Re: TERRORISM: Seriousness and potential strategies

From: Miriam English (
Date: Sat Sep 15 2001 - 20:04:58 MDT

I actually think this is not a bad solution in many ways.
Anybody ever see Jonathon Livingston Seagull (the movie) back in the 80s?
The seagull in the film was a remote controlled glider.

If the robot planes were built to look exceedingly like birds then they
might not even cotton onto the fact that they are being observed. Of course
if they did work it out it would mean every bird gets shot out of the
skies. :-(

Another possibility is to make the robot planes out of perspex so that they
are effectively invisible from the ground. The circuitry can be made very
small. The only real problem is engines and batteries. There are some
light-weight fuel-cell solutions in production right now. And I seem to
recall reading about some gel-based electrical "muscles" a little while back.

CMOS technology has produced incredibly small, lightweight, cheap,
electronic cameras. Plastic lenses are used in disposable cameras...

Just some thoughts.


         - Miriam

At 11:38 AM 15/09/2001 -0700, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:

>Well, these are "moving" targets, so presumably there isn't
>a 1-to-1 bullet-to-kill ratio. It would be interesting to know
>what the air speed is that planes would have to be to make shooting by
>human snipers highly inneffective. Which of course would lead to robotic
>anti-aircraft weapons, leading to all kinds of counter measures.
>But it takes time for less technologically sophisticated countries
>to develop and deploy these.
>In my mind it becomes a question of mass-production and efficiency
>scales. We are talking "model" airplanes with video cameras and
>some communications chips as being the foot soldiers here. If it
>goes to the MEMS scale, we are talking "flys" on the wall. At
>some point the bullets *do* become more expensive than what is being
>shot at.
>If you blanket a society in inexpensive surveillance equipment it simply
>becomes pointless at some point to shoot them down. One ought to be able
>to calculate what the production capacity that would be needed to be such
>that the Afgani population/bin Laden cells would become so preoccupied
>with dealing with the mosquitos that their ability to launch terrorist
>initiatives would be severely compromised. The interesting thing is
>that we know from internet protocols how to "route around" node
>failures and certainly have the ability to arrange unit failures
>such that they automatically call up replacements. If our mass
>delivery capability exceeds their mass removal capability, you can
>simply bury the terrorists in the broken wreckage of the surveillance
>units they have killed.
>If we assume that cruise missles cost $1M, and surveillance planes
>could be manufactured for $500, then one gets ~2000 spies per cruise
>missle. Assuming we would be willing to spend $1B on locating
>bin Laden, then you have ~2 million planes flying over Afganistan.
>That is a *lot* of shooting one would have to do to negate the
>observational capabilities.

Q. What is the similarity between an elephant and a grape?
A. They are both purple... except for the elephant.
Virtual Reality Association

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