JASON Lives!

Established in 1960, JASON is an independent scientific advisory group that provides consulting services to the U.S. government on matters of defense science and technology. Most of it's work is the product of an annual summer study and they have done work for the DOD (including DARPA), FBI, CIA and DOE. FAS recently collected and published several recent unclassified JASON studies on their website. They cover a wide area of subjects, ranging from quantum computing to nanotechnology to nuclear weapon maintenance. There is way too much material there to summarize, so here are just a few that cought my eye:
  • Counterproliferation January 1998 (3.3 MB .pdf): The first sentence: "Intelligence efforts should focus on humint collections as early as possible in the proliferation timeline and should continue such efforts throughout the proliferation effort." Note that this was written in January of 1998 and also note that this criticism is still being raised today.
  • Small Scale Propulsion: Fly on the Wall, Cockroach in the Corner, Rat in the Basement, Bird in the Sky September 1997 (1.2 MB .pdf): "This study concerns small vehicles on the battlefield, and in particular their propulsion. These vehicles may fly or travel on the ground by walking, rolling or hopping. Their purpose is to carry, generally covertly, a useful payload to a place inaccessible to man, or too dangerous for men, or in which a man or manned vehicle could not be covert." Unfortunately, things don't look to be going to well, as the technology required to create something like an "artificial vehicle as small and inconspicious as a fly or a cockroach" is still a long ways off. That was over 6 years ago, however, so things may have improved...
  • Data Mining and the Human Genome January 2000 (1.6 MB .pdf): Work on the Human Genome is shifting from the collection of data to the analysis of data. This study seeks to apply powerful data mining techniques developed in other fields to the Human Genome and the biological sciences.
  • Opportunities at the Intersection of Nanoscience, Biology and Computation November 2002 (5.0 MB .pdf): This seems to be a popular subject, and DARPA has several programs that seek to exploit this intersection of subjects. Applications include Brain Machine Interfaces and Biomolecular Motors (which, come to think of it, might help with the propulsion of those artificial vehicles as small and inconspicious as flies).
Interesting stuff.