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Researchers are breeding fluorescent bacteria to uncover landmines

One of the many tragedies of war are the dangers that persist long after conflicts formally end — dangers like abandoned minefields peppered with active, deadly ordnance. Buried landmines threaten the lives of ordinary people near former battlefields all over the world, and disarming them has always been a dangerous effort. Now, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are working on a way to make landmine identification easier and safer. No, the trick isn’t to build a better metal detector, it’s to cultivate bacteria that glows in the presence of deadly explosives.

A paper by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem describes a system that uses specifically engineered bacteria that respond with a fluorescent signal when it detects the kind of explosive vapors that seep out of old landmines. This signal can be picked up by a laser scanning system that can identify the location of buried mines. Because the laser scanning portion can be operated remotely, the system could potentially remove the human element from a large part of the detection process.

If this method of detection can be proven to work consistently and be successfully deployed, it could help create a safer and more accurate method for clearing old minefields. The project also just sounds kind of cool — what’s better than using genetically engineered microorganisms and lasers to save lives?

Via: Eureka Alert

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A Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica that the Keeper team had patched the exploit (in response to Ormandy's private disclosure), so it shouldn't be an issue if your software is up to date. Also, you were only exposed if you enabled the plugin.

However, the very existence of the hole has still raised a concern: are Microsoft's security tests as thorough for third-party apps as its own software? The company has declined to comment, but that kind of screening may prove crucial if Microsoft is going to maintain the trust of Windows users. It doesn't matter how secure Microsoft's code is if a bundled app undermines everything.

Source: Monorail, Tavis Ormandy (Twitter)

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