SciTech Now Episode 216

In this episode, the hunt for dark matter ensues 4,850 feet below the ground; Financial Times reporter Gina Chon discusses the depth and implications of cyber security; and thanks to electrodes implanted in her muscles, athlete Jennifer French can compete once again.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP, THE HUNT FOR DARK MATTER...

IT'S A LOT LIKE HUNTING FOR THE RIGHT RABBIT HOLE AND THEN JUMPING DOWN THAT NEXT RABBIT HOLE, ONLY TO FIND ANOTHER RABBIT HOLE THAT YOU HAVE TO JUMP INTO.

...A CYBERSPACE WAR...

THEY'RE DEALING WITH DECADES OF OLD NETWORKS, OLD SYSTEMS THAT CAN'T BE EASILY FIXED.

SO EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW IT'S A HUGE PROBLEM, IT'S STILL GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO FIX IT.

...AND, FINALLY, FROM ACCIDENT VICTIM TO SUPER-ATHLETE, THANKS TO SCIENCE.

FOR MY FIRST STAND, IT WAS A GREAT MOMENT, AND BEING ABLE TO DO IT INDEPENDENTLY WAS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY...

HELLO, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM, BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

IN AN ABANDONED GOLD MINE IN RURAL SOUTH DAKOTA, A TEAM OF PHYSICISTS ARE HUNTING FOR ASTROPHYSICAL TREASURE.

THEIR RARE AND ELUSIVE QUARRY IS DARK MATTER -- A THEORETICAL PARTICLE WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN OR DIRECTLY DETECTED.

PRODUCERS FOR 'SCIENCE FRIDAY' MADE THE JOURNEY DEEP UNDERGROUND TO DOCUMENT THE TEAM'S EXPERIMENT IN THEIR FILM '4,850 FEET BELOW.'

WE'LL SPEAK WITH THE FILMMAKER ABOUT THE RESEARCHER'S LARGE UNDERGROUND XENON EXPERIMENT KNOWN AS LUX AND THE INCREDIBLE CHALLENGES THEY FACED.

BUT FIRST, HERE'S A CLIP.

THE FIRST TIME I CAME HERE, IT WAS VERY MUCH A 'WOW' MOMENT FOR ME.

I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD END UP IN A MINE SHAFT A MILE UNDER THE EARTH.

WE ARE 4,850 FEET BELOW THE SURFACE, SO ALMOST A MILE.

WE MAKE THAT JOURNEY BECAUSE, ON THE SURFACE, MORE THAN ONE COSMIC RAY IS GOING THROUGH MY HAND EVERY SECOND.

HERE ON THE 4,850 LEVEL, LESS THAN ONE COSMIC RAY IS GOING THROUGH MY HAND EVERY THREE MONTHS.

SO LUX HAS BEEN DESIGNED TO BE THE QUIETEST PLACE IN THE WORLD.

AND THROUGH SUCH AN INSTRUMENT, WE HOPE TO BE ABLE TO STUDY DARK MATTER.

YOU KNOW, THERE'S A PRETTY SMALL SLICE OF REALITY THAT WE CAN ACTUALLY SEE OR TOUCH.

IN PHYSICS, YOU CAN GO WELL BEYOND THESE THINGS.

WE CAN'T FEEL OR TOUCH RADIO WAVES OR INFRARED OR ULTRAVIOLET OR X-RAYS OR GAMMA RAYS, NEUTRONS, BUT THOSE THINGS ARE ALL AROUND US ALL THE TIME.

AND WITH THE RIGHT INSTRUMENTS, YOU CAN DETECT THEM.

SO THIS IS LUX RIGHT HERE.

THIS IS THE WATER TANK.

LUX IS DEEP INSIDE OF THIS GUY RIGHT HERE.

THE WATER ACTS AS OUR NEUTRON AND GAMMA-RAY SHIELD FROM ALL THE RADIATION IN THE LAB SPACE.

THE LUX DETECTOR IN ITS MOST BASIC FORM IS SIMPLY A BUCKET OF XENON.

LIQUID XENON -- WELL, XENON, THE NOBLE ELEMENT, IS VERY PURE.

IT HAS VERY FEW RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES IN IT, WHICH MEANS, IN ITS NATURAL FORM, IT'S INCREDIBLY QUIET.

