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Watch Your Back

Imagine a periscope that lets you look forward, backward, and all around yourself-without moving. That’s possible with an inexpensive lens patented by engineer Jeff Lindner at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. Shaped like a Hershey’s Kiss, the lens funnels light into a curved compartment that bends and reflects the rays. Point the lens up and you’ll see a flat 360 view of the horizon oriented like the face of a clock: straight ahead is six o’clock, to the left is nine o’clock, behind you is twelve o’clock, and to your right is three o’clock. Current panoramic lenses require expensive optical-grade glass. But Lindner uses ordinary polymers and standard machine tools to make his lens, so it should be cheap to mass-produce. NASA is looking to license the technology for security and surveillance.

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