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Mom vs. Bomb

One engineer's robots are saving lives in war zones

4 min read

Start talking about explosives experts and the image that comes to mind is more James Bond than Jersey mom. Yet Naomi Zirkind—a soft-spoken mother of eight—is the lone woman and the only person with a doctorate on a seven-member military engineering team working on better ways to use robots to detect, inspect, and neutralize bombs. Since 2003, more than 330 explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots have been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan, costing roughly US $150 000 each. These robots have saved countless lives,” says Staff Sergeant Isaac Allender, an EOD team leader who served in Iraq for eight months in 2004, both personally disarming bombs and supervising others. Allender now serves as a liaison between the field soldiers and Zirkind’s team of robot engineers.

”Our unit used robots in 120 runs�. In the past, that would have been us putting on a bomb suit and walking to the site for the initial inspection,” he continues, noting that 11 robots were blown up by the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) favored by insurgents in Iraq.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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