WE'RE ABLE, THEN, TO USE THE FEATURE OF XENON, WHICH IS WHEN PARTICLES INTERACT IN IT, IT WILL GENERATE A SMALL AMOUNT OF LIGHT.

IN ORDER TO DETECT DARK MATTER EVENTS, WE NEED TO STUDY, OR WATCH, THE XENON INCREDIBLY CLOSELY.

WE'VE DESIGNED A SYSTEM OF PHOTOMULTIPLIER TUBES THAT ARE WATCHING THE XENON FROM BELOW AND ABOVE.

IN OUR EXPERIMENT, WE HAVE 122 PHOTOMULTIPLIER TUBES.

THEY'RE SINGLE PHOTON-SENSITIVE DEVICES.

THE AVERAGE 60-WATT LIGHT BULB PRODUCES 1 BILLION BILLION PHOTONS PER SECOND, AND WE SEE ONE PHOTON.

WE EXPECT A DARK-MATTER PARTICLE IS GONNA FLY INTO OUR DETECTOR.

IT WILL, ALMOST BILLIARD-BALL STYLE, INTERACT DIRECTLY WITH A XENON NUCLEUS.

ASSOCIATED WITH THAT, THERE IS THE EMISSION OF LIGHT.

AND WE CAN PICK UP THE INDIVIDUAL PHOTONS THAT ARE BEING EMITTED FROM THE XENON.

WHEN THAT HAPPENS, YOU HAVE OUR S1 SIGNAL.

THE ELECTRONS THEMSELVES SOMETIMES ACTUALLY GET REMOVED FROM THE ATOM.

WHEN THAT HAPPENS, YOU NOW HAVE FREE ELECTRONS, INDIVIDUAL ELECTRONS COMING OUT OF THE XENON LIQUID, GENERATING THESE INCREDIBLE BURSTS OF LIGHT THAT LIGHT UP LIKE CHRISTMAS TREES.

SO WE GET A SECOND SCINTILLATION SIGNAL.

WE CALL IT S2.

JOINING ME NOW IS 'SCIENCE FRIDAY' VIDEO PRODUCER LUKE GROSKIN.

WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING IN THIS PLACE, THIS 4,850 FEET BELOW HEAVY ROCK?

IT'S... IT'S A LITTLE BIT TERRIFYING.

I'M NOT GONNA LIE.

TAKING A 12-MINUTE ELEVATOR RIDE DOWN TO THE --

IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.

YEAH, IN THE WRONG DIRECTION, IT'S A LITTLE BIT TERRIFYING.

IT'S A RICKETY KIND OF CAGE -- THEY CALL IT A CAGE -- ELEVATOR RIDE.

YOUR EARS ARE POPPING THE ENTIRE TIME.

THEY GIVE YOU THIS EXTENSIVE SAFETY LESSON BEFORE YOU GO DOWN THERE, BASICALLY SAYING LIKE, 'IN CASE OF A COLLAPSE, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE SURVIVE USING THESE THINGS ON YOUR BELT.

JUST LISTEN TO THE INSTRUCTIONS AND YOU'LL BE OKAY.'

SO IT'S A LITTLE INTIMIDATING, BUT WHEN YOU GET DOWN THERE AND YOU ROUND THIS CURVE AND YOU GO INTO THE SCIENCE CAMPUS INSIDE THIS MINE, IT'S LIKE BEING IN A REALLY, REALLY HIGH-TECH SCIENCE LAB.

REALLY HIGH-TECH SCIENCE LAB.

YOU HAVE PEOPLE IN TYVEK SUITS.

YOU HAVE TO WIPE DOWN ALL OF YOUR GEAR TO MAKE SURE NONE OF THE DUST COMES IN, AND YOU'RE PRESENTED WITH THESE EXPERIMENTS THAT INVOLVE INCREDIBLY ELABORATE SETUPS OF FILTERS, PUMPS, XENON, THIS REALLY RARE NOBLE GAS, AND ALL OF IT JUST IS -- IT'S VERY SURREAL.

THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE IS REALLY, REALLY SURREAL.

SO WHY DO THEY THINK THAT THEY CAN -- THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE AT FIGURING OUT WHAT DARK MATTER IS DOWN THERE VERSUS ANYWHERE ELSE?

WELL, WHY DOWN THERE?

SO, IF YOU GO THAT DEEP IN THE EARTH, YOU'RE BEING PROTECTED FROM ALL THE COSMOGENIC RAYS THAT ARE BOMBARDING US.

