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C. Automating a System for Detecting Biological Attacks

Narrator: This is Science Today. A new system called BASIS has been developed to detect biological agents released in the air by a terrorist attack. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories created the network of air monitors and testing labs to protect special events like last winter's Salt Lake City Olympics. But Livermore Project Manager Dennis Imbro says the system could be used beyond special events if certain challenges are met.

Imbro: If we want to take the system and run it 365 days a year in a city, now we become concerned with the crew size. And so one of the specific things that we're doing is automating all the processes. Put it on robotic workstations and making it easier for a few people to push through a lot of samples per day.

Narrator: Imbro says automation involves significant scientific challenges. The samples used to test for biological agents must work perfectly since no person will be present to oversee the process.

Imbro: False alarms in a situation like this are really very unacceptable.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.