OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY S RESEARCH INNOVATIONS BREAKTHROUGHS. The Roots of the Carbon Cycle

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1 OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY S OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY S RESEARCH INNOVATIONS BREAKTHROUGHS Q U E S T The Roots of the Carbon Cycle VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 SUMMER 2004

2 For some, the word quest calls forth images of Don Quixote futilely tilting at the windmills in the name of human respect and beauty. For others, it will evoke the image of Sir Edmund Hillary exuberantly scaling Mount Everest for no other reason than to meet the challenge. One generation will remember the inspiring journey of explorers Lewis and Clark, while another will recall astronaut Neil Armstrong s steps on the lunar surface... yet, to seek the impossible dream is NOT Old Dominion University s Quest! Our goal is to make the impossible possible. While our brilliant and vital faculty perform research in the name of truth and beauty, they attempt daily to improve the lot of their fellow citizens. Their goals are clear and they realize them with reassuring continuity and a punctuality born of passion and professionalism. Their minds step lightly over the perimeters of the known and they identify and capture the unexplored realms of information for the benefit of humankind. Vijayan K. Asari, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is spearheading groundbreaking research to develop a computer-based facial image detection and recognition system. He employs a three-dimensional approach to detect, track and recognize faces in video streams. This research will find a universal solution for securing the homeland from intruders by developing a transparent environment. Funded by the Department of Defense, this group of professors and their students will make a positive contribution to peace and national security in the short term. The system could be applied to recognizing lost children and possibly obviate the need for keys and cards. Absent-minded Don Quixotes would never again lose their Dulcineas! Charles I. Sukenik, associate professor and undergraduate program director in physics, heads a research group that studies the production of ultracold, heteronuclear molecules as a reaction product in the collisions of ultracold atoms. Sukenik s research focuses on understanding the mechanics of the production of the RbAr (rubidium argon) molecule which combines an alkali atom (rubidium) with a noble gas (argon). This research could have many applications in physics, astrophysics and chemistry and could, for example, assist in the production of the next generation of computers and navigational sensors. It is hard to compare this ultracool science to the quixotic quest because it is so modern and precise. However, there is the nobility of the gas which would attract our hero and the combination of such entirely disparate elements has been a quest for many years, for many scientists. Charles Sukenik has definitely made the impossible possible! Lisa A. Eckenwiler, associate professor of philosophy, has been examining the ethical questions health professionals face in the context of crises. These biomedical ethics issues are meaningful to consider not only for emergency healthcare providers and philosophers but for every citizen. The questions she asks are profound and of particular importance in our contemporary world. The windmills she attacks are far from imaginary! For nine years, professor of biological sciences Frank Day has been conducting a long-term experiment at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With his students, he has been measuring plants responses to carbon dioxide beneath the surface. This research is very important because of the high carbon dioxide levels in the Earth s atmosphere, due to the combustion of fossil fuels. Day uses mini-rhizotrons and ground-penetrating radar to obtain images of root systems without disturbing them. In addition to examining the impact of global warming, this research will be useful in space travel where the elimination of carbon dioxide is crucial to survival. Day s oak-palmetto scrub is the equivalent of Don Quixote s sunflowers. However, Day s approach is less invasive and could actually help us save our planet! James Onate, director of Old Dominion s sports medicine research laboratory, is working to provide a multidisciplinary approach to the investigation of injuries that commonly afflict active-duty and retired military personnel. Musculoskeletal and orthopedic injuries account for 63 percent of all military disabilities, leading to decreased training time and decreased military readiness. This three-year study will doubtless lead to injury-prevention methods and thus, improve the quality of life of athletes and soldiers another dream coming true! Old Dominion University has just added a new leader to our research team. Dr. Mohammad Karim, formerly dean of engineering at City University of New York, brings with him a wealth of experience in establishing strong research enterprises at several universities. As our new vice president for research, he will enrich us with renewed energy and a strong vision. Known for his interdisciplinarity and collaborative skills, Karim has already demonstrated wise leadership by asking Dr. Robert Ash, associate vice president for research and economic development, and Dr. Phil Langlais, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, to join him. With such a strong team, I am sure that increased research and further development of the Research Park and enterprise centers will become reality posthaste! I welcome Dr. Karim most warmly and am proud to introduce him to you. Sincerely yours, Roseann Runte President