SO RIGHT NOW, IN THIS STUDIO, WE ARE BEING BOMBARDED WITH RAYS, COSMOGENIC RAYS.

AND ALL OF THAT CREATES NOISE INSIDE OF A DETECTOR.

THEY CALL IT NOISE.

IT'S JUST BASICALLY PARTICLE INTERACTIONS.

NOW, YOU WANT TO GET AWAY FROM THAT.

IF YOU WANT TO DETECT SOMETHING THAT'S VERY, VERY SUBTLE, THIS WEAK INTERACTION, YOU GOT TO GET AWAY FROM ALL THAT, SO THEY GO DEEP-DOWN UNDERGROUND.

THEN THEY PUT LEVELS UPON LEVELS OF SHIELDING AROUND THE DETECTOR TO MAKE SURE THAT ANY SORT OF BETA DECAYS OR OTHER SORT OF PARTICLES THAT MIGHT BE ABLE TO ZIP DOWN THROUGH THE EARTH INTO THERE GET SHIELDED OUT, AND THEN, EVEN THEN, THEY RULE OUT ALL OF THIS OTHER SORT OF INTERACTIONS INSIDE THE PARTICLE DETECTOR, AND THEY'RE LOOKING FOR ONE SPECIFIC TYPE OF INTERACTION.

AND THEY BELIEVE, BASED ON CURRENT ASTROPHYSICAL EVIDENCE, THAT THIS PARTICLE WILL BEHAVE IN A CERTAIN WAY AND HAVE A CERTAIN MASS.

THERE'S LOTS OF EVIDENCE, IF YOU LOOK AT THE ROTATION OF GALAXIES AND THE WAY THAT GALAXIES FORM CLUSTERS, THAT THIS PARTICLE, DARK MATTER, HAS CERTAIN PROPERTIES.

MM-HMM.

AND SO IF IT HAS THESE CERTAIN PROPERTIES, IT WILL INTERACT INSIDE XENON IN A VERY SPECIFIC MANNER.

THIS COULD BE A WHILE.

OH, YEAH.

AND ARE THEY WILLING TO WAIT THAT LONG?

I MEAN, IS THE FACILITY ITSELF -- DOES IT HAVE A 100-YEAR PLAN, A 500-YEAR PLAN, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

SO RIGHT THERE, THEY'RE IN THE MIDST OF THEIR 300-DAY RUN OF LUX.

AND AFTER THAT, THEY'RE GONNA DISMANTLE LUX AND THEY'RE GONNA BUILD AN EVEN BIGGER VERSION OF IT CALLED LZ -- LUX ZEPLIN.

THEY'RE NOT VERY GOOD WITH THEIR ACRONYMS.

WHERE'S THAT GONNA BE?

THAT'S GONNA BE RIGHT WHERE LUX IS.

SO THEY'RE GONNA PUT IT RIGHT IN THE SAME SPOT.

NOW, THAT'S A FIVE-TIMES-BIGGER DETECTOR.

AND SIZE REALLY MATTERS WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO DETECT PARTICLE INTERACTIONS BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE ENTIRE BUCKET OF XENON.

YOU'RE NOT LOOKING FOR ANY INTERACTIONS THERE.

YOU'RE ONLY LOOKING AT A VERY, VERY, VERY TINY SPOT IN THE CENTER.

SO IF YOU HAVE A BIGGER DETECTOR, YOU CAN HAVE A BIGGER CENTER...

SURE.

...AT THE CENTER OF YOUR DETECTOR.

OKAY, SO LET'S SAY BEST-CASE SCENARIO, THEY GET A HIT.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

SO, IT MEANS TWO THINGS.

IF, BY CHANCE, THEY GET A WEAK INTERACTION BETWEEN A DARK-MATTER PARTICLE AND XENON, IT MEANS THAT THEY CAN IDENTIFY THE MASS OF THAT PARTICLE.

IT MEANS THEY CAN UNDERSTAND ITS ENERGY.

THEY CAN UNDERSTAND THAT, 'OH, IT DOES, INDEED, INTERACT WITH NORMAL MATTER IN THIS WAY.'

SO THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT'S A BIG MYSTERY AS TO HOW THIS DARK MATTER ACTUALLY INTERACTS WITH NORMAL MATTER.

