While the federal sequester threatens to starve American science of billions of dollars, here's a reminder of the achievements of taxpayer-funded innovation.
For the first time this year, the U.S. Army made Thompson Reuters' list of the world's 300 most innovative organizations after earning 300 patents in three years.
At least 11 of those patents have Ronald Meyers' name on them, making him the most innovative man in one of the most innovative organizations in the world. Meyers is a civilian quantum physicist who works at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Army's central research facility, in Adelphi, Maryland.
A typical day at the office for Meyers involves patenting an advanced quantum computer chip which works on the same principle as synaptic connections between neurons, using an alternative mathematics which could potentially clear the way for ultra-high-speed computing.
Or he could be perfecting a technology having to do with images that are computed, not seen, which Meyers has been working on for about the last 20 years. It involves virtual remote viewing of an object by computing its image from the position of individual photons. Their latest advance in the last six months, using a special "self-healing" light beam, could enable the viewing of an image through cloudy water, jungle foliage, or even around corners. The same technology could also be applied to create super-sharp, noninvasive biomedical images at the microscopic level.
A lot of military research, of course, involves weapons and explosives, but the Army also won significant recent patents for pharmaceuticals, polymers, and computing. The Department of Defense overall spends about $1.5 billion a year on basic (i.e., pure, not applied) research like Meyers' work.
"We are challenged to be able to project into the future, see the basis for applications, test the ideas and adjust," Meyers told the Army's news service. "It's one of the best jobs you can have as a scientist."
[Top image: Flickr user Sean MacEnee]