3 OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY ROSEANN RUNTE University President CONTENTS OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY S QUEST VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 JUNE 2004 THOMAS L. ISENHOUR Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs JOHN R. BRODERICK Vice President for Institutional Advancement DAVID R. HAGER Vice Provost ROBERT L. ASH Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development ELIZABETH O. COOPER Editor VICTORIA E. BURKE Director of University Publications STEVE DANIEL Associate Director of University Relations SHARON LOMAX Designer JANET L. MOLINARO Copy Editor KEITH LANPHER Photographer Military Sports Medicine Preventing Injuries and Keeping Our Future Soldiers in the Game...4 The Roots of the Carbon Cycle: Global Climate Change and the Unseen World Belowground...8 Research Day Candid Camera: Computer-based Facial Recognition System Spots Terrorists Entering the U.S Of Lasers, Atoms and Collisions: Physics Professor Shines Light on Ultracold Molecules...18 Paying the Ultimate Price: Emergency Health Professionals Grapple with Obligations During Crises...24 Research indicates that a substantial portion of the missing carbon is going into oceans and plants as a result of increased plant growth. Many published studies postulate that a large portion of the excess carbon captured by plants goes belowground to the roots and eventually into the soil as organic matter. Turn to page 8 for more of Frank Day s article. Opinions expressed do not reflect the official views of the university. For permission to reprint text from Old Dominion University s Quest, contact the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, John R. Broderick: (757) ; fax (757) ; QUEST SUMMER

4 HHow many times have we heard professional and college athletes talk about going into battle or preparing for war prior to a big game? We expect highly paid athletes to be in outstanding physical shape and to have the best sports medical care possible when they step onto the field of battle, but what about our country s true soldiers? How are we helping our military athletes achieve optimal physical fitness levels and prevent injuries while keeping them in the most important game of all protecting the country! commanders Military readiness became increasingly aware of the implications of injuries in the armed forces in the early 1990s. In response to recommendations from the Office of the Army Surgeon General, the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board formed the Injury Prevention and Control Work Group in Because of the strong emphasis placed upon soldiers physical fitness to ensure their readiness for combat, training-related injuries continue to be a major concern for the U.S. military. In a 1999 report, the Department of Defense BY JAMES OÑATE (DoD) listed military training-related injuries as the leading causes of disability, decreased military readiness and lost productivity. In Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, musculoskeletal injuries sustained off duty while participating in sports and recreational activities, as well as during physical fitness programs, were the leading causes of medical evacuations and hospitalizations for Army personnel. According to the DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs spends approximately $13 billion and the armed forces pay $1.5 billion annually to treat soldiers with disabilities caused by unintentional injury. and Musculoskeletal orthopedic-related injuries account for 63 percent of all disabilities. In 2003, the Naval Environmental Health Center issued a focus statement targeting five key areas for combating the effects of injury: determine the existence and size of the problem of injuries; identify causal risk factors of injuries; determine what prevents injuries from occurring; develop and provide guidance for implementing prevention strategies; and continue surveillance and monitoring of injury prevention methods. 4 QUEST SUMMER 2004