THE NEXT STEP IS, YOU KNOW, IT'S A LOT LIKE HUNTING FOR THE RIGHT RABBIT HOLE AND THEN JUMPING DOWN THAT NEXT RABBIT HOLE, ONLY TO FIND ANOTHER RABBIT HOLE THAT YOU HAVE TO JUMP INTO.

SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S GONNA OPEN UP A WHOLE NEW FIELD OF RESEARCH WHERE THEY'RE GONNA TRY TO HAVE TO FIGURE OUT, YOU KNOW, 'OKAY, IF IT'S THIS SIZE, AND IT INTERACTS IN THIS WAY, YOU KNOW, HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY SHAPE GALAXIES?

HOW IS IT ACTUALLY INTERACTING ON A GALAXY SCALE?

HOW IS IT INTERACTING ON A UNIVERSAL SCALE?

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ABOUT THE BIG BANG AND ITS CREATION -- THE CREATION OF THIS PARTICLE?'

SO IF THIS MATTER, DARK MATTER, IS ALL AROUND US, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO JUST CATCH A LITTLE SLIVER OF IT IN THIS TINY...

SO IT DOESN'T INTERACT WITH THINGS THE WAY THAT WE MIGHT -- I MIGHT INTERACT WITH THIS TABLE.

SO THIS IS -- IF I'M TOUCHING THIS TABLE, IT'S THE ELECTROMAGNETIC FORCE.

IT DOES INTERACT WITH THINGS THROUGH GRAVITATIONAL FORCE.

SO THAT'S WHAT CAUSES IT TO ACTUALLY HELP SHAPE AND SPEED UP GALAXIES.

BUT THE SCIENTISTS THINK THAT DOES INTERACT USING THE WEAK FORCE.

SO THE WEAK FORCE -- THERE'S A STRONG --

THIS IS NOT A 'STAR WARS' REFERENCE?

NO. NO, NO, NO.

THE WEAK FORCE IS THIS VERY -- YEAH, IT'S KIND OF MYSTICAL, ACTUALLY, FORCE THAT IT ONLY -- TWO PARTICLES CAN ONLY INTERACT WHEN THEY GET REALLY CLOSE TOGETHER.

AND THAT'S WHERE THE WEAK FORCE CAN COME IN, AND THEY TRADE A SUBATOMIC PARTICLE WHEN THEY COME CLOSE TOGETHER.

AND THEY THINK THAT THAT'S HOW IT INTERACTS WITH NORMAL MATTER, BUT THEY DON'T KNOW FOR SURE.

IT COULD BE A STRONGLY INTERACTING FORCE.

AND JUST TO BE CLEAR, THE STRONG FORCE IS A WHOLE OTHER TYPE OF FORCE.

[ LAUGHS ]

SO THERE'S THE STRONG FORCE, THE WEAK FORCE, AND THEY'RE NOT THE SAME.

ALL RIGHT, LUKE GROSKIN, THANKS FOR GOING DOWN IN THAT RICKETY CAGE FOR US.

MY PLEASURE.

TO SEE THE FULL SERIES FROM 'SCIENCE FRIDAY,' VISIT THE LINK ON OUR WEBSITE.

SOPHISTICATED HACKERS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE PUTTING CYBER SECURITY IN THE U.S. TO THE TEST.

UP NEXT, WE'RE JOINED BY REPORTER GINA CHON TO DISCUSS THE DEPTH OF THIS DATA-BREACH CRISIS.

REPORTER ANDREA VASQUEZ HAS THE INTERVIEW VIA GOOGLE HANGOUT.

ALL RIGHT, AND, GINA CHON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

YEAH, THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

SO NASA, THE FEDERAL RESERVE, THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, HAVE GOTTEN HACKED.

HOW ARE HACKERS GETTING AWAY WITH THIS?

WELL, SADLY, IT'S PRETTY SIMPLE FOR THEM.

A LOT OF THESE AGENCIES DON'T HAVE AS STRONG OF DEFENSES ON THE CYBER FRONT AS THEY SHOULD.

SO AGENCIES LIKE THE STATE DEPARTMENT DON'T EVEN HAVE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTIFICATION, WHICH MOST PEOPLE HAVE ON THEIR GMAIL ACCOUNTS.

SO A LOT OF TIMES IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE EASY FOR HACKERS TO GET IN.

