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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Mechanical Hound  
  An eight-legged robotic "hound" with hypodermic poison fangs.  

Note: See also the Science Fiction in the News stories Bradbury's Mechanical Hound and DARPA's Big Dog and DARPA's Big Dog Now In Puppy Stage.

It hunts an individual keyed to his or her perspiration. The Hound is one of the parts of the novel I remember most vividly (having read it over thirty years ago).

The mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel back in a dark corner of the fire house. The dim light of one in the morning, the moonlight from the open sky framed through the great window, touched here and there on the brass and copper and the steel of the faintly trembling beast. Light flickered on bits of ruby glass and on sensitive capillary hairs in the nylon-brushed nostrils of the creature that quivered gently, its eight legs spidered under it on rubber padded paws.

Nights when things got dull, which was every night, the men slid down the brass poles, and set the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the hound and let loose rats in the fire house areaway. Three seconds later the game was done, the rat caught half across the areaway, gripped in gentle paws while a four-inch hollow steel needle plunged down from the proboscis of the hound to inject massive jolts of morphine or procaine.

From Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
Published by Doubleday in 1953
Additional resources -

The Hound is described in the chilling Bradbury style, contrasting the animal characteristics of a real hound with references to brass and steel and nylon.

The Six-Million Dollar Nose (E-Nose)

The really unique part of the Hound is already under development by NASA. Dubbed the "E-Nose" is a sophisticated electronic sensor developed to help astronauts monitor air quality aboard spacecraft. The nose is programmed to detect 12 different compounds that could spell trouble if released inside the confines of a spaceship.

"Space crews are very, very busy," said Amy Ryan, principal investigator for E-Nose at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Anything we can do to automate their tasks and keep the space habitat safe is highly desirable."

Besides checking for accidental chemical spills, NASA officials hope the E-Nose will be able to detect fires, a major hazard in space, before they break out. Earth-bound uses include "sniffing" for unexploded land mines, for spills in chemical plants that could contaminate workers, for plant ripeness to harvest and for possible diagnosis of disease based on odors from human perspiration and breath.

Another assassination device based on an animal model is the cobra, from Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Compare to the bloodhound machine from Crimes of the Year 2000 (1935) by Ray Cummings.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Fahrenheit 451
  More Ideas and Technology by Ray Bradbury
  Tech news articles related to Fahrenheit 451
  Tech news articles related to works by Ray Bradbury

Mechanical Hound-related news articles:
  - DARPA's BigDog Robot And Bradbury's Mechanical Hound
  - Boudreaux - Extra Vehicular Activity Robotic Assistant
  - Sega idog Robot Puppy (Update)
  - BigDog Quadruped Robot Update
  - No Runts In BigDog Robot Litter
  - Sniffer Robot With Infotaxis Algorithms On The Hunt
  - Ubiko Robot A Fireman's Friend
  - Caltech Electronic Nose: The Lewis Group Smells Success
  - Electronic Taster Has A Nose For Coffee
  - Active Stereo Nose Finds The Source
  - PIGORASS Pneumatic Quadruped Robot
  - Artificial Noses For Disease Diagnostics
  - Personal Sniffer Robots
  - Robot To Detect The Source Of Odors
  - Robotic Guide Dogs May Displace Fido
  - Fuli Bad Dog Robot Is 'Auspicious Raccoon Dog' Bot

Articles related to Robotics
Terrifying Robotic Apple Harvester
Jetson-Style Clockwork Robot Nail Salon Coming To Target Near You
Mechanical Horse Sculpture Gallops In Place
Hotels Turn To Robots As Human Workers Regroup

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Science Fiction in the News

'Courier Commons' By Tomorrow Lab, From Karl Schroeder (and Bruce Sterling?)
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Terrifying Robotic Apple Harvester
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant.'

Mechanical Horse Sculpture Gallops In Place
'Rod placed the brain inside the panel... the horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'

'Make Sunsets' Tweaks Climate By Atmospheric Alteration
'Pina2bo would have to operate full blast for many years to put as much SO2 into the stratosphere as its namesake had done in a few minutes.'

Eviation Alice Electric Plane First Flight
'A white electric plane approached at great speed...'

Hotels Turn To Robots As Human Workers Regroup
'Chain of hotels that specialized in non-human service.'

Changesite Mineral To Be Mined On Moon By China
'But then... not every bulldozer operator works on the Moon.'

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