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New Laser System Targets Mosquitoes 354

Posted by samzenpus
from the excessive-force dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In the Cold War the so-called 'Star Wars defense system' proposed using lasers to destroy incoming Soviet missiles. In a 2007 brainstorming session aimed at combating malaria, Dr. Lowell Wood, the architect of that system, proposed modifying his original idea to kill mosquitoes. The cover of today's Wall Street Journal contains an article that highlights this initiative as well as a few others, like using a giant flashlight to disrupt mosquitoes' vision and using the insects to vaccinate, in the war against malaria. The system is intelligent enough to avoid noncombatants like humans and butterflies and can even tell the difference between females, the blood-drinkers, and males. My favorite quote: 'We'd be delighted if we destabilize the human-mosquito balance of power.'"

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New Laser System Targets Mosquitoes

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  • Cost/Benefit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:42PM (#27214393) Journal
    TFA is a bit thin on details, I wonder how the performance of this system compares to one of the numerous CO2+odor attractant trapping systems already in use. Frickin lasers(pew pew pew) are certainly cooler; but the whole exercise is rather silly if a simple mechanical system that runs on propane and pheromones is more efficient.
  • by olddotter (638430) on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:46PM (#27214467) Homepage

    Talk about a solution in search of a problem. So let me understand this. We are going to go into 3rd world countries and install autonomous flying drones that zap bugs with on board lasers? Isn't there perhaps a cheaper solution?

    When did they get good enough to hit the warheads? Did the press stop covering the testing when they started showing some success? I just haven't heard of a big "star wars" defense system test that succeeded.

  • Re:Cost/Benefit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ProppaT (557551) on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:48PM (#27214531) Homepage

    I would think you'd need quite a jolt to kill a mosquito too, especially in laser form. What would the electricity bill be on this thing just to shoot down some mosquitoes? Hell, screw that, give me a laser system to kill carpenter bees and you have yourself a sale.

  • I saw this before... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by raijinsetsu (1148625) on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:52PM (#27214585)
    If you read David Brin's "Earth", you will note that there is an explanation of how "Star Wars" technology was modified to control infestations of africanized bees(killer bees) in local apiaries. The book was published in May of 1991.
    The premise was that honey bees flapped their wings at a lower frequency. Targeting the higher frequency enabled the device to precisely target only the invading killer bees.
  • by twitter (104583) * on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:59PM (#27214703) Homepage Journal
    It's always good to eradicate mosquitoes where people live. Pumping more CO2 into the air might not be the best way to do it. Draining swamps has been damaging in unintended ways too. Sterile male techniques [wikipedia.org] show promise. Never forget that less than a hundred years ago, mosquitoes used to kill tens of thousands of people at a time in cities like New Orleans.
  • by hax0r_this (1073148) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#27215003)
    I know a guy who owns property in rural Alaska (a very swampy area), and in summer the mosquitos are terrible. He has been experimenting with the propane powered mosquito traps, and has found that he can't leave them out overnight. The problem? They catch so many mosquitos that the trap fills up and causes the whole thing to burn up.

    His solution so far has been to run 3 of them at once for short periods of time during the day when he can periodically empty them.

    I'm not sure how much propane they use, but he has also complained about that. Since he has to fly it all in, and propane bottles aren't the most efficient use of weight/space in a plane. I also wonder about the environmental effects of using those on a large scale. How much C02 do they actually produce?
  • by prometx42 (1107413) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:36PM (#27215245) Homepage
    Mark my dark, cynical, Orwellian words... You do not, n o t, want Pharmaceutical companies, NGO's and the "unnamed whomever else", to broach the technology of using insects to deliver vaccines. It takes little imagination to envision, how swarms of biological creatures carrying, already dubious, chemical formulations for "wet injection" into human beings, could go terribly, terribly wrong. Let's focus on the happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care, flying cars and 50% efficient solar; and leave the technologies of the technocrat-demon-overlords, in the adjacent Blade Runner-like dimensions, mmmmmkay?
  • Re:And then? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:41PM (#27215335)

    Pet peeve, but technically 1/1 is a fraction. I.e. killing a fraction of all mosquitoes would kill them all where $fraction = 1/1.

    A small or tiny fraction - now that's different :)

    Sorry - buried in math at the moment

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @05:05PM (#27217833)

    Look, you can break my back to force me to "need" a federal government that is turning this country into a police state and turn it into a quasi-socialist lie, but I will put up a fight. I have kids to educate and feed, and the stuff you sell (which is failing to various degrees everywhere else as implemented) is simply forcing a culture of failure on a once great, libertarian free country.

    I will not be complacent with your "change," and there will be a point where civil war will become an option. See how hard you can push before you get it - like I say, I'm paying well over half my pay in taxes.

    "your" plan will not work, its not fundable, you have to destroy the currency to fund it, and its really as simple as this: if you fund this insanity by borrowing from your economic and military adversaries you are not fit to administrate society. Rome fell. Kings who mis-manged their treasuries all fell. Every example of unhinged spending leads to the same result: systemic collapse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @05:15PM (#27217993)

    I think you will find that if you pick up a gun to subvert democracy, I will pick up a gun to stop you.

    It's not my fault that California's government has been horribly mis-managed. I live in Texas and pay nowhere near 50% of my salary goes to taxes.

    And I'm not suggesting we raise your taxes. Unless you make of $250 k a year neither is Obama. If you do make more than that I find your working stiff attitude more than a little disingenuous.

    You can do your best to turn America in to a 3rd world shit-hole like India if you want. I will oppose you at the ballot box like I did in 2008.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @05:37PM (#27218301)

    And there we are, you would want to have a civil war to get your way and force your system on my already tax paying law abiding ass. And as far as no new taxes for those under 250k, its a lie, the tax is called inflation, which is set to begin just about now that the chinese wont want our worthless treasuries to fund your fantasy.

  • by Marko Kostic (1502089) on Monday March 16, 2009 @05:43PM (#27218371)
    Two years ago on Agriculture faculty in Belgrade my colleagues an I tested lasers on insects. We used different wavelength and power and I must said that result were astonishing! System like this very easy can change pesticides and cover large area without afraid that people or animal can be hurt. For spreading laser beam we used hi speed step motors.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Monday March 16, 2009 @07:04PM (#27219311) Journal

    I was thinking about that a while ago.

    A rotating laser leveling system like the dewalt [lowes.com] uses dual lasers with a 600 feet range and rotates faster then the camera can recover. I was thinking of a way to widen the beam on a vertical axis to flood the cameras I first attempted to insert a filter but lacked any that could readily be used without modification. I then attempted to mount mirrors at various angles but the beam was too narrow.

    Then a friend came around with a cop who took him to my house after his car was broken down and stranded on the road. The police have cameras now that read license plate numbers and they can press a single button and it retrieve registration information from it. Anyways, his video display went blank when he pulled in the drive and asked me what I was doing. I said rigging an automatic gate opener and attempted to claim I wanted to open a gate and the garage doors when I entered the drive way plus maybe turn a few light on.

    The cop then told me that it was illegal to mount lasers like that to a car. It's covered under the radar jammer laws in which a cop uses laser radar. He also mentioned that it blinded his cameras in the cruiser which is what attracted him to me. He was cool with it but warned me that I could be in some trouble. I mention this because if you do attempt to do it, keep in mind that it might already be illegal in your area and if everyone else is without it, it isn't going to be hard for a cop around you to figure out you have something like that. Especially at night when you can't see them coming.

    On the other hand, if you do get something figured out, let me know because I'm still interested. I just don't want a ticket or jail time over it.

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