New Gizmo Helps Rescuers Detect Heartbeats in Rubble
NASA device uses radar to pick up on signs of life
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2013 8:23 AM CDT
File photo of rescue workers searching for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Van, Turkey.   (AP Photo/Bertan Ayduk)

(Newser) – NASA engineers have dreamed up and built a new device that could help rescuers save lots more lives after earthquakes or other disasters: It's essentially a radar gun that detects heartbeats under heaps of concrete and steel, reports Red Orbit. The FINDER device is portable at 20 pounds, and its microwaves penetrate rubble to pick up on the slightest of movements—even the breathing of an unconscious victim. But it's also smart enough to distinguish the breathing of a human from say, a rat, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, which developed the device with the Department of Homeland Security.

The LA Times explains the process: "Unlike the rubble, the victim is actually moving rhythmically. The chest rises and falls as the victim breathes, and moves from heartbeats—and the head moves as the veins on the scalp fill and empty out." That movement "creates slight differences in timing when the waves bounce back, which the device can pick up." Tests this week in Virginia at a simulated disaster area went well, reports National Geographic, though it quotes one specialist as saying the device needs to provide information faster. After more tweaks, the FINDER is expected to be on the market next spring or summer for about $10,000. Another potential use cited by JPL: finding a kid lost in the woods. (Click to read about how an earthquake in Pakistan this week created a new island.)

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Sep 28, 2013 5:14 PM CDT
I'm not sure if I like this more than rover finding me. I mean I get that call a couple times a year to go out to a cement crushing plant and be a building collapse victim. So you take cement chunks from a destroyed building or bridge and you create a sizable, accurate pile so that the dogs can climb over it to find living victims. So you leave small tunnels and cavities so people can maneuver in and wait for rover to find you. But its dark, cramped, and sometimes hot depending on season. So you get in there and the first five minutes you have unbelievable claustrophobia regardless if you have the problem. You want to call on the radio that you need to come out. But you wait and see if it goes down, and it does once your eyes get adjusted and you see all the air and light gaps. So you calm down and you have to remain silent so the dog can use senses to detect your presence. So they call on the radio that a dog is on your scene and you hear him kind of screeching because he knows something is down there but he keeps picking around until he stops, puts his head up and gives the handler the indication he scored a person. Then there's the time when the pile was not put down as tight as necessary and he manages to borrow through like a gopher and the next thing you know, a black lab is in your hidey hole with you and you say, "Hello, do you come here often." So you then have to navigate the tunnel to return him back to the handler and the dog then gets his tennis ball or rolled up sock as the reward. Now where will a radar do that?
Sep 28, 2013 10:41 AM CDT
How about a gizmo to prevent rubble? ounce of prevention............
Sep 28, 2013 9:01 AM CDT
Star Trek comes to life..... Awesome!