The Pentagon has a new toy: a laser that can identify people at a 200-meter distance—based on their heart rate. Yet another reason to take good care of this precious organ of yours. If they start scanning, better look good!

As it turns out, the human heartbeat is almost as unique as a fingerprint and therefore an excellent means of identification. After fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition, it is now your heart that gives you away; ready to be compared in a huge database with the beats and heart rhythms of all other individuals. Can’t beat that one. 

According to the MIT Technology Review news site, the laser, named Jetson, requires half a minute for identification. Success rate is currently around 95 percent. In practice, Jetson will most likely be used in combination with facial recognition or other identification methods. Its rollout may take some time: to make laser identification possible, the heartbeat pattern of all persons would first have to be stored in a database.

Our Heart

The heart is the symbol of all kinds of human emotions: it gives away our intimate and vulnerable inner-self. When vital emotions kick in, under the influence of the brain and even our intestines, our heartbeat change pace. Just think about a violent crush, feelings of anxiety, or anger. Because of this strong connection between the heart and countless affective states, people used to think that human emotions originated from the heart.

According to ancient Egyptians, even the conscience was stored in the heart. After death, the heart was weighed by the Gods. Too many bad deeds made the heart heavier: heavier than the "feather of truth."

With a heavy heart, the deceased was disallowed to journey onward to the hereafter. In our linguistic culture, despite its heavy emphasis on the material and the rational, numerous comparable symbolizations of the heart persist. Think of countless proverbs and sayings, and the ever-popular, universal symbol, or emoticon, for love.

Better scanned than skinned!

Many people may have reason to pause on reading how far technology is able to penetrate our heart of hearts, certainly considering the associated invasion of privacy. Just remember that the Aztecs just made it a bit more colorful. Aztec civilization flourished in Central America (modern-day Mexico) around 1200-1520. Aztecs, too, attributed special powers to the human heart: and not just for identification. They believed that the world would perish if the sun stopped being provided with freshly sacrificed human hearts. (They used prisoners of war to replenish their heart stock, but that’s an aside.)

You only got one!

The heart is on our mind. That has always been true, and it will stay that way. And that's a good thing. After all, we only have one. It is merely the way we pay attention to our heart that changes across history and cultures.

Healthy living reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Also learn to relax—both actively and passively—and discover what you can do yourself and what helps you live a healthy life. And if there ever will be such a thing as identification by means of a 'heart scan' ... give them some vital signs!

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