5 Preventing Injuries and Keeping Our Future Soldiers in the Game QUEST SUMMER

6 The Military Sports Medicine Injury Research Consortium Because Hampton Roads is home to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Special Warfare Operations and numerous military training centers, it was an obvious decision to make military sports medicine a focus of Old Dominion University s sports medicine research laboratory. Faculty from the Department of Exercise Science, Sport, Physical Education and Recreation and the School of Physical Therapy established the Military Sports Medicine Injury Research Consortium (MSMIRC) last fall to discuss methods to improve the health care of military personnel. Participants included faculty from the colleges of Education and Health Sciences, certified athletic trainers from the Naval Warfare Special Operations sports medicine health care group, the head of the physical therapy department at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, ODU Reserve Officers Training Corps commanders and cadets, and ODU physical therapy and athletic training graduate students. The consortium s goal is to become a global leader in providing a multidisciplinary approach to the investigation of injuries that commonly afflict active-duty and retired military personnel. Joining me on the MSMIRC initial development team were Old Dominion colleagues Bonnie Van Lunen, director of the graduate athletic training program; Martha Walker, director of the physical therapy school s motion analysis laboratory; Elizabeth Dowling, graduate program coordinator for the exercise science programs; and Michael Tamburello, assistant professor of physical therapy. The group plans to invite representatives from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to a second MSMIRC meeting this fall. Preventing Military Training-Related Injuries Lower-extremity musculoskeletal injuries resulting from physical training, such as ankle sprains, knee and thigh injuries, and shin splints, are particularly prevalent in the military population. These injuries result in loss of training time, and thus decreased military readiness. Risk factors associated with musculoskeletal injuries include low levels of current physical fitness, low levels of previous occupational and leisure time physical activity, previous injury history, high levels of running, high amounts of weekly exercise, smoking, age and biomechanical factors. Using this data, researchers have been able to focus on establishing injury-prevention methods. While numerous studies have been conducted on Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets during basic training, there is no current research on university ROTC training programs and their incidence of training-related injuries. Empirical data are needed to categorize and classify ROTC training-related injuries in order to develop While numerous studies have been conducted on Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets during basic training, there is no current research on university ROTC training programs and their incidence of training-related injuries. Empirical data are needed to categorize and classify ROTC training-related injuries in order to develop prevention strategies for members of this physically active population who may one day be called to get in the game. 6 QUEST SUMMER 2004

7 prevention strategies for members of this physically active population who may one day be called to get in the game. For its initial projects, the Military Sports Medicine Injury Research Consortium will conduct one on-campus and one off-campus investigation. The consortium will also provide healthcare tips as part of a three-year study tracking the incidence of injury among the university s ROTC cadets. These studies will test the feasibility of conducting injury screenings of biomechanical lower-extremity risk factors, including the evaluation of movement patterns and analyses of body composition. The ultimate goal is to keep cadets healthy during the rigorous demands of military training. The second collaborative project involves the joint efforts of Old Dominion, UNC-Chapel Hill and the military academies of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The epidemiology of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, a debilitating knee injury, will be prospectively analyzed in recruits over their four-year military academy careers to identify the risk factors for ACL injury occurrence. MSMIRC s Future Old Dominion University is quickly establishing itself as a vital resource in the field of military sports medicine. In the future, the consortium will explore establishing ROTC sports medicine clinical centers which would offer care similar to that provided to varsity athletes; organizing internship opportunities for graduate athletic training program students at Naval Special Warfare Operations sports medicine clinics; and increasing collaborative efforts with researchers from VCU, UNC-Chapel Hill and the Naval Environmental Health Center in tracking the incidence of training-related injuries among ROTC cadets. James Oñate, assistant professor of exercise science, sport, physical education and recreation, is director of ODU s Sports Medicine Research Laboratory. He helped develop one of the tools for biomechanical analyses of injury risk and will be directly responsible for the Military Sports Medicine Injury Research Consortium s ACL injury study at one of the nation s military academies. QUEST SUMMER

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9 The Roots of the Carbon Cycle: GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UNSEEN WORLD BELOWGROUND BY FRANK P. DAY CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS IN THE EARTH S ATMOSPHERE ARE INCREASING, LARGELY DUE TO COM- BUSTION OF FOSSIL FUELS BY HUMANS. ONE WIDELY ACCEPTED HYPOTHESIS IS THAT THE INCREASE IN CARBON DIOXIDE WILL CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING BECAUSE THE GAS MOLECULES ACT LIKE A GREENHOUSE ROOF AND TRAP HEAT IN THE ATMOSPHERE. THUS, THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF INTEREST IN THE GLOBAL CARBON BUDGET. SIMILAR TO A HOUSEHOLD BUDGET OF PERSONAL FINANCES, A CARBON BUDGET FOLLOWS TRANSACTIONS OF CARBON INSTEAD OF DOLLARS. WHERE DOES CARBON GO AND HOW LONG DOES IT STAY THERE?

