Zen 506: In your face! Why the US advanced combat helmet doesn't really help

Extensive research just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS ) has found that the US advanced combat helmet, while thoroughly super at stopping bullets, actually does you bugger all good in the event of an explosion.

Given that most troops in Afghanistan are vulnerable primarily to IED attacks, this is a major problem. The PNAS paper, catchily entitled 'In silico investigation of intracranial blast mitigation with relevance to military traumatic brain injury' demonstrates that there's a big hole in the helmet that doesn't stop blast waves.

That big hole is traditionally the one GI Joe's face sticks out of, so it's really a requirement rather than an oversight. But what happens if you cover that face hole with, say, a visor? The results, says researcher Raul Radovitzky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (no, seriously, that's his job title - how cool?) are 'radical'.

"Our simulations without the helmet and with it both show that the primary pathway for transmission of the energy of the blast into the brain tissue is through the soft tissues of the face," says Radovitzk. The visor dramatically improves the outcome by reducing the amount of shock reaching the brain.

That's not to say the US military will be racing to install visors. While they may be effective against bombs, they are stuff all good if you can't see when Jonny Taliban is shooting at you. But watch this space. After visors, tracking computers. After tracking computers, a million-to-one-shot raid on the Death Star...

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