ind-reading may soon become a useful anti-terrorism tool. A team of researchers at Northwestern University have accurately predicted the plots of "mock terrorist plans" by reading the brain waves of volunteer would-be terrorist "suspects." Theoretically, the technique could help authorities uncover terrorist attacks before they take innocent lives, but just how viable is this Minority Report-like approach? (Watch a scene from Minority Report.) Here, a guide:
How was the study conducted?
Scientists gave 29 students 30 minutes to plan a mock attack on a target U.S. city; subjects were asked to write a letter about the plan to deeply ingrain details such as location, method, and timing in their memories. Electrodes were then attached to these faux-terrorists' scalps to monitor their "P300" brain waves, which spike when a guilty person is presented with damning information. As the names of various U.S. cities were flashed on a computer screen, the participants' P300 activity tended to increase sharply when their chosen "target city" appeared.
How accurate were their results?
Very. Even "without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and...20 out of 30 crime-related details," says J. Peter Rosenfeld, the study's lead researcher. "The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity."
How will the technology be used in real scenarios?
Authorities often monitor "chatter" — communications to and from terrorist suspects — in an attempt to gather details about possible attacks. Researchers hope that authorities could use the P300 technology to grill suspects they've arrested and confirm details that came up in the chatter.
- WATCH: Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly spar over the Obama scandals
- How the White House's war on media backfired
- WATCH: Suspect defends brutal beheading of London man in broad daylight
- 10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2013
- A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds
- Is Greek yogurt hurting the environment?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Sadly, you are uglier than you think
- Did IRS official Lois Lerner waive her right to silence?
- Hollywood blockbusters should kill off some of their main characters
- The politics behind Kanye West's 'New Slaves'
- Are we on the cusp of a solar energy boom?
- Why Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn doesn't want tornado relief money
- WATCH: Jon Stewart hates everyone in Washington now
- LIVE UPDATES: Massive tornado tears through Oklahoma City area
- Angry at the government? 5 ways you can fight back
- 7 purported health benefits of drinking coffee
- What is a quantum computer — and why does Google need one?
- Why NASA is funding a 3D pizza printer
- The cool backstory of the Slurpee