Northern China is in trouble with pollution. The smog is so severe that it can be seen as a solid mass from space. The latest outcome is that the smog blinds China's spy and surveillance cameras, rendering them useless. This is a serious threat both to Big Brother and to national security. The haze is so thick that scientists cannot come up with a solution. This is because the smog is not "fog" as the government insists on calling it. Fog is composed of water droplets with visual properties that can be overcome with algorithms and software. Smog is full of particulate matter that physically blocks cameras and eyes from rendering clear images. According to a Nov. 5 Quartz article, the first thought would be to use infrared imaging, which works through fog or smoke. However, infrared does not work when objects are blocked by particulate matter.
With 20 million cameras and blinding smog, China's ubiquitous surveillance policies might benefit from technology that can "see" through the particulate matter. Algorithms derived from existing mathematical models might work with new hardware. Microwaves, radar and electromagnetic waves, combined with the right software could do the job, but such waves might present health risks.
A Nov. 6 article in the South China Morning Post describes three meter visibility in the city of Harbin, a city of 11 million. Harbin is shut down because of the pollution.
In response, the Chinese government has ordered military and a civilian scientists to find a solution within four years. This means trouble for the scientists because no camera has been invented that can see through particulate matter, especially when it is so thick it is like a solid wall.
As for doing something about the pollution, the government set a goal of reducing particulate matter by 25 percent and coal burning by 65 percent. The deadline for those levels is 2017. The biggest action is to prohibit building of new coal plants, according to a Nov. 5 UK Guardian article.
Another major move is to rein in China's overload of cars. According to a Nov. 5 Reuters article, China now allows 240,000 new car licenses. The plan is to cut new car licenses to 150,000. To show how massive the change is, 600,000 vehicles were sold in China in year 2010 alone. That is now the limit for new car sales between 2014 and 2017. The government will give some relief, however, by supporting car buyers who go for electric or hybrid cars.