WOW, AND THERE ARE 24 AGENCIES THAT HAVE TO REPORT THEIR CYBER SECURITY.

IS THAT RIGHT?

YEAH, THAT'S THE MAJOR CIVILIAN AGENCIES.

AND YOU FOUND THAT HALF OF THOSE ARE NOT TAKING THE BASIC STEPS.

WHY ARE THEY SEEMING TO NEGLECT THESE BASIC PREVENTATIVE STEPS?

YEAH, YOU WOULD THINK IT WOULD BE A HIGHER PRIORITY, AND I THINK AFTER SOME OF THE RECENT BREACHES, IT IS MOVING UP THERE, BUT, YEAH, A LOT OF THEM SPEND A VERY SMALL AMOUNT OF THEIR I.T.

BUDGET -- A LOT THEM, MAYBE IT'S 2%, 1%, EVEN, ON CYBER SECURITY, AND A LOT OF THEM HAVE REALLY ANTIQUATED SYSTEMS, SO THEY CAN'T EVEN HANDLE ENCRYPTION OR OTHER MODERN TECHNIQUES OF FIGHTING AGAINST HACKERS.

AFTER A DATA BREACH HAPPENS, WHAT DO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES DO TO ASSESS THE DAMAGE?

SO, THE BEST EXAMPLE'S PROBABLY THE RECENT BREACH AT THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, WHICH IS BASICALLY THE HUMAN RESOURCES ARM OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.

AND THEY HAD ABOUT 21 MILLION RECORDS OF PEOPLE WHO HAD SECURITY CLEARANCES AND BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR THOSE CLEARANCES THAT GOT BREACHED.

SO VERY SENSITIVE.

SO, AFTER THAT, THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY COMES IN, OBVIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THE KIND OF AGENCY IT IS.

A LOT OF THE INTEL AGENCIES GOT INVOLVED.

THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE IS ACTUALLY ALSO INVOLVED, AS WELL.

BUT NORMALLY, HOMELAND SECURITY WOULD BE ONE OF THE MAIN ONES TO COME IN AND LOOK AT IT.

WOW, AND THEN THEY CAN GET A SENSE OF HOW MANY PEOPLE'S INFORMATIONS WERE COMPROMISED AND WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION?

YEAH, EXACTLY.

SO, LIKE AFTER THE OPM BREACH, THEY FOUND THAT THERE WERE A LOT OF PERSONAL RECORDS, AGAIN, FOR ALL THESE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO HAD BACKGROUND CHECKS, BUT THEN BELATEDLY FOUND OUT THAT INSTEAD OF, I THINK, ABOUT 1 MILLION FINGERPRINT RECORDS, THEY ACTUALLY GOT 5 MILLION.

SO IT'S BEEN A PRETTY BAD AND EMBARRASSING BREACH FOR THEM.

OFFICIALS ARE LOOKING TOWARD RUSSIA AND CHINA FOR SOME OF THESE ATTACKS.

HOW ARE THEY ABLE TO TRACE WHERE THESE ARE COMING FROM?

THE ATTRIBUTION IS VERY DIFFICULT, SO THE GOVERNMENT'S VERY CAREFUL ABOUT WHEN THEY SAY WHO COULD BE RESPONSIBLE, AS THEY HAVE BEEN WITH THE OPM BREACH.

BUT IT TAKES A LOT OF, YOU KNOW, DIGITAL FORENSICS.

CERTAIN ATTACKERS HAVE CERTAIN KIND OF SIGNATURES OR MALWARE OR OTHER KINDS OF TACTICS THEY USE THAT ARE SORT OF UNIQUE TO HACKERS IN CHINA OR IN RUSSIA.

BUT IT DOES TAKE SOME TIME, AND SOMETIMES THEY DO GET IT WRONG.

AS FAR AS YOU CAN TELL, DOES IT SEEM LIKE THESE AGENCIES ARE ACTUALLY TAKING NOTE AND MAKING CHANGES AFTER SOME OF THESE HUGE BREACHES?

THEY ARE DEFINITELY TAKING IT MUCH MORE SERIOUSLY, BUT THEY'RE DEALING WITH DECADES OF OLD NETWORKS, OLD SYSTEMS THAT CAN'T BE EASILY FIXED.

SO EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW IT'S A HUGE PROBLEM, IT'S STILL GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO FIX IT.

