollution and heat. "We call this solid-state lighting technology," Jiang said. "In this technology, finding ways to enhance the efficiency of LEDs is one of the keys." You can make high definition screens and can project images two feet from your eye and see a virtual image -- a wearable display, according to Lin. With this technology, a micro display can be placed in eyeglasses and would provide an image comparable to viewing a 21-inch screen television.
"In the future, you could make smaller computers, wearable displays and have privacy," Jiang said. "Just imagine the possibilities of being able to work with computers and watch TV without a real monitor." K-State's research is funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Army Research Office, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.
A computer in your pocket
Army Times, 1 MAR 04 (On
(Editor's note: The second half of the Immigration article got overlooked. Watch for that next week. )