iPhone apps, algorithms and satellites dominate 2009

Layer 8 takes a look at what you came to see the most

According to our page view counts, readers couldn't get enough information on everything from flying laser weapons and unmanned aircraft to really tough math problems and red balloons. Here's a look at the top 10 Layer 8 blog posts for 2009.

Zapping things from the sky:

Zapping things from the sky: Airborne Boeing laser blasts ground target . The airborne military laser which promises to destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage has for the first time actually blown something up. Boeing and the U.S. Air Force said a C-130H aircraft armed with Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) blasted a target test vehicle on the ground for the first time. Boeing has been developing the ATL since 2008 under an Air Force contract worth up to $30 million.

Inside the bad-ass world of military research projects:

Inside the bad-ass world of military research projects: When it comes to building the most advanced, bad-ass technologies around there are few science enclaves that can match the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency . This year the outfit detailed nine top strategic research programs in a 57-page report. The report states the programs will lead to revolutionary, radical high-payoff (and many times high-cost) technology advances.

The world\'s 23 toughest math questions:

The world's 23 toughest math questions: It sounds like a math phobic's worst nightmare or perhaps Good Will Hunting for the ages . Those wacky folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency last year put out a research request it calls Mathematical Challenges, that has the mighty goal of "dramatically revolutionizing mathematics and thereby strengthening DoD's scientific and technological capabilities."

US shells out $10M for unmanned aircraft that can perch like a bird:

U.S. shells out $10M for unmanned aircraft that can perch like a bird: Unmanned aircraft maker AeroVironment got an additional $5.4 million to further develop the diminutive aircraft that can fly into tight spaces undetected, perch and send live surveillance information to its handlers. Last Fall, AeroVironment, got $4.6 million initial funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the Stealthy, Persistent, Perch and Stare Air Vehicle System (SP2S), which is being built on the company's 1-pound, 29-inch wingspan battery-powered Wasp unmanned system.

How to move a boat without an engine, paddles or sails:

How to move a boat without an engine, paddles or sails: Researchers say technology they have developed would let boats or small aquatic robots glide through the water without the need for an engine, sails or paddles. A University of Pittsburgh research team has designed a propulsion system that uses the natural surface tension that is present on the water's surface and an electric pulse to move the boat or robot, researchers said. The Pitt system has no moving parts and the low-energy electrode that emits the pulse could be powered by batteries, radio waves, or solar power, researchers said in a statement.

Colossal spy airships with 15-story radars get $400M reality check:

Colossal spy airships with 15-story radars get $400M reality check: Military scientists got the go ahead to build a roughly one-third-scale model of a stratospheric airship that if completed in-scale will basically house a floating 15-story radar system capable of detecting and tracking everything from small cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to soldiers and small vehicles under foliage up to 300 kilometers away.

Tracking the world\'s great unsolved math mysteries:

Tracking the world's great unsolved math mysteries: Some math problems are as old as the wind, experts say and many remain truly unsolved. But a new open source-based site from the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) looks to help track work done and solve long-standing and difficult math problems. The Institute along with the National Science Foundation will on Wednesday open the AIM Problem Lists site to offer an organized and annotated collection of unsolved problems, and previously unsolved problems, in a specialized area of mathematics research.

Mach 6 test aircraft set for trials:

Mach 6 test aircraft set for trials: The aspiration that jets may some day fly at over six-times the speed of sound took a very real step toward reality recently as the U.S. Air Force said it successfully married the test aircraft, known as the X-51A WaveRider to a B-52 in preparation for flight tests. The X-51A flight tests are intended to demonstrate the engines can achieve their desired speed without disintegrating. While the X-51 looks like a large rocket now, its applications could change the way aircraft or spaceships are designed, fly into space, support reconnaissance missions and handle long-distance flight operations.

15-ton bomb would move aside "The Mother" and become "The Father Of All Bombs":

15-ton bomb would move aside "The Mother" and become "The Father Of All Bombs": Now this is one big bomb . Published reports earlier this year said the Pentagon is rattling swords in the direction of North Korea and Iran by speeding the development a 20-foot, 30,000-pound bomb known as Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) meant to annihilate underground bunkers and other hardened (re: long range missile) sites.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which has overseen the development of this monster since 2007, says it is designed to be carried aboard B-2 and B-52 bombers and deployed at high altitudes where it would strike the ground at speeds well beyond 2X the speed of sound to penetrate the below ground target.

DARPA "balloon hunt" could win you $40K cash:

DARPA "balloon hunt" could win you $40K cash: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) offered up a rather interesting challenge: find and plot 10 red weather balloons scattered at undisclosed locations across the country. The first person to identify the location of all the balloons and enter them on the challenge Web site will win a $40,000 cash prize. Almost as soon as it was launched, in only nine hours in fact, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team won the $40,000 cash prize The MIT team received the prize for being the first to identify the locations of all 10 balloons.