Scientists Build Portable Life-Signs Detector: Tricorder 1.0

A team of US and UK scientists have invented a portable scanner that may be useful in the hunt for life on Mars. And it sounds a whole lot like a Star Trek tricorder: it uses a beam of ultraviolet laser light and detects fluorescence from organic molecules, so it works remotely and doesn't damage samples. Under simulated-Mars conditions, they've used it to detect polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found on comets, thought to be building-blocks of life) in masses as small as 1.5 micrograms. Plus they think the tech could be adapted to be rugged and fitted onto a future Mars rover. Just wait for the handheld version, and for an astronaut to start going "widdlywee..." as they stomp around Mars. [Eurekalert via IO9]