10 Plant species and community types (such as pine forests or shrubby oaks) that respond especially well to higher carbon dioxide concentrations could be cultivated in select areas of the world, and thus capture more of the excess atmospheric carbon. An accounting of the known pathways and storage pools in the global carbon budget reveals a large amount of missing carbon, which suggests that the Earth has natural mechanisms for removing at least some of the excess carbon from the atmosphere. Research indicates that a substantial portion of the missing carbon is going into oceans and plants as a result of increased plant growth. Many published studies postulate that a large portion of the excess carbon captured by plants goes belowground to the roots and eventually into the soil as organic matter. This pathway of excess carbon sequestration suggests one potential means of reducing the impacts of higher carbon inputs into the atmosphere. Plant species and community types (such as pine forests or shrubby oaks) that respond especially well to higher carbon dioxide concentrations could be cultivated in select areas of the world, and thus capture more of the excess atmospheric carbon. The effectiveness of this approach largely depends upon the answer to a very big, as yet unresolved question: Can plant sequestration of excess carbon continue for an extended period or is it just a short-term response? Answering this question with regard to belowground sequestration via roots is complicated by the extreme difficulties in measuring the hidden environment in which roots reside. ODU Researchers at the Kennedy Space Center For almost nine years, my students and I have been part of an international team of ecologists conducting a longterm experiment at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A U.S. Department of Energy grant to the Smithsonian Institution and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) supports the research. The study involves control and experimental open-top chambers constructed to enclose small patches of the oak-palmetto scrub (shrubby vegetation) common in the subtropical climate of Florida. The natural ecosystem in the experimental chambers has been continuously maintained under a high carbon dioxide atmosphere (twice the current atmospheric concentrations) for about eight years. The twice-ambient concentrations represent levels actually expected to exist by the middle of this century. The team is measuring many aspects of the ecosystem response to high carbon dioxide levels; my students and I are looking at the belowground responses and, in particular, we are trying to determine the long-term role of roots in storing atmospheric carbon. 10 QUEST SUMMER 2004

11 Getting to the Root of the Problem There are great challenges to studying the unseen world of roots. They are exceptionally difficult to measure because they are hidden from view and direct physical access, sometimes quite deep in the soil, and any attempt to directly examine them is extremely disruptive to not only the immediate soil environment but also to the entire ecosystem. The resulting disturbance cannot be tolerated in a long-term experiment. However, several exciting technological approaches to the study of root systems have been developed or are now in development. We are currently using mini-rhizotrons in the Kennedy Space Center project to videotape and measure fine roots in a nondestructive manner, and we are investigating the use of ground-penetrating radar to obtain images of root systems without digging a single hole in the ground. Mini-rhizotrons are clear plastic tubes installed at an angle about a meter into the soil. Once the tubes are in place, we can periodically insert a specially constructed color video camera and tape the fine roots that are visible along the side of the tube. In the lab, we then use special software to identify each root in the field of vision and digitize its length and width. From these data we can compute the total length of fine roots per section of soil. By comparing different dates, we can actually follow the fate of individual roots through time by measuring their growth rates and determining when they die. This technique provides a robust quantitative view of fine root abundance and turnover without disrupting the soil environment. We have installed mini-rhizotrons in all of the chambers in the Kennedy Space Center study. The primary limitation of this method is that it only measures very small roots (less than 2 mm in diameter). Unfortunately, this technique doesn t tell us anything about the large roots in the system, which constitute the greatest portion of total root mass. A potential solution to this dilemma is the use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR). GPR has been used primarily by archaeologists to locate foundations of old ruins, by engineers to examine the structural integrity of buildings and by forensic experts to find buried bodies. This device also has promising new applications that we are exploring as part of the Kennedy Space Center study. GPR detects belowground features by measuring the amount of time it takes for an electromagnetic signal to travel from the antenna on the soil surface to the underground object (roots, in this case) and back. This noninvasive technology may allow us to estimate the mass of roots and possibly even develop detailed maps of root systems without digging in the soil at all. We are only in the beginning stages of testing and adapting this cutting-edge technology for root imaging, but it holds great promise. Roots Help, but for How Long? The study is in its eighth year, and the research results have included a number of surprises. The aboveground parts of the oak trees (stems and leaves) have continued to grow at a more rapid rate under higher carbon dioxide levels throughout the course of the experiment. In the first several years of the study, the fine roots also grew more rapidly and were more abundant in the high carbon Doctoral students Alisha Pagel and Dan Stover dioxide chambers. During videotaping fine roots at Kennedy Space Center. those early years, the plants appeared to be sequestering excess carbon, with much of that carbon apparently going belowground into the roots. However, about halfway through the study, we found the difference in fine root abundance between the control and elevated carbon dioxide chambers was diminishing, and recently it disappeared altogether. In other words, there is now no difference in fine 11