SO WHAT DO YOU, REASONABLY, EXPECT TO SEE IN THE WAY OF CHANGE IN THE COMING YEARS?

I MEAN, THEY'RE TRYING TO FOCUS MORE ON GETTING IN SOFTWARE THAT CAN RECOGNIZE DIFFERENT INTRUSIONS AND TRY TO STOP THEM.

THEY ARE TRYING TO ALSO BEEF UP THEIR CAPABILITIES IN TERMS OF GETTING INFORMATION FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR ABOUT CYBER THREATS, AND HOMELAND SECURITY'S ROLE IS BEING BEEFED UP IN THAT.

BUT FRANKLY, I MEAN, JUST GIVEN OUR OPEN SYSTEM AND THE WAY OUR GOVERNMENT IS SET UP, IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME.

AND THERE'S A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF KEEPING UP AS THE HACKERS GET MORE ADVANCED, AS WELL.

YEAH, NO, DEFINITELY.

I MEAN, THE HACKERS ARE BECOMING MUCH MORE SOPHISTICATED.

THE ORGANIZED CRIMINALS WHO OPERATE ON THE DARK WEB, I MEAN, THEY EVEN HAVE, LIKE, CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BUY HACKING TOOLS.

THEY HAVE VERY DIFFERENT PRICING STRUCTURES.

IT'S ALMOST LIKE A VERY SOPHISTICATED BUSINESS OR CORPORATION, IF YOU WILL.

SO THEY'RE DEFINITELY GROWING IN THEIR STRATEGIES AND, YOU KNOW, WE DEFINITELY NEED TO KEEP UP.

WELL, WE'LL SEE.

HOPEFULLY WE'LL BE ABLE TO.

YEAH.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

YEAH, THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WHEN JENNIFER FRENCH WAS PARALYZED IN A TRAGIC SNOWBOARDING ACCIDENT IN 1998, THE 20-SOMETHING ATHLETE PROBABLY DID NOT IMAGINE SHE WOULD ONE DAY TAKE HOME A SILVER MEDAL FROM THE U.S. PARALYMPICS.

HOWEVER, THANKS TO THE WONDERS OF NEUROTECHNOLOGY, SPECIFICALLY A NETWORK OF ELECTRODES IMPLANTED IN HER MUSCLES, NOT ONLY DID FRENCH REGAIN HER MOBILITY, SHE BECAME A FIERCE COMPETITOR ONCE AGAIN.

I GREW UP IN NORTHEASTERN OHIO.

JUST AN AVERAGE, YOU KNOW, SUBURBIAN KID, IF YOU WILL.

MY DAD ALWAYS HAD A LOVE FOR THE PARK SYSTEMS, SO WE WERE INVOLVED WITH A LOT OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES -- THINGS LIKE CANOEING AND KAYAKING AND CAMPING.

JENNIFER FRENCH LOVES THE OUTDOORS AND RELATED SPORTS, INCLUDING SNOWBOARDING.

IN HER EARLY 20s, SHE WENT ON A WEEKEND SKI TRIP IN THE MOUNTAINS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE.

THERE WERE ABOUT TWO DOZEN OF US THAT HAD RENTED A HOUSE THAT WAS SLOPESIDE AND PLANNED ON SNOWBOARDING, YOU KNOW, ALL DAY AND ALL WEEKEND.

ON FRIDAY THE 13th, UNDER A FULL MOON, WE WANTED TO DO THE MIDNIGHT RUN, AND IF YOU'VE EVER SKIED AT NIGHT UNDER A FULL MOON, THE TRAILS JUST GLOW, SO IT'S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.

SO ABOUT A DOZEN OF US SLAPPED ON OUR SNOWBOARDS AND OUR SKIS, AND WE WENT DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.

11 MADE IT TO THE BOTTOM.

I DID NOT.

ALONG THE WAY, I HIT A PATCH OF ICE, WENT DOWN A 40-FOOT EMBANKMENT, HIT A BUNCH OF TREES, AND CAME OUT AS A QUADRIPLEGIC.

JEN'S LIFE WAS CHANGED FOREVER.

UNDERSTANDING AND DEALING WITH A TRAUMATIC INJURY SUCH AS A SPINAL CORD INJURY, YOU'RE -- THE LIFE THAT YOU KNEW BEFORE IS OVER.

IT BASICALLY STOPS.

