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"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

Truth Meter  
  A lie detector.  

At this point in the novel, the "victims" of the star beast's walk through town are being examined in court under the close scrutiny of a truth meter.

"Mrs. Donahue, tell us what happened."

She sniffed. " Well! I was lying down, trying to snatch a few minutes rest; I have so many responsibilities, clubs and charitable committees and things.

Greenberg was watching the truth meter over her head. The needle wobble restlessly, but did not kick over into the red enough to set off the warning buzzer.

"When suddenly I was overcome with a nameless dread."

The needle swung far into the red, a ruby light flashed and the buzzer gave out a loud rude noise. Somebody started to giggle. Greenberg said hastily, "Order in the court."

From The Star Beast, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1954
Additional resources -

The National Academy of Sciences was charged in 2002 with conducting a scientific review of the lie detector. They concluded

"Almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy... The inherent ambiguity of the physiological measures used in the polygraph suggest that further investments in improving polygraph technique and interpretation will bring only modest improvements in accuracy."
The modern lie detector was invented by Dr. William M. Marston in the 1917. The machine was also called a polygraph - literally "many writings", referring to the method of recording several physiological responses at the same time. He also wrote under the pen name Charles Moulton - creating the Wonder Woman comic strip. Wonder Woman, as you may recall, had a magic lasso that caused anyone she caught with it to tell the absolute truth.

For another view of the same idea, see the Veridicator, from the wonderful novel Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Star Beast
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Star Beast
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Truth Meter-related news articles:
  - Indian Court Says Brain Scan Proves Murder
  - Brain Scan Used In Murder Trial Sentencing

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Flimmer Navy Drone Flies And Swims
Indian Court Says Brain Scan Proves Murder
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ID-U Biometrics Eye Tracking Signature

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