12 Fine roots seen through mini-rhizotron Mini-rhizotrons are clear plastic tubes installed at an angle about a meter into the soil. root abundance between the control and elevated chambers. One hypothesis is that soil nutrient limitations (especially nitrogen) encountered by the more rapidly growing plants cause the carbon dioxide-enriched plant growth to slow down. Therefore, the ability of some plants to store excess carbon from the atmosphere may be limited by other factors in the environment and thus last for only a few years. Our results are inconclusive at this point. Much remains to be done on this project, and we hope to continue to follow the ecosystem s responses for many more years. NASA also has interests in the outcome of the study that go well beyond the Earth s carbon cycle. One of the most daunting challenges of long space voyages, habitation of space stations and the establishment of living facilities on the moon or Mars is how to handle the accumulation of carbon dioxide, since it is toxic to humans in high concentrations. The inability to deal with this problem was the primary reason the Biosphere II project in Arizona failed. Carbon dioxide increased to toxic levels, and the project participants were forced to leave the enclosed structure. NASA wants to learn how enclosed living spaces can be engineered to be selfsustaining and to better deal with excess carbon dioxide. The processing of carbon by plants is at the core of these engineering efforts since this colorless, odorless gas is essential to the process of photosynthesis. Frank P. Day is a professor and eminent scholar of biological sciences. His primary research interests relate to ecosystem processes (nutrient cycling and organic matter dynamics) in forested wetlands and coastal ecosystems. 12 QUEST SUMMER 2004

13 RESEARCH DAY 2004 Poster presentations on everything from the origins of life and facial-recognition technologies to exercise and diabetes and recent findings about the rust on the USS Monitor were on exhibit March 23 for Old Dominion University s first Research Day. The daylong event, held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, also featured demonstrations of groundbreaking work, such as the use of tiny electrical pulses to impact cells and organisms, and modeling, simulation and visualization techniques for applications ranging from flight to crowd behavior. Among the approximately 150 poster presentations and displays were several interactive exhibits. More than 100 faculty and students took part in Research Day to explain their projects and answer questions. Because of the substantial growth ODU has experienced and the resulting increase in the number of faculty doing a variety of research, this was a great opportunity for both the campus community and the general public to explore some exciting and new work, said Robert Ash, associate vice president for research and economic development. For our faculty, in particular, it was an opportunity to discover what their colleagues are doing in other colleges and to explore things they can do together. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, gave the Research Day keynote address, Systems Biology: Deciphering Life and Changing Medicine. Hood is internationally known for his groundbreaking contributions to molecular biotechnology and genomics. His professional career has included instrumental contributions to the development of the DNA gene sequence and synthesizer, and the protein synthesizer and sequencer. Currently the William Gates III Professor at the University of Washington, he played a role in founding biotechnology companies such as Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Systemix, Rosetta and MacroGenics. At Washington, Hood formed a cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology in In 2000, he co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology, a research enterprise dedicated to systems approaches to biology and medicine. The institute merges the disciplines of biology, medicine, mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry and engineering to understand and solve specific problems in the life sciences. QUEST SUMMER

