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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

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.

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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

Articles related to Robotics
FORTIS Exoskeleton Not Quite Ripley's Alien-Fighting Exoskeleton
Kirobo Mini - Your Dashboard Droid
3D Printed Soft Robotic Tentacle May Grab You
Sprint Wants Sales Robots

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