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I think I'll take the stairs

illustration only
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) May 16, 2006
Inspired by the human cannonball of circus fame, US defence researchers have patented a device to fire police officers, firefighters or special forces to the top of a five-storey building, New Scientist reported Tuesday.

The device could put a man on the top of a five-storey building in less than two seconds, it said in a news item on its website (

The invention comprises a launch ramp that would be placed on the ground at an angle of about 80 degrees to the building.

A person would then sit in a chair attached to the ramp, and compressed air from a cylinder underneath would shoot the chair up the ramp's guide rails.

"At the top, the chair would come to an instant halt, leaving the person to fly up and over the edge of the roof, to hopefully land safely on top of the building," said New Scientist.

In circuses, the human eyeball is used to estimate the best angle for firing the cannon.

But the patent, filed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), says the ramp's precise elevation and the chair's speed of ascent would be calculated by computer.

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Kandahar, Afghanistan (AFP) May 12, 2006
The Dutch army's Apache attack helicopters will be a reassuring presence for its troops in southern Afghanistan even if they are powerless against the main threat: homemade bombs and car bombs.

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