AND ONCE YOU GET OUT OF THE HOSPITAL, YOU HAVE TO TRY TO PICK UP YOUR PIECES AGAIN, WHICH IS REALLY DIFFICULT TO DO.

SHE TURNED TO NEUROTECHNOLOGY TO FIND WAYS TO REGAIN SOME MOBILITY.

I WAS DOING SOME BACKGROUND RESEARCH THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR ELECTRICAL STIMULATION, AND THAT'S WHERE I FELL UPON THE CLEVELAND FES CENTER.

THE FES, OR FUNCTIONAL ELECTRICAL STIMULATION CENTER, IN CLEVELAND, OHIO, WAS IN THE PROCESS OF DOING CLINICAL TRIALS ON THE STAND AND TRANSFER SYSTEM.

THE FUNCTIONAL ELECTRICAL STIMULATION IS USED TO TREAT PEOPLE THAT HAVE HAD INJURIES SUCH AS SPINAL-CORD INJURY, A STROKE, PARKINSON'S DISEASE, EPILEPSY.

DR. KIRSCH WORKED WITH JEN FROM THE VERY BEGINNING WHEN SHE FIRST CAME TO THE FES CENTER IN 1999.

AFTER A THOROUGH EVALUATION, JEN WAS CONSIDERED A GOOD CANDIDATE TO HAVE THE ELECTRODES IMPLANTED.

MY FIRST SURGERY WAS 7 1/2 HOURS, TO HAVE THE FULL SYSTEM IMPLANTED.

DURING THE SURGERY, THE MUSCLES ARE FIRST PROBED WITH AN ELECTRICAL STIMULATOR, A SURGICAL STIMULATOR TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY WILL CONTRACT, AND THEN THE ELECTRODES ARE PLACED, AND THEN THOSE ARE, AGAIN, STIMULATED THROUGH TO MAKE SURE THAT THE MUSCLES WILL CONTRACT ONCE STIMULATED.

AFTER A FEW WEEKS OF HEALING, JEN BEGAN TO TRAIN TO STAND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS.

ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS YOU NEVER FORGET, THAT'S FOR SURE.

FOR MY FIRST STAND, IT WAS A GREAT MOMENT, AND BEING ABLE TO DO IT INDEPENDENTLY WAS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT.

I THINK THAT'S THE BEAUTY OF THE SYSTEM.

I MEAN, YOU CAN'T JUST TURN ON THE SYSTEM AND SUDDENLY GET THIS GREAT PERFORMANCE OUT OF YOUR MUSCLES.

YOU NEED TO USE THE SYSTEM TO BUILD UP THAT MUSCLE TISSUE TO BE ABLE TO GET THAT PERFORMANCE.

IT'S THE CLASSIC 'IF YOU DON'T USE IT, YOU'LL LOSE IT.'

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SECONDARY BENEFITS THAT HAVE TO DO WITH INCREASED MUSCLE STRENGTH, IMPROVED CIRCULATION, INCREASED MUSCLE MASS.

THE NICE THING ABOUT THIS TYPE OF NEUROPROSTHETIC IS THAT THEIR RESEARCHERS WORK WITH YOU TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT MUSCLES TO IMPLANT AND WHAT YOUR OPTIONS ARE IN TERMS OF WHAT FUNCTIONAL USE YOU'LL BE ABLE TO GET OUT OF IT.

TODAY, JEN HAS THE FREEDOM TO BE ABLE TO DO SOME KEY TASKS WITHOUT NEEDING BULKY BRACES AND EXTERNAL DEVICES.

YOU KNOW, I'M ABLE TO USE IT FOR THE MUNDANE TASKS OF FOLDING LAUNDRY AND REACHING THINGS OUT OF HIGHER PLACES THAT YOU NORMALLY WOULDN'T.

BUT YOU ALSO GET TO USE IT OUTSIDE THE HOME, AND YOU CAN PLAY FOOSBALL WITH YOUR FRIENDS.

I CAN STAND UP AT A SEVENTH-INNING STRETCH AT A BASEBALL GAME WITH EVERYONE ELSE.

I CAN PARTAKE ON A STANDING OVATION JUST AS WE DO SOCIALLY.

ONE OF MY MOST BELOVED MOMENTS OF USING THIS SYSTEM WAS BEING ABLE TO WALK DOWN THE AISLE AT MY WEDDING AND STAND FOR THE ENTIRE CEREMONY.

