Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Better Technology, Better Protection," by Peter Henderson, Reuters and, 13 September 2001, and"Airport technology to improve in attack aftermath," by Ed Scannell andCathleen Moore,, 14 September 2001.

In the wake of the airline terrorist attacks on the U.S., the journalistssuggest that some new computer technologies (in addition to those used todetect weapons) could assist in averting such events. Henderson's article notesthat although these technologies might make the skies safer, they would comewith "steep financial and social costs." Among the systems are "terrainsystems" on airplanes that would detect buildings and obstacles in the path ofairplanes and auto-divert the flight pattern (Honeywell International, Inc.);new 3-dimensional scanners that can detect density of luggage items (InVisionTechnologies, Inc.) and others that can single out luggage of better-knownpassengers like frequent fliers; software programs that can randomly generatefake weapons in luggage to test security personnel; and face-recognitionprograms---already in use in casinos and at ATMs (Viisage Technology, Inc.),which are based on pattern recognition, wavelets and statistics. The cnn.compiece focuses on retinal and other forms of biometric scanning (worked on byresearchers at national labs such as Los Alamos and Sandia in conjunction withprivate industries), and on face-recognition technologies (from ViisageTechnology and currently in use in two European airports): the systems takeidentifiable facial measurements and "find a match against a database of 8million images in less than one second."

--- Annette Emerson