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15 CANDID Computer-based Facial Recognition System Spots Terrorists Entering the U.S. BY ELIZABETH O. COOPER Carrying a fake passport, a would-be terrorist saunters through a major U.S. airport believing that he will be able to evade questions from immigration officers and freely enter the country. What he does not see are the hidden cameras throughout the airport which are photographing him and following his every move. Nor does he realize that his facial image is rapidly being converted into a feature matrix with the resulting information sent by computers to embassies all over the world. Those embassies in turn will transmit any and all information about that person back to immigration officials at the U.S. airport. In short, his cover is about to be blown. That scenario could soon play out in airports across the country thanks to groundbreaking research led by Old Dominion University s Vijayan K. Asari. The associate professor of electrical and computer engineering has spent the past three years developing a computerbased facial image detection and recognition system. The three-dimensional approach can detect, track and recognize faces in video streams, even those photographed in complex lighting and background conditions. Asari expects a prototype to be ready for installation in the nation s international airports in the next two years, giving officials a new tool to identify potential terrorists trying to enter the United States. 64 Key Facial Details Generate A Feature Matrix The facial image detection system is being developed through Old Dominion s Homeland Security Research Group, which Asari directs. Composed of engineering faculty and students developing projects in computer vision and image processing, speech recognition and networking, the group was formed shortly after 9/11 to find a universal solution for securing the homeland from intruders by developing a transparent environment. The group scored a major feat when the Department of Defense chose it as one of seven recipients to receive a $68,000 grant to develop a system that would identify terrorists as they tried to enter the country. The defense department s initial call for research proposals resulted in 12,500 applications from all over the world. Other universities joining in the Old Dominionled effort include Carnegie Mellon University and CAMERA QUEST SUMMER

16 With this hardware, the job is done in one shot. You get the output in a fraction of a millisecond. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The grant was recently renewed for $300,000. The face locating and tracking system would pinpoint all the detectable human faces in an image under varying background and lighting environments, camera positions, facial poses, size of the face regions and skin color. Asari realized that rapid and automatic recognition of faces from video sequences could be the key factor in identifying terrorists as they try to enter the United States via the nation s airports. However, automatic facial recognition is especially difficult because the number, location, size and orientation of human faces vary from frame to frame when taken by an ordinary video camera. Asari decided to develop a multidimensional feature matrix composed of key details about a person s face extracted from images captured by two surveillance cameras mounted side by side. One camera surveys the entire scene and detects faces in the image, while the other automatically zooms to the center of the detected face regions to capture more detailed information for additional analysis and feature extraction. The second camera s images are used to generate the face feature matrix, which is composed of 64 numbers. A similarity search between the resulting feature matrix and feature vectors stored in databases at embassies throughout the world should identify facial images on file that match those of the person under surveillance. Accordingly, the would-be terrorist is discovered. A person from an international flight must pass through INS checkpoints, but before he arrives at that point, we would have cameras to catch his face, Asari explains. We capture the image and derive from the face a feature matrix. That information goes into a computer connected to embassies around the world. By comparison, when we type a keyword into Google, all information relevant to that keyword pops up in the computer. Likewise, when that person s feature matrix is given as the keyword, it s going to search a connected server at embassies of cooperating countries. All information about that person will be available such as where he s traveled. If he s traveled to three countries, data from those three countries will pop up. Thanks to the high-speed computing system, the immigration services officer immediately receives details about the individual, including criminal history, and can question him based on that data or contact higher authorities for further investigation. If no record comes up, he is not registered in any country, Asari notes. That s also bad because he must be in disguise because his face is not recognized by any country. He should also be investigated. Four different phases are involved in performing automatic facial recognition. The first is image enhancement, in which the surrounding environment is brightened to reveal possible faces within the image and enable detection of skin color components. From there, human skin is identified and classified by color. Asari has made a universal human skin cluster and can match images with the cluster, thereby categorizing the individual by race. The third stage involves discarding all non-facial regions, such as arms, hands and legs, from the skin regions that have been identified, so that only human faces are shown in the image. The face can then be matched with a database by analyzing facial features, such as the width of the nose, the distance between the eyes and the texture of the face. Asari says that there are approximately 250 facial images in Old Dominion s Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems Laboratory, but that number reaches into the thousands when the U.S. government s database is included. Fourth Stage: Tracking Following the successful completion of image enhancement, skin identification and facial classification, the tracking stage comes into play. We need to track the face because we don t want him to disappear, Asari notes. If he moves away, we can communicate that information to other systems. If cameras are fixed at every 100 feet in an airport, they can communicate with other cameras. It s a transparent environment. He adds that individuals will not realize that a camera is trained on them because the equipment is very tiny. Also, the images themselves are not transmitted. The moment the camera catches the image, we are converting the image into a face feature matrix. From that matrix, we never see the original image, he says. Only the camera is watching you, and it immediately converts that image to a set of numbers which represent the facial features of a particular person. Those numbers are generated by an algorithm based on spatial locations of facial features and depth information of those features. Asari notes that 64 numbers come from various aspects of an individual s face. Everybody s face is different, so 6 billion people in the world have 6 billion kinds of feature matrices. There would definitely be different combinations for different people. It takes 125 milliseconds to perform the search of feature matrices. We can have eight frames in one second, Asari notes. It s immediate. We can also have multiple images of the same scene at the same time. Using Los Angeles International Airport as an example, images photographed from the first camera are converted into a facial feature matrix and transmitted by a router to the main airport computer. From there, the matrix would be sent to the main computer for the western United States, which is connected to servers at all airports in that region, as well as to international air- 16 QUEST SUMMER 2004

