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Introducing NUGGET: NASA's New 'Tricorder'

NUGGET(Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography), an instrument containing a neutrongenerator, a neutron lens and a gamma-ray detector, could be used toinvestigate important biological indicators of life on distant worlds - justlike Star Trek's tricorder.

The systemprovides a three-dimensional scanning instrument that focuses a beam ofneutrons into an object. When the nucleus of an atom inside the rock capturesthe neutrons, it produces a gamma-ray signal for that element, which thegamma-ray detector then analyzes. The location of the elements can also beplotted; nformation can then be turned into an imageof the elements within the rock. Scientists could then tell whether a certaintype of bacteria had become fossilized inside the rock.

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Many of usremember the tricorder from the original Star Trekseries of the mid-1960's. The standard Starfleet tricorder was used for determining various characteristicsof landing areas (like life form readings). (Doctors and engineers had theirown specific types of tricorder.)

For other newsrelated to sensors and science fiction, see EyeBall: Omni-Directional Smart Eye Sensor and ThereminVision Sensor: Robot Proximity Detection. Readmore at NASA develops a NUGGET to search for life in space and at Astrobiologymagazine. See also more tricorder images and details.

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(ThisScience Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)

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Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science and