SO I LEFT THE WHEELCHAIR BEHIND.

SHE RESUMED HER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND PURSUED HER PASSION FOR SAILING.

SHE BUILT UP HER STRENGTH AND DECIDED TO CAMPAIGN FOR THE PARALYMPICS.

ONCE YOU MAKE A CAMPAIGN FOR THE PARALYMPICS, JUST AS OLYMPIANS DO, IT TAKES OVER YOUR LIFE AND YOU REALLY HAVE TO DO A LOT OF TRAINING TO BUILD UP TO BE AT THAT HIGH LEVEL.

WE GOT THE GOLDEN TICKET TO LONDON TO REPRESENT TEAM U.S.A.

IN 2012, AND WE WENT THERE AND WERE ABLE TO BRING HOME A SILVER MEDAL FOR THE U.S.

JEN'S PASSION FOR LIFE INCLUDES HELPING OTHERS WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM NEUROTECHNOLOGY.

SHE HELPED ESTABLISH THE NEUROTECH NETWORK.

WE'RE A NONPROFIT THAT FOCUSES ON EDUCATION AND ADVOCACY TO ACCESS NEUROTECHNOLOGY DEVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH VARIOUS TYPES OF NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS.

JEN SPEAKS REGULARLY ON BEHALF OF NEUROTECHNOLOGY AND ITS DEVELOPMENT.

AT THIS SPECIAL EVENT AT THE DALI MUSEUM IN ST. PETERSBURG, SHE TEAMED UP WITH SCIENTISTS TO SHARE HER STORY.

SO I PRESS A BUTTON, THREE SECONDS LATER, THE SYSTEM ACTIVATES.

IT'LL TURN THE ELECTRODES ON, AND THERE YOU GO AHEAD, AND I'M STANDING UP.

SO, NOW I'M STANDING ON THE POWER OF MY OWN MUSCLES.

SO, I'LL BE ABLE TO MOVE IN SHORT DISTANCES, TO BE ABLE TO DO TRANSFERS THAT ARE TOO DIFFICULT, TO GO THROUGH DOORWAYS THAT ARE WAY TOO NARROW FOR THE WHEELCHAIR, AND, YES, THEY DO EXIST.

SO TO BE ABLE TO SIT, YOU DO THE SAME THING.

JUST TURN OFF THE SYSTEM.

AGAIN, THE ELECTRODES WILL TURN OFF, AND I'M BACK IN MY WHEELCHAIR, AND MY MUSCLES ARE PARALYZED AGAIN.

HER ORGANIZATION SUPPORTS RESEARCH AND ACCESS AND ADVOCATES FOR DEVICE APPROVALS BY THE FDA.

AND THE FDA HAS A WHOLE AREA CALLED THE ORPHAN POPULATIONS IN TERMS OF APPROVING DEVICES.

AND THOSE ARE FOR CONDITIONS THAT HAVE SMALL POPULATIONS, NOT THE LARGE POPULATIONS LIKE DEPRESSION OR AGING OR GRAYING OF HAIR.

WHAT WE TRY TO LOOK FOR IS THESE TYPES OF DEVICES THAT HAVE BEEN APPROVED AND HOW WE CAN BLEED THEM OVER INTO DIFFERENT CONDITIONS.

FROM ACCIDENT VICTIM TO LEADING ADVOCATE, JENNIFER FRENCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOMEONE WITH AN UNTAMED SPIRIT.

SO JEN FRENCH IS A SPECIAL WOMAN.

SHE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE PIONEERS IN OUR LOWER-EXTREMITY FES SYSTEM FOR THE STANDING AND TRANSFER.

SHE'S KIND OF IRREPRESSIBLE IN HER ENTHUSIASM AND OPTIMISM.

FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE FACING NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS OR A NEW STEP IN THEIR LIFE OF HAVING TO DEAL WITH A DEGENERATIVE DISEASE, IF YOU WILL, THEY NEED TO BECOME THEIR OWN ADVOCATES AND BE ABLE TO LOOK FOR THOSE TYPES OF OPTION.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY...

TODAY, JEN HAS THE FREEDOM TO BE ABLE TO DO SOME KEY TASKS WITHOUT NEEDING BULKY BRACES AND EXTERNAL DEVICES.

YOU KNOW, I'M ABLE TO USE IT FOR THE MUNDANE TASKS OF FOLDING...