17 ports and embassies. Within seconds, we would get all the data we need, Asari says. In addition to the grants, the defense department is supporting the project through connections to servers at embassies around the world. The department is also working with various industries to develop cameras and a computer network to test Asari s prototype. Security is a major concern in developing the facial recognition system. The image analysis and feature extraction is performed using computer hardware designed by engineers in the VLSI Systems Laboratory, with the matrices encrypted and protected from corruption through a virtual private network. Nobody is able to intrude in a feature matrix and corrupt our data, Asari says. The specially designed computer hardware ensures that the system will work faster and be more reliable. We don t want general computers because general computers do several other jobs. This hardware does this job alone. If we make an application-specific system, it does a specific job with maximum efficiency and speed. Speed is the biggest factor in designing hardware, says Asari, noting that general computers can only perform programs sequentially. With this hardware, the job is done in one shot. You get the output in a fraction of a millisecond. Applications Beyond Ports of Entry Although the system s main objective is recognizing potential terrorists as they travel through international airports, Asari says it could also be connected to servers at courts and police stations across the nation. Such a device would allow officials to search records of everyone convicted within the United States. A camera at a shopping center could incorporate the system to get data for security officers to keep an eye on a person, he adds. That s a lower application of the same concept. Individuals could also one day employ the facial detection system in their homes. We can do a search of people coming to the door by creating a face feature matrix, Asari explains. If I keep a camera at the front entrance of the house, it catches an image of a person coming to the door. Security centers have a database of criminals, and the security system keeps track of people coming to the door. The moment the camera catches his face, details are created and come up on the computer at the security center. The security center places a call to the house to warn the people inside the house not to open the door because that person is a convicted criminal somewhere. Everybody s face is different, so 6 billion people in the world have 6 billion kinds of feature matrices. There would definitely be different combinations for different people. Vijayan K. Asari QUEST SUMMER

18 Of Lasers, Atoms and Collisions ALBERT EINSTEIN S THEORY OF RELATIVITY SHOOK THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE. EDWIN HUBBLE S OBSERVATION OF GALAXIES BEYOND THE MILKY WAY RESHAPED ASTRONOMY. JAMES CHADWICK S DISCOVERY OF THE NEUTRON GAVE SCIENTISTS A NEW TOOL IN EXAMINING ATOMS. 18 QUEST SUMMER 2004

19 PHYSICS PROFESSOR SHINES LIGHT ON ULTRACOLD MOLECULES BY ELIZABETH O. COOPER TODAY, AN OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR IS ALSO DELVING INTO UNCHARTED TERRITORY BY EXPLORING ULTRACOLD MOLECULAR PHYSICS WITH THE GOAL OF LAUNCHING NEW APPLICATIONS IN PHYSICS, ASTROPHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY. HIS RESEARCH COULD ULTIMATELY ASSIST IN THE PRODUCTION OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF COMPUTERS AND NAVIGATIONAL SENSORS. QUEST SUMMER

20 Rubidium and Argon combined for the First Time This is a new regime, says Charles I. Sukenik, associate professor and undergraduate program director of physics, who is heading an Old Dominion research group that transforms cold atoms into cold molecules. A lot of work has been done in cold atom physics over the last 20 years, but there has not been the same level of work done in making cold molecules because molecules are a lot more complicated than atoms. Sukenik is studying the production of ultracold, heteronuclear molecules as a reaction product in the collisions of ultracold atoms. His research focuses on understanding the mechanics of production of the RbAr (rubidium argon) molecule, a disparate combination of an alkali metal and a noble gas. Simultaneously trapping an alkali atom (rubidium) and a noble gas atom (argon) had never been achieved before Sukenik and his group began using lasers to confine ultracold rubidium and metastable argon atoms in a specially designed magneto-optical trap. No one else is using a rubidium argon combination. Most others are using single atoms, Sukenik notes. Only a handful of researchers work with noble gases. Nobody works with a combination of an alkali and a noble gas. But it s a rich and unique system for study. There are so many different things that I can look at. To effectively study this combination, Sukenik uses lasers to cool the rubidium and argon atoms to a temperature very close to absolute zero (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit). Laser cooling tailors the contact between atoms and light, resulting in the light carrying off energy and momentum from the atoms. Once a large flux of molecules is produced, additional lasers are used to spatially confine the ultracold molecules in a second type of trap an optical dipole force trap. Sometimes referred to as optical tweezers, this trap can also be used to move DNA around. Designed in the mid- 1980s, the magneto-optical trap is a vacuum that combines lasers, magnetic fields and atoms, forcing atoms to cool and become optically confined. When atoms are that cold, we can study the interactions between them and the interaction between light and atoms, he explains, adding that at cold temperatures the dynamics of the interactions are different than they are at room temperatures. Atoms move slowly when they are cold, and if they get cold enough, quantum mechanics the wave nature description of the interaction between matter and radiation at an atomic level must be utilized to describe their motion. Because atoms move very slowly, there is great promise to be able to contain chemical reactions at ultracold temperatures and we can use light to manipulate the outcomes, Sukenik says. We re able to study the system with a high level of precision. Atoms Respond to Specific Light Colors Each atom interacts with only specific colors of light. If you shine light on an atom, and it s not the right color, the light doesn t interact with the atom, he notes. If you tune the laser to the right color, the atom slows down. Slowness corresponds to coldness. The light holds the atom in place, but if you turn the light off, the atom falls. Sukenik decided to combine rubidium and argon in a low-energy state to form what s known as a weakly bound van der Waals molecule. Rubidium, a soft, silvery-white metallic element, is one of the most electropositive and alkaline elements. It ignites spontaneously in air and reacts violently with water. Argon, a colorless, odorless, chemical element of the noble gases, constitutes nearly 1 percent of the atmosphere and is not known to form true chemical compounds. These molecules have been studied in the chemistry community for decades but never at ultracold temperatures, Sukenik notes. Right now we re searching for their molecular formation. First, we have to know something about the interaction between rubidium and argon. Preliminary results indicate the interaction is much less than expected. Laser sources exist to produce light which interacts with rubidium in its lowest energy state. For argon, however, no such laser sources presently exist; therefore, the atom must be placed in a long-lived excited state known as a metastable state. This allows the atom to interact with light which can be produced in the lab. You can make an atomic beam of argon and hit it with a laser light which slows it down, Sukenik explains, comparing the process to stopping a bowling ball by pelting it with pingpong balls. If you throw a million pingpong balls, it slows the bowling ball down. It s hard to throw a million pingpong balls at a bowling ball, but it s easy to throw a million photons at argon. Heteronuclear Studies Present Unique Challenges, Opportunities Sukenik has previously conducted research in ultracold atomic physics, ultrafast laser science and cavity quantum electrodynamics. When he joined the Old Dominion faculty in 1997, he focused his research on problems in ultracold atomic and molecular physics. The rubidium argon molecule project was initiated in He opted to work on a heteronuclear system which is a molecule formed from two different types of atoms, a decision that has put him on the vanguard of ultracold molecular research. It s very interesting, he says. It s a different system 20 QUEST SUMMER 2004

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